Historically, black women’s bodies are fair game. We are hypersexualised from an alarmingly young age and there is a collective tendency to dissect us into nothing more than body parts and sexual acts.
From music videos to movies to images of celebrities – the mainstream media perpetuates this obsession with the black, female form – at the expense of acknowledging us as human beings with brains and hearts and opinions, as well as tits and ass.
Despite being the least successful group on dating apps, black women are widely desired on the basis of archaic, offensive sexual stereotypes.
It’s a form of sexual racism, and it needs to stop. Fetishisation means to form an obsessive, sexual connection based on a particular feature or item – and racial fetishism is where that connection is based on person’s race or ethnic group.
You know what the stereotypes are. That black women are ‘wild’ in bed, aggressively dominant sexually, promiscuous, always up for it.
They are beliefs that derive from long-standing stereotypes about black women – namely the Jezebel stereotype – and they are contrasted by images of the purity and self-control of white women.
The inference is that black women are the type you can enjoy in the bedroom, but not necessarily bring home to your mum.
It’s a trope that began in slavery in the 1800s, where black, female slaves were reduced to nothing more than ‘breeders’, and were frequently raped by slave owners.
But the legacy of this dehumanising behaviour still lingers today. Of course, this isn’t a view shared by everyone.
Plenty of people are able to see through these stereotypes for what they really are – prejudiced, racist slurs.
But the anecdotal evidence of how often black women are approached with propositions based solely on sexual stereotypes, suggests it is still a worryingly common belief. It isn’t only only black women who are subject to sexual racism.
It is something faced by all women of colour. Whether you’re Asian, Hispanic, mixed-race, or, basically, any variation of not-white, it seems there are certain sexual assumptions people will make based on your skin colour.
Asian women are submissive, Latina women are feisty, black women are easy. And, in other parts of the world, white women are also fetishised because of their skin tone and appearance.
In the UK it manifests in the language used to describe women of colour. Skin tone is often equated to something edible.
We are ‘caramel’, ‘chocolate’, ‘mocha’. The message is clear – we are something to be devoured, our sole purpose is to provide pleasure through consumption.
But sexual proclivity has nothing to do with skin tone, or race. How could it? What’s really going on here is projection.
People are projecting their racial prejudices onto women in the form of fetishisation.
It’s more widespread than you might think, and more often than not, it’s entirely unconscious.
Student activists Sara, Sarah and Alison, have decided something needs to be done to raise awareness about the damaging effects of racial hypersexualisation.
They started the #F*ckYourFetish campaign because they were tired of people making assumptions about their sexuality based on their race. What they want is to hold people to account.
‘From being sexually harassed to seeing dating sites allowing users to promote their fetishes, we see women of colour being reduced to stereotypes everywhere,’ they tell Metro.co.uk.
‘The campaign was necessary because of the way in which this problem has been normalised in society. ‘As women, we often don’t even realise that we are being racially sexualised and that is problematic.
In the same way, sometimes men can’t see its harmful effects, especially when they are the ones perpetuating it.’
The girls, who are all in sixth form together, hijacked advertising space on the London Underground to promote their campaign.
Predictably, they have received backlash from the #NotAllMen brigade, but they say it’s vital that everyone acknowledge and understand what they’re trying to achieve.
‘In day-to-day interactions, women are fetishised through the concept of sexual “preferences”, we believe it happens because some men think it’s a compliment and a way to appease their desires,’ they explain.
‘Words like exotic are thrown around, as such, women of colour become objects for gratification rather than women with minds. Overall, it feeds into a system that keeps women subordinate.’ Sarah, Sara and Alison are Asian, Afro-Latina, and black African, respectively.
They are still teenagers, and already they have a disturbing amount of experience of being racially fetishised.
‘For me, hypersexualisation has been an undercurrent for as long as I can remember,’ explains Alison. ‘I was always told to not dress “fast”, and that wearing makeup would make me look “ready”.
I often asked, “ready for what?” Until it clicked. Ready for sex. ‘It infects our households, and our mothers dress us to make sure no one sexualises us for spaghetti straps on dresses, or for showing our legs, or having a pair of jeans that over emphasises the bottom.
Sara’s experience as an Afro-Latina has been slightly different. ‘For me, racialised hypersexualisation is often linguistically focused,’ says Sara.
‘As soon as people learn that I am from Dominican Republic, their response is to call me, “Mamasita”.
I am called, the “lightskin Latina with the big back”, or “The Spanish girl” – there’s so much more to me, and I find it so reductive.’
‘Society needs to realise that objectifying and sexualising women is not okay,’ explain the campaigners. ‘This change needs to take place in people’s mindsets where they finally view women as equals.
So men need to stop basing their “type” on their racial preferences. ‘Stop the catcalling and the wolf-whistling, stop the harassment and stop controlling women.’
It’s disheartening that today’s sixth form students are still facing these archaic stereotypes about sex.
But awareness is the first step in changing behaviours, and campaigns like this can be the starting point.
Experiencing racial fetishisation is incredibly hurtful and demeaning.
Whether it’s offensive comments on dating apps, presumptuous behaviour on first dates, or a reluctance to take things beyond the bedroom – fetishisation based on race isn’t merely an expression of sexual preference, it’s racism.
By casting women of colour in certain sexual roles, before understanding anything about them beyond their appearance, we make it clear that their only value is that of a sexual commodity.
Non-white women are more than simply sexual objects – it seems ludicrous to have to say that, and most of us know this consciously.
It’s the unconscious that potentially needs examining – particularly when it comes to sexual preferences and inherent assumptions.