Friday, June 12, 2009

Attractions and a Kyriarchal Society

In my whiteness studies class last semester sexual attraction was mentioned in passing in discussion of another topic. A student mentioned that they (or maybe it was a friend?) were not terribly attracted to women of a certain race, I forget which one now. And my professor asked us to think about that concept a bit. In a racist, sexist society can our sexual attractions ever be value neutral? Is it REALLY just a "preference" when white people aren't attracted to people of other races?

My conclusion? No, not really.

Knowing what I know now about society, social indoctrination, whiteness, etc. I can no longer think it's a coincidence that white men tend to be the ones I find most sexually attractive (only one you could even try and argue isn't white in that post is Adrien Brody as he is ethnically Jewish), especially "mutts" like U.S., Canadian and Australian white men (exception to the mutt rule being Scottish...yum...*cough* anyway). Mixed race men are the next most common for me to find attractive, and even there it has to be noted that usually part of the mix is WHITE.

A preference for tall men exclude many, also. Especially since I am myself a bit taller than average. Preference for "masculine" men also excludes some (especially Asian). And I can't any longer ignore that these traits also, though not tied to skin color (what most commonly think of as THE racial indicator) are most certainly tied to dominant narratives about "real men" and that those narratives are strongly informed by whiteness.

I also don't think that it's a coincidence that my attractions have shifted over the years. Or that the rules that seem to be in play for which women I find attractive have always been a significantly different than the rules for men. All of this is in line with dominant kyriarchal narratives.

And that brings me to what I have been pondering lately. Is there anything I can do about this? Can attraction be altered through changes in consciousness? Can I undo this cultural training and manipulate my sexual mind to no longer be racist? I have been trying, for quite a few months now, to untrain my mind in what it has become accustomed to as "beautiful" in women. Purposely seeking out beautiful, as well as gender-bending, women of all races in art and photos in an effort to retrain my mind to think of beauty in different terms than those of mainstream U.S. society.

But it's not beauty I am trying to root out here. I have been able to recognize men of many races as beautiful for as long as I can remember. But that doesn't men they turn me on. Just as I find the female form beautiful in it's different shapes but women don't, as a general rule, turn me on either. Such things as attraction, we are led to believe, are primal. Unconscious, innate, and built in. Can those drives be trained? Changed?

I'm really not sure. I've got no answers at this point in my on-going thought process. But this is something I have been pondering.