In Arts & Entertainment, Black History, Culture, Opinion by Nyomi Henderson

Dating as an Afrikan woman is comparable to competing in the Olympics; both are strenuous. Forbes recently classified fetishization as “the act of making someone an object of sexual desire based on some aspect of their identity.” Understanding the role of fetishization in our dating experiences, I want to emphasize that the humanity of Afrikan women deserves to be valued with the same regard and reverence as everyone else’s. 

The combination of boredom and loneliness lures us to seek pleasures of external validation where we easily become dependent on the number of matches we get, entertain pointless conversations, and subject ourselves to fetishism. 

Online dating apps like Hinge, Bumble, Tinder, and Grindr are more than familiar to students on campus. Suggestive messages like: 

“Tbh girl you got some big (insert cherry emoji) I like that” 


You got a voluptuous (insert peach emoji) and I’d like you to suffocate me with it” 

from Bumble Member #4 have become a norm and even an expectation within the hypersexualized culture of dating apps. 

It was comments like these—comments about our bodies, how dark we are, and if that is really “our hair”—that led me to understand that there was a layer on the dating fields we were experiencing as Afrikan women that our white peers didn’t. 

Indy100, an online news site, recently wrote an article on a study by William J. Chopik. It quickly became even more apparent that “participants were 2.3 to 3.3 times less likely to swipe right on a Black person than a white person.” With swiping left meaning they were completely uninterested, it just wasn’t their “preference.” 

While these statistics are jarring, it would be wrong to jump into the current issues of finding companionship as an Afrikan woman on dating apps without discussing some of the history and social factors that play a role in these conditions. 

During slavery, there was a lack of autonomy over our relationships. We didn’t own love and we most definitely didn’t own ourselves. Love was a hard thing to pursue while balancing the multitudes of instability created by dehumanizing tactics and oppressive systems. From the selling of our children to not having the right to say no, in addition to the institution of marriage being nothing but a fleeting dream, we were often left to cut our losses. 

And while we developed traditions of resistance like jumping the broom, we were still limited in our emotional freedoms, and that didn’t stop post emancipation traumas from occurring. 

In “MAMIE BRADLEY’S UNBEARABLE BURDEN”, Koritha Mitchell summarized it: “Black coupling was non-existent and… white households were in danger, mobs “ku-kluxed” black homes, often raping successful black men’s wives.” White terrorists destroyed Black domestic and intimate success while insisting it never existed. Throughout history, both the relationships and the people experiencing Afrikan love have been rejected, neglected, and forgotten. 

So when we ponder why Afrikan women, who are members of a highly stigmatized population and are considered the most unattractive race to date within the hierarchy of dating apps, we find our answers here. 

White features have always been the main standard of purity and beauty. So, it made “sense” economically and politically for Black men to start dating outside of the community. They would soon start the search for someone they could show off to society, someone who allowed them to benefit from the external gaze and validation of others.

By others, I mean the very same white men who dehumanize them. 

Afrikan women never had that privilege, nor did they benefit when it came to interracial dating. After the Jim Crow era came media tropes like the Mammy caricature where Afrikan women were portrayed as unattractive, 

boring, and “motherly.” 

This was a huge difference to Afrikan men who were fetishized as strong, manly, and “beasts” in bed. While both forms of fetishization are harmful, one has allowed for more social mobility than the other, even if misguided. Outside of the media’s influence on how Afrikan women are perceived by the rest of society, we still struggle to find love. 

At UCLA specifically, the heterosexual male-to-female ratio is disproportionate, with the Afrikan male-to Afrikan female ratio being even more disparaging. It even led one to wonder if modern-day interracial dating has become the only choice left for cisgendered heterosexual Afrikan women seeking relationships on campus. 

Second-year psychology major Ryen Clark shared her experience dating interracially. She says that after her interracial relationship (while still open to interracial dating), she felt more inclined to date within her race. It was exhausting for her, having to constantly explain her culture and deal with a multitude of microaggressions from her partner. 

Audrey Ohwobete, a freshman at UCLA says, “It’s nice to talk to people and get to know everyone, but in college, people aren’t looking for relationships. Just vibing, no titles.” Third-year communications major Ayiana Scott follows that same concept by saying, “Dating within hookup culture is neither hard nor easy. If you like it, good for you, everyone should at least give it a try.” 

From the Afrikan women interviewed, it seemed that there was a mixed review of what dating is like on campus. Many of us are like Ryen and Audrey. With Afrikan women being the most loyal to dating within their race, interracial dating has always been a hot topic within our community. 

This doesn’t excuse the category of people who hide behind terms like “preference” and “attraction” to continue having misogynistic and eurocentric views on the type of women they choose to validate. 

But I do believe it’s time we broaden our horizons beyond the Afrikan community at UCLA. It’s not worth being alone because we fear how we will be perceived. There needs to be a change in the way Afrikan women are approached and treated not just by Afrikan men, but by ALL men. 

Dating in this society IS racialized. While we can’t control systematic conditions, we can control what we allow. We create safe spaces already by calling out and challenging inappropriate behavior from our peers. 

This looks like no longer embracing the colorists, sexists, and racists in and outside of our community, friendship circles, and families. Taking time to delve further into the history and roots behind the divisions in our community is important when we are all searching for some form of the same thing: love. 

The goal of this article is to first bring awareness to the dating climate of UCLA while also humanizing Afrikan women and validating the experiences and struggles we face dating within a predominantly white institution. To everyone reading, you are more than just your body, more than your looks, and you are definitely more than your dating experiences. 

Sometimes we think that the things we go through are unique to us, but these experiences are universal to everyone. So block that man who commented on whether or not that “nyash” is homegrown and seek the love and pleasures in life that should be given to you as a human being. 

Afrikan women aren’t a commodity. 

Afrikan women most definitely deserve love.