The answer will actually surprise you!
When you’re on the prowl looking for love, what type of person is most likely to catch your eye … someone from your own race or someone from another?
If we’re honest, we all have a certain "type" of person we find most alluring. We can’t help it, right? There are just certain people we find more attractive than others.
Personally (as a white American female), I’ve always been attracted to the “tall, dark, and handsome” type. But after divorcing my tall, brown-haired, VERY white, American husband many years ago, I noticed that I never dated (or even felt attracted to) a white American man again.
I suddenly found myself attracted to “tall, dark and handsome” men … outside my race.
I briefly got involved with a guy who was part Asian, and then dated a Latin guy from Argentina. And wherever I went and a man caught my eye, he was typically ANY race but my own. Does that make me super progressive and open-minded? (These are modern times and I am an Aquarius, after all).
Or, was I actively rejecting an entire race of men (#SorryWhiteBoys) who reminded me of what I disliked either about my marriage and my ex?
Flash forward to today, I’m happily remarried … to a very tall, very dark, and very handsome Australian man of Fijian and Indian heritage. He’s both physically and geographically about as far from the “All-American white boy” type as one man can get!
And, for his part, my new handsome husband admits that he’s never felt attracted to women of his own race. He’s always preferred (and dated) white women … British, Australian, and now me, an American.
All of this got me thinking — I have white female co-workers who are only attracted to white men. I have co-workers and friends in relationships with people outside their race. And I know still other people who say they are attracted to another race specifically (i.e. white or black men attracted to Asian women) but are absolutely not attracted to other races (black, Middle Eastern, Indian, etc.).
So, what gives? How much of this is biology? How much of this is social conditioning? And, when do our attraction preferences (including mine) cross the line into straight up racism?
Obviously we know biology plays a large role in this. Decades of research tells us we’re universally drawn to symmetrical faces, to specific hip-to-waist ratios, and to other biological triggers that subconsciously signal a healthy potential "breeding partner" (though a pregnancy is the last thing most people want when out on the prowl).
And most of us understand that social norms, blatant bias, and pop culture directly (and powerfully) influence our perceptions and preferences about who is attractive and who is not.
But, let’s be honest — we can easily find symmetrical faces and specific body proportions amongst every race and ethnicity of people on the planet. And we’re smart enough to know porn and action movies don’t accurately reflect the full spectrum of beauty and appeal to be found in other people.
So, what is that really motivates our impulse to either "stick with our own" race or date and mate more diversely?
To help me get to the bottom of this mystery, I called notable biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher, author of Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray. She conceded that, indeed, both nature and nurture influence who we find sexually attractive.
It turns out there's a biological sweet spot we seem to aim for of not marrying/mating too close to your kin line or too far from it, as extremes in either direction create problems with reproduction. But, I was more curious about the conscious (and unconscious) decisions people make now, in modern day life, in selecting a partner.
Dr. Fisher shared a super fascinating insight I’d never heard before — it seems our actual degree of open mindedness (or lack thereof) about mating interracially is driven chemically ... by hormones.
She explained that her extensive research revealed four biological personality types, each one showing distinct behaviors and mindset tendencies based on which hormone is most dominant in that person’s system. Aren't you so curious to know which one YOU are? I sure was.
Here are the different types and the personality traits common to them:
The "Stick With Our Own" Type. These are people with a high serotonin dominance (whom Dr. Fisher calls “Builders”). They tend to value tradition, sameness, and what’s familiar. These people favor compliance with social norms, enforce traditional gender roles, and believe there is a right way and a wrong way things “should be” done … even love. (Republican National Convention, I'm looking at you!) People with this high serotonin dominance tend to couple up with other Builders, are unlikely to date outside their race, and are apt to frown upon others who do so.
The "Everyone Is Loveable" Type. These are people with a high dopamine dominance (whom Dr. Fisher calls “Explorers”). These folks are much more adventurous, curious by nature, and open to difference. This biological personality type is highly likely to date outside their own racial or ethnic group and not think much of it, being far more interested in the unique qualities of the individual they love than compliance with any social norm. (Pretty sure this one is my type!)
The "Maybe I'll Go There" Type. I'm merging two of Dr. Fishers's groups here: People with either high testosterone dominance (whom she calls "Directors") or high estrogen dominance (whom she calls “Negotiators”). On the open-mindedness scale, both of these groups fall on the spectrum in between. Some people from these types are completely open to dating outside their race or ethnic group, while others … not so much. But generally, there is flexibility with this group when "the right person" comes along. They're less concerned with race and more concerned with the aspects of femininity and masculinity that compliment their type (and as we know, a fine looking, masculine man can come in every shade of the rainbow!)
So, which biological personality type are you?
Regardless of where you land on the spectrum, it seems the world, in general, is changing toward embracing interracial relationships. (Hooray!)
In fact, Pew Research Center data, gathered between 1987 and 2010, reveals that the number of Americans who “completely agree” that interracial dating is entirely acceptable leapt from 13 percent to 56 percent. And millennials are even more open-minded, with 90 percent fully accepting both interracial dating and interracial marriage.
But, just because people are dating outside their race doesn’t always mean the driving attitude behind that choice is a healthy or respectful one. Unfortunately, negative stereotypes abound making some races seem more sexually desirable and others less so.
Preference is one thing (i.e. “I find the typically delicate features of Asian women truly beautiful.”) Racism is another (i.e “I prefer Asian woman because they’re more submissive and easier to control.”).
The best any of us can do is reflect on our preferences and question the integrity of the impulses and mindsets behind them.
Ultimately, remember, what you’re drawn to sexually is just a preference, not a mandate.
Life might throw you an emotional curve ball and have you fall in love with someone you never expected to connect with.
If that happens, I say … go with it!
There's really only one race anyway … human. Love is love.