Screenshots courtesy of the author
I've never been on a Tinder date. When I tell people this, this get all judgey, like I'm the one doing something wrong. But just when a Tinder conversation is taking off, I'll get a ridiculous one-liner full of gross sexual favors, often with the assumption that I'm down for them because I'm black. This is a hard thing to explain to people, telling them that the guys I match with are so thirsty for a black woman that they're shriveling up and acting foolish; but the truth is, being a black woman on Tinder is no easy task.
A few months ago, I received a message from Leon*, a tall, dark (by European standards), and handsome man in Toronto. When I opened it, I received my first ridiculous encounter of the day: "I love black women. They are fire in bed."
Now, aside from the racist, generalized comment just made to me, I was irked that this fool swiped right on the assumption that I would swing from chandeliers and be sexing all night like I'm straight out of an Usher music video. What if I wasn't fire in bed, but a slow burning flame that didn't put out? When speaking to a friend about this encounter, she laughed at me. This interaction with men—mostly white—saying ridiculous racist and sexist things to black women has been a thing on Tinder for a long (probably the entire) time.
Life is tough enough dating as a black woman and Tinder ain't helping. Even our UK sisters are running through Tinder with their woes and warning other black women new to Tinder about the the cesspool of comments that they are about to dive into. However, I wasn't expecting these interactions on Tinder in my hometown of Toronto, especially with its cheesy unofficial motto, "Diversity is our strength."
Obviously that slogan is not working, because it wasn't hard to find some fed-up ladies who were tired of being asked to spread their Nutella on some guy's white Wonderbread.
Black women are bottom-shelf carnival prizes on Tinder
One of these women was Marissa, a University of Toronto student, who was browsing Tinder when she got a message from Nick*.
"I need my black belt," was his opening line. Marissa thought it was quirky, a little bit random, but nonetheless an interesting introduction.
"Haha do you? I should probably start with learning how to fight first," Marissa replied.
They were off to a beautiful Tinder start.
"No..." Max replied back. "A black belt is when you fuck a black chick."
It was one of many racially-fueled messages that Marissa has gotten on Tinder. "My first thought is always, 'Why must you bring my race into this? And who told you that you deserve the right to be with me since I'm such a prize?'" she said in an email.
If black women on Tinder are considered a "prize," it's a pretty shitty one.
In a 2009 study done by Christian Rudder on OkCupid data, black women were the least likely to receive messages from any racial group of men, but most likely to respond back. When Rudder revisited the study in 2014, not much had changed, but had gotten worse: Black women were seen as the least attractive women, with their numbers plummeting into the negatives. There are no comparable studies done for Tinder, but if black women are barely receiving messages on dating apps, it seems the ones they do get suck major racist ass.
There is also no dating app data on racial preferences in Toronto, but with the city's large population of black people—8.4 percent of the total—one of the largest multicultural cities in the world and the fastest-growing demographic of mixed-race unions in Canada, it's strange to think that Toronto's black women would be dealing with racist messages.
White men on Tinder want a trap queen
Sheba Birhanu has had just about enough of men on Tinder. She lives in London, Ontario, and has taken a long hiatus from the app because she just can't even anymore. After this message from Lucas*, I don't blame her: "When ya waan breed mi gyal[?]" he said randomly. "Wrong continent," she replied.
Birhanu is also tired of being called cocoa-laden names. "I have never slept with a black girl before. I crave some dark chocolate," Mark massaged her. She shut him down real quick.
"It tastes like oppression and exploitation," she wrote back. "Idk [sic] kind of bitter but if that's your thing..." That definitely was not the chocolatey goodness Mark was looking for.
Mozare Bardi is also tired of the struggle. She told me that 95 percent of the racist and sexist messages she gets are from white guys. Some of them even try to impress her with their gangsta street cred, like Alif, who asked her if she's from Etobicoke because "people that live in ghetto/rough neighborhoods intrigue me."
She's from Caledon.
Tim also tried to earn his black stripes by saying he has two Jamaican friends and is "crazy passionate about bbal. [sic]"
"Some do talk to you nice but a lot of them are so off," Bardi told me. "Like, what the hell? I'm so confused as to where you even got this from. Like, why are you coming at me so sexually? Would you do this do a white girl? I highly doubt it."
