AMHERST, Mass. – New research from a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has found that white straight men and lesbians are much more open to online interracial dating than are white gay men and straight women. Although it is commonly believed that gays and lesbians are more racially open-minded than straights, this appears to be true only for lesbians. Generally, white gay men and straight women avoid non-white daters.
In a study published in the upcoming issue of the journal Social Forces, UMass Amherst associate dean Jennifer Lundquist and University of Texas Austin assistant professor of sociology Ken-Hou Lin analyzed the racial characteristics of 9 million registered users and 200 million messages from one of the largest and most popular U.S. dating websites that offers both heterosexual and same-sex dating services for millions of active users. The final sample consisted of data from 32,351 lesbians, 51,606 gay men, 405,021 straight women and 528,800 straight men taken from November 2003 to October 2010. In this study they examine the preferences of white daters; their ongoing research also examines the racial preferences of non-white daters.
They found that same-race preferences are common, but when people decide to contact daters of a different race there is no clear tendency by gay or straight identity. Minority men are less desired by white gay men and straight women, while minority women suffer far less of a penalty from white lesbians and straight men.
“Our findings suggest that straight men and women differ significantly, and that more race-open preferences held by heterosexual men are similar to lesbians while gay men’s less race-open preferences are more similar to heterosexual women,” Lundquist says. “The general pattern for inter-group interaction is that all four white groups are most likely to contact or respond other white daters; however, when interactions do occur with non-white daters, it is initiated most often by straight white men, second most often by white lesbians, third most often by gay white men and least often by straight white women.”
The study found some variations in the specifics of interracial relationships. In regards to contact with Asian daters, straight men and lesbians are more likely to interact with Asians than other minorities, while straight women and gay men are less likely. Specifically, straight white men are the most likely group to initiate contact with Asian daters and lesbians and straight men are most likely to respond to messages from Asian daters. Straight white women and gay men are least likely to send messages to Asians, and straight women are the least likely group to respond to Asian daters’ messages.
In responding to messages sent by black daters, white straight men and lesbians are the most likely groups to return a message. While straight men’s greater likelihood of messaging Asians over black women fits with national trends in heterosexual intermarriage, the researchers note, white straight women’s behavior does not. Although white women are more likely to be married to a black man than an Asian man, Lundquist and Lin found that women daters ignore both Asian and black men about equally.
Finally, Hispanic daters are most likely to be contacted and responded to by straight men and least likely by straight women. Gay men and lesbians both fall about equally in between these two extremes.
“The fact is that, despite what white daters might say, their behavior shows that they are most interested in other white daters. But in contrast to minority men who are avoided by white straight women and gay men, minority women may be considered comparatively less racially threatening and more appealing than their male minority counterparts,” Lundquist and Lin hypothesize. “Thus, sexual orientation of daters seems to have little to do with how racial hierarchies play out in the dating market; instead, whether a minority dater is male or female is the determining factor of how they are seen by whites of all sexual orientations.
“It becomes clear that racial preference behavior may be linked more to gender identity than to sexual orientation identity, even though the debate until now has focused almost exclusively on straight versus gay behaviors. Stated another way, minority men are avoided by white daters, regardless of their sexual identity, while minority women fare considerably better.”