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Sexual racism: the hating in online dating

Online dating apps have made it easier than ever to get a date.

For our generation it seems almost impossible to find a romantic or sexual relationship with someone by any means other than online dating apps. However, for the LGBT community, this way of dating can leave certain members feeling attacked or discriminated against because of the attitudes that are often displayed on such apps. Whether it be an inherent problem with society or people taking advantage of having a screen to hide behind, sexual racism is a clear and common issue present on many online dating apps, both LGBT and non-LGBT orientated.

On nearly all dating apps—but particularly market leaders such as Grindr—we can see examples of posts on user profiles that use phrases such as ‘Only here to talk to White boys’ and, ‘Indian guys don’t waste your time.’

Phua and Kaufman, in their article “The Crossroads of Race and Sexuality”, even exhibit data that show gay men to be more likely to mention race than straight men when seeking a relationship. Another article by Callander, Holt and Newman, comprised of interviews conducted on the topic of sexual racism, also explores the issues of racial prejudice in the context of sex and dating, stating that previous work has suggested that “Whiteness” dictates both the standards of desirability among gay and bisexual men and the community norms around partner-seeking online.

The common occurrence of sexual racism on dating apps, especially in the LGBT+ community, is a major problem for many people. Unfortunately, in many instances it isn’t be rectified. However, one LGBT dating app has been formulated to challenge that sexual racism.

Jack’d prides itself on being a “safe space” for LGBT men of colour, as it won’t allow users to discriminate against members based on race.

While apps like Grindr have a user base that is mainly white, less than 10% of Jack’d’s users are white, demonstrating the affinity the app has with Black, Latino and Asian gay men.

We sat down with Alon, a Jack’d representative, to find out more about how Jack’d is achieving its aim of “ending racism” in the gay community.

How big an issue is sexual racism in the gay community, particularly on gay dating apps?

Sexual racism is a huge problem within the LGBT+ community and especially within the dating app space, especially for minority groups.  There have been many reported instances where people of colour will be blocked, harassed, or spoken down to on dating apps.  It is still not uncommon to see individuals put hate-oriented language on their profiles that says things such as "No Blacks, No Asians".  Members of my team here who are Black have gotten messages on dating apps that read "eww you are black, do not talk to me".  That is completely unacceptable behaviour and creates really negative experiences and issues with low self-esteem.  No person should ever be spoken to like that in any space - especially a space that is supposed to be safe for gay men.  That is what Jack'd is here to solve - it is to create a gay dating app space that does not tolerate any hate or any racism.  It is the safe gay dating app space for every individual.

How do you feel is best to combat these problems? 

By giving a voice to members of the community who did not have a voice.  By speaking out about it.  By showing proper representation of all gay individuals not just white ones.  By taking a stand and saying we as a community can do better and will not, and do not tolerate this.

What is the Jack’d brand doing in that case, to deal with these issues? 

Jack'd is the most multicultural gay dating app on the market.  Over 80% of our audience does not identify as White.  We have always had a policy of zero-tolerance for hate speech and racism; if your profile spews any hate against any race we will terminate your account and block you from using the product for life, regardless of whether you are a paying member or not. 

We have also done our part to make the app itself safe - we released a blurring feature for distance within our product that automatically blurs your location when you download and use the apps in regions where it is unsafe or illegal to be gay such as Russia and Egypt.  We want our users to be safe and secure.  We have continuously used people of colour, Asians, and Latinos in all our marketing and promotional materials.  We want people to see that there is more than one standard norm of beauty and to see what gay men really look like and not create this false sense of beauty that is not realistic or attainable.

 To further outline the problems we discussed, Alon shared a video that calls out the competitors of Jack’d, highlighting the seriousness of these issues.

 Alon spoke very passionately about righting the wrongs of sexual racism, hoping that this might not be a problem people face with online dating in the future. His brand Jack’d is surely leading the march against racial prejudice in the online dating market. With hope that its policies catch on with other apps, perhaps this harmonistic end-goal may be reached.