As A Black Woman, I’m Scared To Start Dating Again — Here’s Why

I’ve long been a bit of a hopeless romantic. Growing up, films like A Cinderella Story and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging were always on repeat. I was convinced that dating would be like what I’d seen on screen. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Think less fairytale and more fetishisation and stereotypical assumptions — a common one being, "Can you twerk?"
Sir, read the room.
If I had £1 for every time a white man on a dating app has told me he’s "never been with a Black woman before" or questioned whether the saying "once you go Black you’ll never go back" is true, I’d be richer than Jeff Bezos.
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I was once a frequent user of dating apps like Tinder and Bumble and I often recite my experiences with them to friends, who always react with utter shock and disbelief. While I wish I hadn’t been subjected to many of the awful messages I received, I am definitely not the first and sadly won't be the last Black woman to experience it.
In the dating world, Black women are often made to feel like we're not good enough and that we're only worthy of helping a man tick 'sex with a Black woman' off his bucket list, rather than actual love and a meaningful relationship.

If I had £1 for every time a white man on a dating app has told me he's 'never been with a Black woman before', I'd be richer than Jeff Bezos.

Somehow, like finding a needle in a haystack, in 2017 I met Dan, who happened to be one of the few white men who never once made uncomfortable comments about my race. Unfortunately we broke up a few months ago after three years together but we continue to be good friends. Dan was my first boyfriend and prior to meeting him, I was almost ready to 'settle for less' because my dating experiences had started to make me feel demoralised – like I was good for fulfilling a fantasy and nothing more.
However, once you experience a good, healthy relationship, you realise that you should never, ever settle. I’m now at a point where I’ve started thinking about dating again but the thought of having to go through the same – or possibly worse – experiences all over again makes me question if it’s even worth it. And I’m not alone.
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"I have had interesting dates," Bupe, 26, tells me. "I find some of the older Caucasian men want to take me out because I am a sexual fantasy to them and some ask if I can twerk and make remarks about my bum." She adds: "It’s like Black women don’t deserve love. We are often treated like objects, which isn’t fair."
Sabrina, 35, talks about dating after coming out of a nine-year relationship. "I thought I was going to boss dating," she says, "but I soon learned that dating apps have changed the entire dating game." She continues: "I see myself marrying a Black man, possibly because of my past experiences. I’m not closed to marrying other races, but how the heck do you weed out the ALL LIVES MATTER people from just a few photos? And how soon do you bring it up?"
As for how she feels about the modern dating scene, Sabrina says: "I’m pretty optimistic that I’ll find my person but when you throw a global pandemic and a racial pandemic into the mix, conversations invariably become harder when you’re on the marginalised side of both of those world-fuckeries."
Twenty-five-year-old Ara has had a different experience. "I’ve never had anything demeaning said to me while dating," she says. "I just get the odd comments from other races who fantasise about being with a Black woman." She adds: "I personally think as Black women, we almost have to always prove ourselves worthy, which shouldn’t be the case. It seems like Black women experience exclusion from both Black and non-Black men, which society has instilled in us. This makes it easier for [these men] to justify why they don’t date Black women."
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According to Deone Payne-James, integrative counsellor, psychotherapist and member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), disturbing experiences like these are well documented on online dating platforms. "This treatment, because of its insidious and covert nature, might lead Black women to experience a host of feelings, such as degraded, deflated and wounded. At its worst, it could lead to a lack of self-confidence or body issues."

This treatment, because of its insidious and covert nature, might lead Black women to experience a host of feelings, such as degraded, deflated and wounded.

Deone Payne-James
Payne-James explains that these ideologies – whereby Black women are sexualised and fetishised – are deeply and often unconsciously rooted in our society. "These types of comments convey modern racial fetishisation and stereotypes about Black people," she notes. "Be it the Jezebel stereotype – the myth of voracious sexuality – and the hyper-sexualisation of Black bodies, both male and female."
"This fetishised behaviour purports a history of sexual debasement dating back to colonisation and slavery," adds Payne-James. "Psychologically, these interactions might be viewed as microaggressions."
When it comes to dealing with these experiences, Payne-James suggests that it depends on many factors, such as your emotional bandwidth at the time and "whether you think the person is intending to offend or is just painfully unaware at how wrong, harmful and racially inappropriate their behaviour is."
She insists that we should call out this behaviour when it occurs and be clear on our dating profiles about what we will and won’t tolerate. "If possible, try to ward off this unwanted interaction by stating that you’re not interested in anyone who might think it appropriate to racially fetishise or objectify you and report this type of interaction to the dating app website." Payne-James notes that many dating sites have done research into these types of experiences and have taken proactive steps to combat harmful and degrading interactions.
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If possible, try to ward off this unwanted interaction by stating that you're not interested in anyone who might think it appropriate to racially fetishise or objectify you and report this type of interaction to the dating app website.

DEONE PAYNE-JAMES
"If these types of interactions are negatively impacting your mental health and wellbeing, it might be helpful to speak to a BACP registered therapist," she adds. "This could be a helpful way to confidentially explore the deeper impact and find ways to manage these interactions. It might also benefit your self-worth and value, encouraging you to choose to explore relationships — romantically or otherwise — with others who recognise your worth, see and value you."
Things won’t change overnight, of course, and some men will always perpetuate this trash behaviour but it’s important that we continue these conversations to increase awareness and press for change. Black women, please know your worth and know that you are incredible. You may have to block a few frogs, but a respectable and worthy man could be just around the corner.
If you are struggling with any of these negative types of dating experiences and want to chat to a Black therapist close to you, visit the Black, African and Asian Therapy Network.

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