Sexual preferences, whether explicitly or subtly stated, are pretty baseline when discussing dating or intimate connections. From very young, we learn about sexual attractions by laundry-listing characteristics to build a “type”, or our physical and otherwise “perfect match” of a human. Talking about qualities you find personally attractive in other people isn’t necessarily problematic or harmful—in fact, I would argue that it can be healthy for especially young people to talk about their sexualities and sexual preferences to normalize them. But when we talk about sexual attractions, we often discuss them as aspects of ourselves that we can’t change; they’re just something we feel as innate desires. And that, however, can be pretty problematic because it ignores and excuses how so much of our sexual preferences are societally constructed.
From a very young age, we learn about sexual attractions and who to feel them towards in so many ways (this is a longer discussion, but if you’re interested more in this topic, check out The Social Construction of Sexuality by Steven Seidman). We learn everything from the problematic but still far more innocuous idea that “blonde girls have more fun,” to harmful and frankly hateful lie that white women are more sexually preferable. And this, ultimately, is why we need to be aware of our sexual preferences and how they are potentially damaging to others and to our society.
While blatantly racist statements might be called out more regularly, we as a society often excuse people when they state that they "just aren’t attracted to" non-white folks, as if it is something understandably out of their control. On tinder or literally any other online/mobile dating site, you can easily find bio statements such as, “no black people—just a pref” or insert any other non-white, non-cis, non-beauty standard ideal human (*side note: if you are among the hateful asshats who believe black folks or folks of color can’t be sexually attractive, you’re either full of shit, have clearly never entered the world, or have never seen Black Panther). We think that if attractions are something we can’t help, we get a pass to be hateful, racist, and dismissive, and that is frankly bullshit. Your sexual preferences, problematic or not, cannot be justified/excused by using biology to do so (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/jun/04/men-blonde-women-attractive) because we are not helpless victims to our evolutionary histories. If you believe that humans are capable of monogamy or loving someone when they're sick or not killing each other when we’re hungry, you can also get over your hateful "preferences". You don’t get a biological pass to hate other folks—sorry not sorry about that.
It is pathetically common to use BS biologically programmed sexual preferences to justify a whole swath of hateful trash. Here are a few examples of nonsense shit I’ve heard personally, been told personally, and crowd sourced from my local cafe that all fall into excuses for hate:
-“I’m just not attracted to fat girls.”
-“We are biologically programmed to like people that look like us.”
-“Women like tall guys because they are protectors.”
-“I’ve just never thought red-heads were hot.”
-“Men like girls with big asses because biology says they can have birth easier.” (this one is such a hilarious reach that I kind of love it)
The list could go on for an impossibly long amount of time. We constantly try to justify our likes and dislikes as things that “just are”, but by doing that, we are adding to the culture of white-washed beauty standards that are incredibly harmful.
Now, I’m not saying never have sexual preferences, but just think about what you could be contributing to by holding to those preferences. If you don’t think fat folks are attractive, acknowledge that that is not a fact, but rather your problematic opinion. And you can CHANGE that (and should change that). Look at instagram accounts that celebrate fat folks, or black folks, or trans folks, or folks with disabilities. Actively try to unlearn the representations of beauty standards produced and perpetuated by mainstream culture by acknowledging what they are, such as ideas of masculinity and femininity. Learn how beauty has always been changing here: https://www.scienceofpeople.com/ideal-body-types-throughout-history/, or follow accounts such as @decolonizing_fitness or @recipesforselflove or @bodyposipanda to rewrite your ideas of beauty.
It’s important to remember that our sexual preferences are socially constructed, and while they can still sometimes be valid attractions to you personally, it’s necessary to acknowledge the ways in which you contribute to problematic ideas about attractiveness. Excusing racist, fatphobic, ableist, transphobic, etc etc etc ideas as harmless biological preferences is a trash thing to do, so don’t. And don’t tolerate when others justify their sexual prejudices in these ways (or any).
*Also, I found this article after writing this and feel it’s a concise version of this entire article. So, yay? Check it out though— https://everydayfeminism.com/2016/12/dating-preferences-discriminatory/ *