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Sociologist Cynthia Feliciano suspects cultural portrayals may influence Internet daters’ racial preferences. (Credit: Daniel A. Anderson)

UC IRVINE (US)—The old rules do apply, it seems, for those looking for love on the Internet dating scene. Researchers from the University of California, Irvine analyzed online personals and found that racial stereotypes persist.

Cynthia Feliciano and Belinda Robnett collected data from Yahoo personals between September 2004 and May 2005, randomly selecting profiles of people ages 18-50 in the Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Atlanta metropolitan regions. While white men were more open to dating outside their race than white women, both had specific racial preferences. White men preferred Asian and Latino dating partners to African Americans; white women were more likely to exclude Asian men.

According to Feliciano, negative portrayals of African-American women and Asian men in popular culture could contribute to these preferences.

“Stereotypical images of masculinity and femininity shape dating choices and continue to be perpetuated in the mass media,” says Feliciano, sociology and Chicano/Latino studies assistant professor. “The hyperfeminine image of Asian-American women contrasts greatly with that of Asian men, who are often portrayed as asexual.”

In comparison, the image of the strong African-American woman is at odds with idealized notions of submissive and frail women, according to the researchers, who point out this may explain why African-American women faced high levels of rejection among men.

“Cultural portrayals of African-American women in the media continue to stress traits seen as negative, such as bossiness,” Feliciano says.

Studies point to increasingly tolerant attitudes about interracial relationships, but intermarriage rates remain relatively low, Feliciano adds.

Researchers’ analysis of minorities’ racial preferences showed that Asians, African Americans, and Latinos are more likely to include whites as possible dates than whites are to include them. This suggests that whites, as the dominant group in the United States, remain in the privileged position of being able to facilitate or hinder the full incorporation of minorities.

“Internet dating offers a unique lens through which to understand the process of selecting a partner,” says Feliciano, “and how race plays into the selection.”

University of California, Irvine news: www.uci.edu