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Kelechi okafor: 'i'm not hiding my white boyfriend'
S he was a divorced white woman in her mid 40s with two young children. She saw me not as a personality, but as a pastime, an object, and did not see her actions as racially insulting in the slightest.
She admitted she had not read the text accompanying my profile pictures. In other words, she had seen a black face and unthinkingly equated it with promiscuity. When I gently pointed out the racism implicit in her words, I realised it had never occurred to her they could ever be interpreted that way. Although she lived in London, all the people in her life were white, and so her assumptions about race had never been challenged. It was after this experience and other similar ones that it started to seem to me as if the new world of dating now meant that for many, connecting with black men had become like a branch of online shopping: as easy as buying a fridge on Amazon.
I was a man in my 50s looking for love online - but women just wanted me for sex
I was 51 when I tried online dating for the first time, three years ago. I had just come out of a six-year relationship with a white woman, which had followed a four-year relationship with a black woman. I have a grown-up son from a much earlier relationship. But marriage has somehow never happened for me, as much as I would like it to some day.
I work as a writer and live in West London, and what I wanted when I unexpectedly emerged on to the singles market at the start of my sixth decade was companionship. I longed to be in love once again. I spent 18 months, on and off, seeking this on various dating apps, and was shocked at the racism that proliferated.
The vast majority of users are white, and most opt for partners of their own ethnicity. This is certainly the case with most of my white friends, who admit that when it comes to selecting a partner they tend to default to what they know, and what seems familiar aesthetically. T he statistics on online dating back this up. Research conducted by professor Gerald Mendelsohn at the University of California revealed that over 80 per cent of the contacts initiated by white members were to other whites, with only three per cent to black members.
Black females are considered the least attractive group within digital dating. Black women received 25 per cent fewer connects than white women. With a narrower field of options, blacks are forced to be more proactive when online dating, and to cast a wider net than their white counterparts. This was certainly true for me, but approaching white women and those of other ethnicities did not present a problem, as I find women of all races attractive.
The low volume of ethnic diversity within online dating means there is a high probability black singles in the UK will end up dating whites, simply as a result of availability. Of all the single, London-based females I scrolled through across four different dating apps - easily over a thousand faces - I estimate that only five per cent were black. And this dwindled further when I assessed whether or not I liked their personalities or found them attractive.
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B ut other than that, my approach was colour blind, if not age blind. I set my parameters between 40 and 55, which meant almost every match was divorced and with children. The majority of those I encountered had only ever dated white men, and a of them expressed racist views, sometimes without even realising.
Some of them told me this outright.
One especially telling moment came when a white woman I was dating said jokingly that her white friends wanted to know what a black man would be like in bed. I had stated in my bio that I was looking for a relationship. But in my experience there remains a perception within the online dating arena that black men are candidates only for sex and a good time. Black women are subject to even greater levels of abuse, particularly around post-colonial stereotypes about possessing a more vigorous sexual appetite or outlandish sexual preferences.
Style blogger Stephanie Yeboah encountered this during her time online dating. This is not sex as we know it, as an act of pleasure, but sex as performance, defined by race. W ith the next white woman I met online and slept with, I deliberately tried to make the sex mediocre.
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I wanted to smash the stereotype. I wanted sex to be normalised, finally, like it is for white men. Admittedly my moral perspective is specific to my age, as a more mature online dater. In fact, many even welcome it. They say I should relax and be happy I have interest from women, whatever their motivation might be.
But I want to be valued as a human being, and my focus was on finding love. I live alone in a flat and I wanted someone there with whom I could watch the football; with whom I could go to the pub, or go on country walks at the weekend.
On one occasion I had sex with a woman who maintained she wanted a relationship, but then when I moved in that direction she ran away, as if I was overstepping the mark. It seemed something deeper was at play here.
Maybe black men protect white women because we see ourselves in them
Was I attracting women who had been hurt by their ex-husbands and so became cynical and fearful of love? Were many of these women swiping right on me because they believed that, as a black man, I would only want sex, and therefore they would be safe with me? They appeared surprised on discovering their assumptions about me were wrong.
M y experiences were not all negative. Since writing my book I have now found a partner online. We met for the first time 10 weeks ago over a drink in a bar.
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We were only together for an hour that night, but I liked her straight away because of what she had to say. She had written a lot in her profile and was open about who she was, so I already felt I knew her quite well.
She is white, and is far less interested in my ethnicity, and more in the fact that I like running, listening to Radio 4 and eating cheese. She has actual, and emotional, availability. We urge you to turn off your ad blocker for The Telegraph website so that you can continue to access our quality content in the future. Visit our adblocking instructions.
Telegraph Lifestyle Family Relationships. The two of us have now quit the apps.
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