Skin Color and Dating

Who are the beautiful men in a multicultural country?

Posted May 17, 2010

My last several postings took an important detour, but it's time to return to the primary focus of this blog: Exploring the conflux of forces reshaping male sex and sexuality. The first is that the United States is facing dramatic changes in its demographic make-up that are impacting our understanding of beauty and attraction. As an apt example, let's look at modern dating.

Do we consider race when dating? Research involving some of the biggest online dating services answers the aforementioned question with a resounding "yes." And women seem to place more emphasis on race than men.

Many online dating services allow filtering of possible candidates by racial preferences. Thus if a woman is not interested in dating Asian men (and one study found that 93% of white woman with racial preferences excluded Asian male profiles) she can easily eliminate this entire demographic and its possible matches with just a few keystrokes. An article in the February 22nd edition of Time reported that 73% of women engaging in dating on a Yahoo! Personals site stipulated racial preferences; 64% selected white men only. OkCupid.com, a free online dating service, examined the patterns of more than a million users and concluded that, "racism is alive and well." White males received the most replies, and East Indian males the least.

Why are white males the current winners? No doubt part of the answer is that white skin is still imposed as the paragon of beauty. Consider the struggles of non-whites to establish themselves as professional models; some in the fashion industry even admit that its commitment to racial diversity slipped backward in the past few years as the desire for "pale skin" and "blue eyes" resurged (as reported in Newsweek). Historically in every culture the dominant group foisted its own features as the standard for beauty, and the ubiquitous Caucasian ideal in the United States has been passed down from its very first immigrants, typically northern and western Europeans. But, if you recall from an earlier blog, soon one in five Americans will have been born outside of the United States and account for 82% of the population growth of the country. America will inevitably be a nation of minorities without a dominant racial or ethnic group.

In a 2008 article for Newsweek, Christopher Dickey wrote that, "New immigrants are introducing brown into a color map that that has long been dominated by black and white." Will the prevailing conceptualization of beauty thus change? Just consider the current major sources of immigration to the United States:
1. Mexico
2. Philippines
3. China
4. India
5. Vietnam
6. Dominican Republic
7. Cuba
8. El Salvador
9. Haiti
10. Jamaica
11. Russia
12. Korea

For a thoughtful consideration of the impact of these changes I defer to Nancy Etcoff. She is a psychologist and faculty member of the Harvard Medical School and of Harvard University's Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative, researcher on beauty and the brain, and author of Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty (which became the subject of a Discovery Channel program.) Etcoff writes that there is nothing inherently more pleasing and attractive about white skin in comparison to other colors, and she likewise believes that the dominance of white skin as the ideal of beauty is already in slow decline.

The next blog features my interview with Nicole Caldwell, editor-in-chief of Playgirl Magazine, the distaff counterpart to Playboy. Nicole, of all people, knows firsthand the changes occurring regarding male beauty since it is her responsibility to find and feature the most beautiful men in the world (almost always sans clothing).