Candace O., from Toronto, received the following messages from a white guy named Alex: "my weakness is black girls," followed by, "don't take this the wrong way but i've [sic] always wanted to see if it was true when they say that cute coloured girls are pretty talented with their lips haha ;)"
Camille Hernandez-Ramdwar is a sociologist at Ryerson University focusing on Caribbean studies and racism in Canada. She believes this kind of behavior derives from historical entitlement to black female bodies. "Why are white men perpetuating these aggressions on Tinder? Because they always have," she said in an email.
"I[t] has been around since the days of colonialism and slavery. Perhaps a younger generation of women find this startling, but I certainly don't. It goes to show how little has changed in the arena of white male supremacy and the white male 'gaze.'"
The stereotype of the hypersexual and primitive Jezebel, sparked by the Transatlantic Slave Trade, has continued to plague black women and their relationships. This stereotype was an open invitation for white men and slave masters to explore their darkest fantasies on black women, often without legal punishment. Today, not much has changed the minds of men who think that black women have no talents except those in the bedroom.
Serenity Hart is a Toronto-born nude model who has lived in Serbia, Italy, France, and London, England. She receives tons of messages from white men (mostly from Toronto) on Tinder who describe the creepy things they would do to her. "Some of the comments on Tinder (all by white men) have been about wanting me to be their first black 'experience,'" she said in an email.
Andrew, a white male, wrote the following to Hart: "i really want to have sex with u for my first black girl can u help me open me up sexually [sic]."
When she called him out, he got defensive: "It's a joke relax not everyone takes this app seriously."
We're glad you think you're so funny
But making vulgar, racist comments to black women that can be excused or justified as a "joke" demonstrates not only the reality that black women aren't respected as women or even as a fellow person, but the ways in which white men feel entitled to make these comments and walk away unfazed, leaving black women with devastating consequences.
"Research shows that perceiving discrimination can have negative physical and mental consequences for people," said Dr. Becky Choma, a professor of psychology at Ryerson University.
"Having someone show interest in you primarily because you are Black may foster increased feelings of self-objectification—perceiving oneself as a body or collection of body parts. This can lead to greater body shame, appearance anxiety, among other negative psychological outcomes."
Candace wants to put thirsty chocolate lovers in their place, but she doesn't want to give them the satisfaction of her rage. "It's frustrating," she told me. "You don't wanna sound like the angry black woman, you don't wanna add to that stereotype."
Tinder men need to get their shit together
But what makes these messages so common on Tinder? Internet anonymity, of course.
Like most dating apps, "Tinder provides a relatively 'safe' place for them to express the[se] beliefs," Choma said. "The costs for men who ask these sorts of questions are not as high compared to asking these questions in person."
Even though the guys trolling you are using their real name and the photos of them flexing at the gym or wearing sunglasses indoors are actually of themselves, they can ask you stupid things ("How big is your ass?" "Have you ever dated a white guy?" "How do you comb your 'fro?") without fear of being tracked down or bitched out in public. Essentially, this anonymity on Tinder makes you the black expert—and the black target.
In a place like Toronto, our diversity could actually be the issue. Minelle Mahtani, a Professor in the Department of Human Geography and the Program in Journalism at the University of Toronto Scarborough says, "Toronto's diversity only serves as a smokescreen to divert us from the larger issues of systemic racism and inequality in the city." From this, we can also assume that as a city of multiculturalism, a large influx of Toronto's residents may be from countries or cities where black people—or interracial relationships—are scant or taboo. It could also be very possible that Toronto's Caribbean and urban influences are making men thirsty for a video girl, dutty winer, or bad bitch—with no apologies.
It's unfair to blame Tinder for men's cowardice or ignorance when approaching black women on dating sites. Shit, it's hard enough to get dudes to act like normal people when they're talking to women in general on dating apps. Instead, these men need to get their shit together and stop acting like dating a black woman is the point of entry to manhood or G status. Stop telling us that you love dark chocolate. Stop asking us if we like white meat. Stop calling us Nubian queens. Stop asking us if our name is Big Booty so you can call us Big Booty. Stop asking if we only like big dicks. Stop trying to disclaim that you've never dated or matched with a black girl before. Stop asking us if we fucking like Drake.
Just stop, and try to understand that if you can't handle the chocolate like a gentleman, then stop trying to swirl.
*All Tinder guys' names have been changed.
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Topics: Eternity Martis, Eternity Martis VICE, Canada, Toronto, London Ontario, dating, Tinder, online dating, racism, race, racism in relationships, women of colour, people of colour, Becky Choma, why do white men think they're funny, Camille Hernandez-Ramdwar, Christian Rudder, OkCupid, VICE Canada, dating app