Panel Discussion: The Blurred Line Between Racial Preference and Fetishization

MAEVE LAZOR, CO-EDITOR IN CHIEF | DECEMBER 2, 2016

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On December 1st, 2016 Weis Cinema held a panel discussion on black male sexuality that examined the concepts of preference, attraction, and fetishization of black racial traits. Among the panel speakers were Salim Chagui Sanchez, Edwar Mercedes, Dante Robinson, Jeszack Gammon, Darnell Pierce (graduated), and Haydn Miller; some of the speakers are openly gay and one bisexual. Misbah Awan, a Muslim Pakistani student, hosted the panel.

The first question Awan asked was: What is your definition of fetishization?

Sanchez: “Fetishization is when you want something just because of what it is. A fetish in itself is you like something that is not necessarily the norm. It goes against what the majority of people think is normal, sexually. That alienates people when you fetishize them—in my perspective in what I’ve experienced from it, instead of someone being interested in you, they are just interested in the trait that you have. And it makes you feel really empty…”

Pierce: “It’s an obsessive fixation on one characteristic or set of characteristics. And it’s frustrating, right?”

Mercedes: “About fetishization, looking at things as objects, my definition of this is looking at something as an object, not regarding their inner aspects, charismatics or personality—just viewing a person like wow I’ve never tangled with something like that before!”

Robinson: “I think that something involved with fetishization is the idea of a fantasy, a racial fantasy, where that fantasy is projected onto all people who belong to that group, right? That fantasy becomes detached from the person and becomes applied to whatever person has those traits. In the context of blackness and black masculinity it becomes a stereotype that non-black people, particularly white people, associate with blackness and project onto all black men…It’s less about who the person is really. It’s about confirmation of that fantasy.”

Gammon: “I don’t think its wrong to have a fetish…but if you fetish a person simply for their traits and objectify them and the thing with fantasy is it’s a purely selfish desire and it leaves no room for empathy. You are distracted from the fact that we are all human and that’s just something to acknowledge when fetishizing, losing track of the fact we all are human.”

Awan acknowledged that there seemed to be a bit of confusion between the ideas of racial preference and fetishization. “What is the difference?” she asked.

Miller: “If you want to try and find that line between fetish and attraction in terms of a long term relationship a healthy relationship it would not be able to function off of the basis of fetishization. Because you wouldn’t be able to see that person as anything more than your fantasy and y’all wouldn’t have anything to talk about.”

Robinson: “In a fetish, that is legitimately all you care about when approaching that person. You don’t have any intention to find the person behind that and if that person you are using just to meet your fantasy.”

Some of the speakers, including Pierce and Gammon admitted to fetishizing their respective partners in previous relationships on occasion and acknowledged how it might have affected the individual. There was much discussion about realizing when one is a culprit of fetishization and how to understand the psychology behind it. Many agreed it is something we all do as sexually curious humans but should be addressed when it has the potential to emotionally harm one’s partner.

Awan eventually moved onto the topic of stereotypes regarding the sexuality of Black men, including “the most famous one: the Big Black Cock.”

“What insecurities have surfaced from the stereotype of BBC?” she asked.

Miller: “There are people who will have sex with you just to see what it’s about…But you gotta be like is it gonna be big enough? Are they gonna be all right? …You have a really it puts a lot of social pressures on the person that wouldn’t normally be there. Now you have the issue of living up to somebody’s expectation and you don’t know what that is. So you are behind on what they actually want in the first place.”

Robinson: “The black dick is not necessarily thick and wide and ten inches long. Honestly, somehow those words sound more like my gender identity than any other part of my gender.”

Pierce explained that the expectation of BBC is highly prevalent in the black, gay community, especially on dating websites such as Grinder. “Gay culture, particularly men, is hyper sexual. It is a common question to ask, ‘how big is it’? ‘Is it true’? And we have no control over what God gave us. For me, it hasn’t impacted me that much. But it’s very common amongst gay men. There are people who will not want to engage with you because you don’t fit that stereotype,” he said.

Lastly, Awan urged the speakers to discuss the implications of sexually objectifying black men based on racial traits and how it has affected them personally. Miller had the most to say on the topic:

“If you don’t know yourself and your own self-worth and you go into a hookup knowing they are fetishizing you, you are letting someone have power over you so that you are just an object to them… You should know that you are worth more than just your body…If you are with somebody who sees you for just your body, then they don’t give a fuck about you which means you don’t give a fuck about yourself. Like seriously, you need to have some serious counseling because you clearly don’t care enough about yourself to see that this individual is not for you.”

 

To respond to this article, or to submit an op-ed, contact bardwatchmanaging@gmail.com.

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