Do sexual preferences make one a bigot?

Continuing the discussion from Is there a non-bigoted reason to be anti-same-sex-marriage?:

This got me thinking. Suppose I’m not sexually attracted to people of a protected class. I really am not sexually attracted to men. Does that make me a bigot? Why or why not?

Sexual attraction is a feeling towards a person. My not being attracted to men is literally a feeling towards people based solely upon their sex. Sex is a protected trait. Furthermore my lack of sexual attraction to men is not based on any amount of reasoning - it is not arrived at with rational thought. No amount of rational debate is going to make me sexually attracted to men. It follows that my lack of sexual attraction to men is an irrational feeling towards people based solely on a protected trait.

How is this not prejudice on the basis of sex? How is it not bigotry?

While I personally do not find dark skin unattractive, I’m sure a significant number of people think skin tone is a factor in sexual attraction. Perhaps darker brown skin not being attractive, or perhaps more commonly tan skin being more attractive than pale skin. Is that bigotry?


This gets tricky. While preferences are preferences, to some extent it might be caused somewhat by a semi-racist society too. (not pinpointing you, the OP, but in general)

My view is that biases are natural and normal. What makes you a bigot or not is how you act on your biases.

The implications of the article are troubling, especially if I apply it to my particular preference for women. Read this excerpt, from the article:

But this kind of racism is so deep-seated, so ingrained, that people genuinely believe their attractions are chemical. That these “preferences” are out of their hands.

Of course, that’s not the case. This isn’t biological, it’s societal. It’s institutional.

We are not the passive victims of our own internalized biases. We have governance over our actions. As author and psychologist James Giles writes, “That is not to say that romantic attraction is fully under our control, but only that it is not fully beyond our control.” So when are our love lives going to start reflecting that? Studies have shown that we are attracted to what we know and are used to, but as Deborah Ward writes, “Repeated exposure to certain people will increase our attraction toward them.” This means that a conscious change in behavior will impact subconscious desires.

If I take what I read there, and apply it to myself being unattracted by men (where the article refers to race, not sex):

  • I am sexist (bigoted) if I go to a matchmaker and only ask to be matched with women
  • I may not be able to reason myself out of being sexist, but I can/should change my behavior so that I become more attracted to men, by being around men more often


Let’s just cut right to the chase. Do you believe racial preferences in dating are biological in origin?

This IS a tricky issue.

I find I tend to be much more attracted to the women with darker skin I meet in real life vs most of those portrayed on TV. My guess is my attraction preferences have more to do with body type than skin color. But then that poses the question of whether preference for a particular body type is bigotry. Sexual attraction is tricky.

I don’t. I think it’s entirely cultural.


I think the litmus test is if changing information changes your perspective. Like, if you were attracted to someone you thought was Group A but when you found out they were Group B, your attraction fizzled.

I admit that that gets really fuzzy when it comes to gender, but if I am wrong about someone’s gender, I’m likely to continue to think they are attractive.

IMHO - and not as a copout, but - often yes, often no. Now it’s true that people are more often than not attracted to their own race. But - as a counter-example - there’s the well-known “yellow fever” phenomenon where white men are attracted to Asian women, sometimes even fanatically so. There’s no way that’s biological since white and Asian people are historically very geographically separated.

And based on your description, attraction based on physical sex is not only not cultural, it’s not even related to rational thought, right? So why would you apply the “implications” of the former to the latter? It seems to me that you’ve laid out a pretty stark distinction already.

This doesn’t really make sense to me. I’m talking about traits, so unless there’s some sort of deception or surgery involved…? How would one miscategorize trait A for trait B?


I wouldn’t agree with that because the difference between gender is vastly greater than that between race.

Asking a man to be attracted to a man instead of a woman is a far bigger thing than asking him to be attracted to a Hispanic woman instead of a white woman. The gap is much greater, the mental jump to be made is much further.

Specifically, I was referring to culture creating subconscious (and thus irrational) bias. I’m not sure what distinction I’ve made.


You said you weren’t sexually attracted to men. If you believe sexuality is entirely or even primarily cultural, then I spoke out of turn. But if you don’t, that’s the distinction I took you to have identified. It’s an article about being attracted based on race (cultural). You applied to being heterosexual (not cultural).

I do think sexuality is primarily cultural, but to be honest I haven’t had the occasion to really think about it very hard.


Like, if you have a “preference” for Latin women and you think an actress is really hot but when you find out she’s actually of African decent your attraction dies.

To answer the OP, not necessarily, IMO. But sometimes it can. If someone has internalized certain cultural standards of beauty, femininity, or masculinity, which might deem dark skin less attractive for women (among many other examples), then that’s at the very least a sign that someone has been strongly influenced by some of the bigoted characteristics of broader society.

That’s really interesting. I don’t think I would describe the process of acculturation like this:

But if I did think of that process in those terms, I think that I would have a very different view of bigotry.

If you’re not attracted to black women, that’s likely because you haven’t had much exposure to black women in your life. So that can be a cultural thing.

But if you’re not attracted to men, that’s probably not because you haven’t had much exposure to men in your life. Unless you’ve had an extremely unusual upbringing, you’ve known plenty of men. And plenty of people with almost exactly the same upbringing as you (a sister, say) are attracted to men. So that’s almost certainly not a cultural thing.

Well, I mean, it doesn’t have to be just gender versus skin color. Think of individual sex characteristics usually associated with different sexes such as body hair, muscle tone, form, pitch of voice, etcetera. Let’s not forget the presence of different body parts!

Now, race being a social construct there is no fixed relationship between any particular feature and a race. You wouldn’t be able to say every person of race X has Y trait; races are not defined that way. That’s why I was careful to say skin color in my OP. But it could be that dreds (the hair style) turn you off, or to pull a twisted page from history, bound feet as a turn-on.

Muscle tone isn’t so much of a leap from skin tone, is it?