Do You Fetishize White Boys?
By Olivia Deveau
“I think you may fetishize white boys just as much as they fetishize you.”
It’s a Thursday afternoon, I’m sitting on the couch across from my new therapist, Rick. Rick and I have seen each other three times now— he’s a relatively sweet man, probably late 40s early 50s with a slight southern accent and the first therapist who has used the word “sexy” in a session with me.
As has been the theme with Rick, I’m telling him about the latest in my “straight Caucasian male” (SCM) saga. To spare the gory details, I had a very intense and violently abrupt falling-out with an SCM with whom I had been in what one might call a romantic friendship for over a year.
Since we both failed to confess these feelings for each other until the very last minute, it all culminated in a drunken episode involving him showing up to a party with a 5’4 white girl he had failed to fill me in on, and me turning to my best friend, pointing to a very cute, very unsuspecting dude at the party and slurring “I’m gonna kiss ‘im on the mouth.” Which I did. A lot. Spiteful who? Never heard of her.
I explained to Rick during our second session that I was afraid of getting involved with a white boy, because of a deep-rooted and very old fear that he would leave me for the prettiest white girl he saw once he got his fill of “the other.” I felt like my proximity to whiteness would allow a white boy to become attracted to me, but my color would leave him yearning for the pasty, ash-blonde breed that he had become accustomed to. I should be more clear: I still feel like this.
So, like any diligent, self-loathing and sadistic female would do, I always pined after the whitest boy possible. Strawberry blonde hair? Temperament of a golden retriever? Casually able to surf? Loves patterned button downs from Urban Outfitters? Random nonsensical tweets that aren’t very funny but still get 20+ retweets because he’s cute? Sign me the fuck up. Bonus if he cited Alexis Ren as his Instagram crush, played the acoustic guitar, or talked in detail about any Kurt Vonnegut novel.
I repeat some semblance of this to Rick as he sat, jotting things on his impressively neat yellow legal pad, smiling at me whilst I unravel his throw pillows thread by tangerine thread.
“I feel like I’m consistently fetishized by white boys,” I try to maintain eye contact. Do you remember being a young, Caucasian male, Rick? The world at your fingertips? Rick knows how uncomfortable I am, but it’s become a routine for us. He offers me no breaks, no easy-outs. Goodwill Hunting, except I’m not a secret genius.
“What I honestly was so afraid of came true and I feel like it proves me right. The just want the cute white girls. White boys just want to fetishize women of color.” I laugh at this, because even I know this is a broad generalization. But who gives a flying fuck? I’m mad, they deserve it. Every. Single. One.
Even the vocabulary I use isn’t equal: women to boys. But am I the first woman to feel like I’m perpetually surrounded the same boys that made ICUP jokes when we were sent on errands to the supply closet in 3rd grade?
Next Rick drops the bombshell that makes my quills stick up. My back arches and my hair raises. The statement sinks under my skin and causes a reaction so visceral he almost recoils a bit as if to throw his proverbial hands up.
You know, the one about me fetishizing white boys.
My lip curls up and I offer a laugh. I don’t even know myself at this point. I didn’t think I’d be the girl sitting in her therapist’s office crying session after session about the same boy (oh yeah, the waterworks started day one, right after Rick asked me what he could help me with. All of Kate Hudson’s characters got nothin’ on me). I wish I didn’t feel so pathetic, and so I force my wolverine claws to retract. My fangs sink back into my gums. For the last few minutes of the session, I trick myself into feeling better.
Some of this is on me. I’m the root cause. The mantra wraps its prickly little tendrils around my cerebrum and I finally have cracked the code: I’m at fault! All along, I felt silly, and now I know why- I had no reason to feel this way! We fetishized each other equally! I’m perpetuating the white patriarchy.
I walk into the blinding sunlight and I almost feel more comfortable, because by suggesting that I did to this boy and his colleagues what they typically do to me, Rick re-opened the door to my self-loathing. He stood by the entrance and beckoned me inside, like a demented butler. The Alfred of my own personal hell.
Let me clarify. Rick is neither demented nor the butler-type. From a logical standpoint, what he is saying makes sense. In the past I have instantly gravitated towards white boys because it was comfortable: I felt like they would never be attracted to my brown self anyways, so why not admire? It couldn’t hurt. It physically pains me to type this, but I put white boys up on a pedestal. I thought that if I could get one, just one, to like me, then I would have won. Game over, the medal is mine.
I didn’t really care about these white boys, just wished one would shut up about his upcoming cross-country race and ask me out dammit. Never happened. I think my obsessive desire to alienate many of my politically neutral peers by my increasingly “controversial” opinion column offerings in the school’s monthly may have been one of the factors.
One of the definitions for fetish is “an excessive and irrational devotion or commitment to a particular thing.” So yes, I had an irrational and slightly excessive desire to be courted by a white boy. Or, to be frank, felt up in the backseat of his Dad’s ’09 BMW that he inherited...
Here’s the thing, though: life isn’t logical. It doesn’t follow a set pattern of rules. An eye for an eye is not happenstance. If it was, Bowie, Prince and Ali (the list goes on) would still be alive and Trump and his little goblin Pence would be six feet under.
