Originally published on January 10, 3: I usually like "bears," but no "panda bears. He has since deleted the messages and apps. NPR is not using his last name to protect his privacy and that of the clients he works with in his internship. He is gay and Filipino and says he felt like he had no choice but to deal with the rejections based on his ethnicity as he pursued a relationship.
But I started to think, I have a choice: Would I rather be alone, or should I, like, face racism? So he wasn't surprised when he read a blog post from OkCupid co-founder Christian Rudder in about race and attraction.
Rudder wrote that user data showed that most men on the site rated black women as less attractive than women of other races and ethnicities. Similarly, Asian men fell at the bottom of the preference list for most women.
While the data focused on straight users, Jason says he could relate. After drinks at a Brooklyn bar, one of her more recent OkCupid matches, a white Jewish man, offered this: Other dating experts have pointed to such stereotypes and lack of multiracial representation in the media as part of the likely reason that plenty of online daters have had discouraging experiences based on their race.
Melissa Hobley, OkCupid's chief marketing officer, says the site has learned from social scientists about other reasons that people's dating preferences come off as racist, including the fact that they often reflect IRL — in real life — norms. And in a segregated society, that can be harder in certain areas than in others. After growing up in the mostly white town of Fort Collins, Colo. If racism weren't so ingrained in our culture, would they have those preferences?
She also points to a recent study by international researchers that found that a rise in interracial marriages in the U. For now, her strategy is to keep a casual attitude about her romantic life. Jason is out of the dating game entirely because he ended up finding his current partner, who is white, on an app two years ago.
He credits part of his success with making bold statements about his values in his profile. To see more, visit http: Millions of people have tried online dating or at least thought about it. Almost one third of Americans who have never been married have gone on dating apps or dating sites, according to the Pew Research Center.
And a recent study based on data from the National Academy of Sciences found the rise in digital dating coincides with a rise in interracial marriages. One possibility here is that online users are exposed to people they normally might not meet in person in our segregated lives, including people of different races and ethnicities. But there's also some data here suggesting that race and ethnicity play into online dating in a more complicated way.
On these sites, black users especially, there's a bias against them. Every kind of way you can measure their success on a site - how people rate them, how often they reply to their messages, how many messages they get - that's all reduced. Christian Rudder is the co-founder of OKCupid, a major dating site, who looked at data from his site and other sites back in It turns out that online dating reflects something that many people have perceived in the offline world for generations, black women and Asian men are rejected more often than other people.
NPR's Ashley Brown talked with some dating app users about whether the numbers reflect their reality. I met Jason on a balmy winter afternoon in Los Angeles. He was about to take his puppy on a walk. He'd just gotten home from his internship. He works with men and women with mental health needs. And we're not using his last name, to protect his privacy and his clients' privacy. You got to take care of yourself. Our professors say that all the time.
Self-care this, self-care that. Self-care ended up playing a big role in Jason's personal life, too. He started using dating apps and websites about seven years ago, and he told me things got ugly. The messages were saying, I don't date Asians, sorry not sorry, you're cute for an Asian. Like, it was really disheartening. Jason is gay and Filipino. He says some of the rejections he got were overtly racist.
It was like, like, I usually like bears, but no panda bears. It really hurt my self-esteem. So Jason says he wasn't surprised to see some of the numbers from OKCupid making headlines back in The dating site's blog said Asian men and black women were rated the least attractive compared to other races and genders.
Even though the numbers focused on straight users, Jason says he could definitely relate. It was like an unfulfilled validation. Like, yeah, I was right, but it feels like [expletive] that I was right. I also talked to Ari Curtis. She says she feels the same way.
She even started a blog about her experience dating as a black woman. Here's a little bit of one of her blog entries. For black women like me, this is life. The data are mere tiny representations of a messy existence. And while I'm a big fan of big data, the good stuff begins where the data ends. Her blog is called Least Desirable.
Ari took me to that bar, and she told me what the date told her over drinks. He had recently gone home, and he was like, yeah, my family would never approve of you.
Laughter And I was just like, OK laughter. That interaction left Ari feeling confused, really uncomfortable. And, it wasn't a new feeling.
She also shared this account of a date with another white man she met on Tinder. He was like, so we have to bring the hood out of you, bring the ghetto out of you. And I was like, I'm sorry, what? It made me feel like I wasn't enough, that who I am wasn't what he expected and that he wanted me to be somebody else based on my race laughter.
OKCupid told me the site is definitely paying attention to all of this. I talked to their chief marketing officer Melissa Hobley, and she said they've changed a lot about the app over the years. They want to encourage users to focus less on looks alone and more on what she called psychographics. Things like what you're interested in, what moves you, what your passions are. Hobley said OKCupid's also talked to social scientists about why people's dating preferences come off as racist.
And people tend to be often attracted to the people that they are familiar with. Ari told me she understands that. She's had to come to term with her own biases. She grew up in the mostly white town of Fort Collins, Colo. Do you think that people expressing a racial preference on a dating app is just like expressing a preference for any other physical attribute, or is there something different about race?
I feel like there is room, honestly, to say I have a preference for somebody who looks like this, and if that person happens to be of a certain race - it's hard. It's hard to blame somebody for that. But on the other hand, you have to wonder if racism weren't so ingrained in our culture if they would have those preferences.
She says she's still conflicted about her own preferences and conflicted about whether she'll even keep using dating apps, but for now she says her strategy is just to keep a casual attitude about all of it.
If I don't take it seriously then I don't have to be disappointed when it doesn't go well because I wasn't taking it seriously anyway. Jason's out of the dating game entirely now. That's because he ended up finding his current partner, a white man, on an app a couple of years ago. He credits part of his success to making bold statements about his values and his profile.
I said something, like, really obnoxious looking back on it now. I think one of the first lines I said was, like, social justice warriors to the front of the line, please.
He says weeding through those racist messages was really hard, but for him, worth it in the end. Everyone deserves love and kindness and support. And pushing through and holding that close to yourself is, I think, actually also what kept me in this online dating realm, just knowing that I deserve this.
And if I'm lucky enough, it'll happen.