Ruthless ‘Google search’ style dating encourages racism
WHEN it comes to hook-ups, it seems people just want to get straight to the point.
The freedom to be picky is one of the many attractions of signing up to apps like Grindr and Tinder but in this world of ruthless judgment, there's not much room for hurt feelings.
Unlike dating in the real world, judging on appearances and listing preferences is encouraged, inhibitions are shed and it's easy to think anything goes.
People embrace neat descriptions of what tribe they belong to, like "twink", descriptions of "masculine" personalities, "toned" bodies and what sexual positions are enjoyed.
But as Denton Callander of UNSW's Kirby Institute notes, it's an approach that applies the same logic to dating as you would to a Google search.
"The structure seems to demand, and it's a perception people have, that if they are really clear and concise about what they want ... this will help them find the perfect partner," Mr Callander said.
Not only is this rule-in/rule-out approach not always helpful but a study into Tinder users also found they were less happy with their faces and bodies, and men reported lower levels of self-esteem.
It has also given rise to what some call "sexual racism" - racism that appears to be justified as a "preference".
Some may question if it's really racism but Mr Callander believes it is.
And for some, it is the first time they have been confronted with such overt prejudice.
One Grindr user Jeremy Tang told news.com.au that a curt response to his request for pics from one guy got straight to the point: "Not if you're Asian bro," was the reply.
"It was probably the very first time that it was in-your-face racism, which I have hardly experienced before," he said.
"I was quite shocked actually how people can be so racist."
The 27-year-old, who has used Grindr for almost four years, believes most of the racism on Grindr is subtle, although some profiles do list preferences for "no Asians" or "Asians only".
"There are quite a lot of people who would not even consider dating you if you are Asian," he said.
He acknowledged that some would justify their actions as a tactic to avoid wasting people's time.
"I can understand that," Mr Tang said. "But it doesn't prevent me from saying you're racist.
"You can be whatever you want to be, you can be Donald Trump but people are not necessarily happy with Donald Trump."
And it's not necessarily a problem confined to apps like Grindr or Tinder - even though people do feel less inhibited online.
"It reflects a long history of racial practices," Mr Callander said. "Until recent years, it was unthinkable to date someone of another race."
Grindr highlighted the issue in a video released in September which saw an Asian male and a white male swap profiles, with both noticing the difference in responses each got.
Mr Callander said research on a major dating website in the US found a clear pattern of white men and women being the most likely to receive responses to messages, while black women were the least likely to get a reply.
His own recent research on gay men in Australia found about five per cent of profiles talked about race in one way or another, some listed preferences for or against certain races, while others mentioned the issue as a discussion point.
"It seems to suggest that it's not quite as common as what some may think but it really bothers people when they encounter it, especially when it's their race," he said.
Mr Callander is now researching the best ways to tackle racism online.
"Telling people they're wrong, telling someone they are racist doesn't work," he said.
"Censoring language doesn't work, it's about fostering awareness and caring and compassion."
He said there was a long history of racist practices in societies and this needed to be acknowledged.
"Racism is working through us, as opposed to us being racist," he said.
"We need to be able to challenge that in ourselves and other people and to be really honest about what's going on here."
Mr Tang also believes stereotypes and what the media presents as "sexy and hot" needs to change.
"Is it really just six packs, tan skin, a beach body? Or can we have other kinds of hotness please?
"We have a certain image of male ... but there can be a lot more diversity about portraying beauty and how to define attraction."