University of Illinois Studies Dating App Racism

A researcher from the University of Illinois is conducting studies on Racialised Sexual Discrimination (RDS) found on dating apps. He is looking to understand the psychological effects of this discrimination on Black homosexual men.

Ryan Wade, Assistant Professor of Social Work, created the term RDS, which refers to the way stereotypically white and Euro-centric features are valued above the characteristics of other ethnic groups.

Wade identified the three most harmful forms of RDS: white superiority, same-race rejection, and white physical objectification.

White superiority refers to the behaviour where dating app users will value whiteness as the most desirable feature of a partner. This can take the form of profiles stating that they are only looking for white men.

Another behaviour making a psychological impact is same-race rejection, where a user is rejected by members of their own ethnic group as they prefer white men.

Wade shares that the most impactful behaviour however is white physical objectification. This refers to the assumptions made about the physical characteristics of certain individuals based on their ethnicity.

The Assistant Professors explained this behaviour “seems to be having the most negative effect, being the only manifestation of RSD that had an impact on depressive symptoms and self-worth.”

While Wade admitted that the results of these studies are not exactly surprising, they are still worth doing as this is relatively uncharted territory. 

“…with respect to Black men, the vast majority of research is all wholly concentrated on HIV, to the neglect of a whole slew of other critical health domains. My broad program of research aims to fill in those gaps”, he explained.

Looking ahead, Wade thinks that the next steps are to address RSD and prevent it from taking place. He highlighted that researchers can work with dating apps to prevent RSD, or even help with the design of new dating apps that have anti-racist features embedded.

Awareness campaigns may also be helpful in addressing RSD, he added.