Abstract: Experiences of Sexual Racism and Objectification Among Gay Men of Color (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

572P Experiences of Sexual Racism and Objectification Among Gay Men of Color

Saturday, January 19, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Scott Rutledge, PhD, Associate Dean, Temple University, PA
Chong-suk Han, PhD, Associate Professor, Middlebury College, VT
Background and Purpose: Much has been written about the experiences of racism among gay men of color within the larger gay community. However, most studies on the experiences of gay men of color use racism as a taken-for-granted social fact and focuses on the effects of racism rather than on racism itself. This study helps to fill this gap in the literature by examining a type of racism that gay men of color experience from gay white men that they do not experience from the larger society. Specifically, we examine sexual racism and sexual objectification of gay men of color by gay white men.

Methods:  Data for this study came from 35 interviews with gay men of color in the greater Los Angeles area. Selection criteria included whether they (1) were at least 18 years old, (2) self-identified as black, Latino, or Asian Pacific Islander, (3) were proficient in English, and (4) reported at least one male sex partner in the past 6 months. The interview sample included 12 black men, 11 Latino men, and 12 Asian Pacific Islander men. Sixteen men were between the ages of 18-29 years old, 19 were 30 and older. One of 11 Latino men and 9 of the Asian Pacific Islander men were foreign-born. All black men were born in the United States.  Data were analyzed using a modified grounded theory approach.

Findings:Data analysis revealed that gay men of color experienced sexual racism in two broad ways. First, participants reported high levels of blatant exclusion of gay men of color as potential sexual partners which manifested itself as both subtle avoidance and through blatant racist comments made about gay men of color. In addition, members of these groups all reported sexual objectification by gay white men based on racial stereotypes which robbed them of their individuality and reduced them to a racial stereotype. While sexual objectification led to the desiring of gay men of color, participants reported that being sexually objectified was no better than being sexually rejected.

More importantly, several participants reported that sexual racism and sexual objectification can have strong negative implications for their own sense of well-being and lead them to question their self-worth, particularly when it is blatant and obvious.

Conclusion and Implications: Findings highlight that gay men of color may experience racism differently in the gay community than they might in the larger society. More importantly, sexual racism and sexual objectification experienced by gay men of color may be more detrimental given their intimate and personal relevance. Because of this, practitioners working with members of these groups may find it beneficial to expand the discussion on “racism” to examine not only larger societal racism such as denial of housing, employment opportunities, access to education, etc. and engage members of these groups in discussions regarding sexual racism and objectification that may influence their well-being.