Racism in of itself is not logical. I feel like I regressed because I had to type it, but for the sake of continuity, I’ll allow it. It isn’t a two-way street, because racism is based off of a system of inequality- the system is unequal, white people consistently have the upper hand. White men are at the top of the food chain, and I’ll be damned if they don’t know it.
Fetishism from a racial standpoint plays into this inequality. A woman of color being fetishized by anyone is not the same as your eccentric Aunt Emily’s taxidermy fetish. Rick was right: I did fetishize white boys. But not in the same way they fetishized me. The mutual othering is present, yes, but I and other women of color (and every person of color) are consistently otherized. We are pushed into the tight confines of ridiculously inaccurate stereotypes and fetishized through both the proximity to and distance from whiteness we bear. We are not the standard- never have been. You’d be fooling yourself to think that white men have not been the standard.
"We are pushed into the tight confines of ridiculously inaccurate stereotypes and fetishized through both the proximity to and distance from whiteness we bear. We are not the standard- never have been. You’d be fooling yourself to think that white men have not been the standard."
My “irrational fixation” caused these white boys no harm. They didn’t question their worthiness, they didn’t stare at the mirror and wonder if their nose were a bit thinner, a bit pointier, if their hair were naturally straight, would girls like them? If they didn’t have to go through a laundry list of races and ethnicities when someone asked them “what they are,” (never mind the obvious wrongness of that question) would Chrissy pay more attention to them in Chem? My fixation never came from an imbalance of power, simply because of my color and sex I could never oppress any of those boys the same way they could me.
So yes, maybe I did “fetishize white boys.” But so what? Brad, Matt, Chad, Ethan… They all walk away with no scars, self-esteem intact. The rest of us unfortunate enough to have been born with the absence of that alabaster privilege: we roll up our sleeves and prepare for the onslaught every single day.
What I mean to say is: to all my fellow women out there— especially my fellow women of color, my brown and black magic girls, my fellow mixed sisters— your worth is not and never will be determined by whether or not Matt from geology thinks you’re cute, or by Jake in Lambda asking you to “hang.” The smaller issue is to not let other opportunities slide away simply because you have your eye on the pasty white prize, but let’s take on step further: turn that attention inward.
I wish someone had told me a long time ago to quit while I was ahead, and save some of that energy for myself and for my own self-love, because at the end of the day, no one is going to truly take care of you but yourself.
This is not to say that every white dude that hollers at you will be looking to take advantage of your “otherness,” but remember that if you catch a sign of it— i.e. saying you’re “exotic,” or asking if he can say “the n-word” simply because he gets to be in your presence— take your beautiful and dynamic self elsewhere. Of course I am the first to point out that these issues are not the same and are very nuanced between brown, black, and Asian women— and being a woman of color means you’re also subject to fetishization by men of color as well.
"This is not to say that every white dude that hollers at you will be looking to take advantage of your “otherness,” but remember that if you catch a sign of it— i.e. saying you’re “exotic,” or asking if he can say “the n-word” simply because he gets to be in your presence— take your beautiful and dynamic self elsewhere."
So what I mean to say is, your smile, your laugh, your growth, your hustle, your fierceness and your passion: they’re beautiful. They’re yours. So don’t share them unless you truly want to, and above all else, keep it pushin’.
olivia deveau, author
A Capricorn sun and Scorpio moon, loose-leaf tea enthusiast, and avid reader of biographies (or any literature at all let’s be real) Olivia Deveau has been reading tarot since she was 7 and palms since she was 8- she’ll read yours in exchange for some Twizzlers, please! Originally from Boston, “Liv” as her familiars call her, now lives and attends school in LA... Like a true LA convert, she’s vegan (as much as possible) and loves a good kombucha. A writer at heart, Liv is in the journalism program at USC and hopes to one day use her knowledge towards journalism involving sex education and destigmatization. Social justice and intersectional feminism are also movements dear to her heart, and she cites her main creative and life influencers as SZA, Solange, Frida Kahlo, David Bowie, Prince, and Angela Davis. Her not so secret kinks include candles that are too expensive, Instagram tattoo accounts, and Benicio Del Toro.
Music I'm listening to:
SZA, Solange, and Bowie are always on repeat, but right now I’m really into Janelle Monáe’s new record Dirty Computer, Hayley Kiyoko’s Expectations, and Junglepussy's Jp3. I grew up with late 60s and 70s music, so of course, Hendrix, Cher, Heart, and The Beatles are very special to me as well and that music is always in the mix. The song I most recently listened to is Harry Styles’ “Woman,” which is such a slow bop.
Books I'm reading:
I’m always in between at least three books, so right now I’m wicked deep into Ali Smith’s novel How To Be Both, Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood, and a historical nonfiction called The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, written by Ilan Pappé, who is an Israeli historian.
The piece of art I just bought:
A Robin Eisenberg print from Society6.com— I love supporting independent artists, especially women, and Society6 is a retail addiction I have yet to overcome.