Ever since I first started dating, I always wondered why I couldn’t keep a man around if my life depended on it. I stayed away from playing ‘the game’ and did my best to not be territorial, but it always seemed that these guys would get bored after a few months and leave. I was the perpetual rebound girl that all very unavailable men wanted to taste. A whirlwind of lust and excitement and strange. A fun break from their stale lives or stagnate relationships. So I thought it was my actions or behaviors that resulted with their boredom and eventual separation.
I thought maybe I had been portraying a party girl image. That my attitude and spirit weren’t suitable for a genuine, monogamous relationship. So I tried to make it more obvious that I read books and listened to classical music and enjoyed fine wine, but nothing worked. I tried to do the whole ‘lady on the street’ thing. I’ll admit that it attracted a better stock of men, but again, it did not keep them around.
And then I realized that a majority, if not all, of the men I had dated were white. Cute little hipsters or law grads or metal enthusiasts or businessmen, all of them white. And most of them had never been with an Indian girl. Most of them had never been with a girl who did not belong to their own race.
Exotic curiosity I call it. They just want to be in on the secret. What do Indian girls smell/taste/feel like? How do they grind? What’s their rhythm? Will they smell of jasmine or something a little spicier? What does the skin and hair feel like against their bodies? Are they pre-programmed with kama sutra knowledge? Most importantly, how do they stack up next to white women?
I was their object of fantasy. It’s a disturbing feeling when you first discover that you have no control over why people are attracted to you. I used to pride myself of being able to go into any room or situation, sit down next to the man I found attractive, and charm the pants off of them. Discuss topical issues, make them laugh, and that’s all I needed to do. A 100% closing ratio. A very humble 22 year old I was. But now knowing that this exotic curiosity phenomenon exists, how many of these men were actually with me because I made them laugh? How many of them were with me because they wanted to cross ‘Indian girl’ off of their list?
I have very rarely been approached by guys who have an Indian fetish. It made my skin crawl when they spoke of how much they love Indian girls, as I imagine a pedophile describing their arousal for children. But not all men are this forward about this subject, even though it is an obvious factor of attraction. As much as I want to think that interracial relationships are the norm, it still does not go unnoticed when people of different ethnicities walk hand in hand down the street. Just as people of the same gender showing PDA will demand a second glance. In the back of our minds, my man and I are always thinking about how different we are whether we admit it or not.
I will not deny that being in a supposedly taboo relationship makes it more exciting. I am not an innocent victim as much as I try to convince myself that I am. But for others to fetishize something I have no control over is a subtle version of objectification. Maybe even blatant. Everything I am leaves no evidence. My sense of humor came from my tragedies, my intellect came from my constant hunger to learn, and my personality is always under construction. I’ve always assumed that these are some of the important factors that bring two people together. You cannot see these things with a glance of my face. It’s not an obvious red dot in the middle of my forehead.
But this exotic curiosity really throws a wrench in the system. Am I supposed to be proud of the list of men I’ve lassoed because of my terra cotta skin? Where is the satisfaction of bringing someone home if it wasn’t your charm or humor or intellect that made him desire you?
It seems like a silver spoon effect. I don’t have to work very hard for the end result. Everybody hates it when the rich brat complains that she gets exactly what she wants, but this was not the initial issue at hand. Sure I can get someone interested with a waft of masala, but then what? How do I keep them around? And do I really, in the end, want to stay with someone who unknowingly (or maybe even admittedly) objectifies and fetishizes me?
It’s a difficult spot to be in. On the one hand, I could sit around and cry about it. What woman in this day and age wants to be objectified? Wants to be a means to an end? How shitty does it feel to know that every person you’ve been with and will eventually be with wants nothing from you but to satisfy some selfish curiosity? That they have no intentions of treating you as a human being with emotional consequences, but as a stepping stone from one relationship to another. I could cry about forever being the rebound girl.
Or I could utilize it. Satisfy my own curiosity of whatever I fancy that week. Have my list of people that I can categorize and label and group together too. Yes, absolutely it’s a defense mechanism. But you put up these defenses for survival. Or else you get used up. You shrivel up and die. You forget about life and how to enjoy it.
I understand this is a newer feminist issue. Is it subversive to capitalize on men’s willingness to objectify women? As in, is it OK to utilize my T&A to get ahead in the boy’s club if I’m KNOWINGLY doing it? Is it female empowerment to ‘use what you got’?
I. Don’t. Know.
What I can say is this kind of thought doesn’t do anything more than stereotype men and their mentality. It simplifies them to some kind of grunting cavemen-type sub-humans. And isn’t that what women are fighting against? Not to be treated as less than human? It’s not a constructive way to progress; to fight fire with fire. At least not in this field.
But I hope it is obvious that all of this is a defense mechanism. It’s a counter-reaction to a reaction to the human condition. Let’s not kid ourselves, we are ALL objects of sexual desire. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t breed. But the object comes with subject. It’s a beautiful and excellent mixture of bodies and charm and torsos and sincerity and fingertips and soul. It’s difficult to separate the soul from the body, and I don’t care how many philosophers have tried to do it. And it’s easy to be offended when someone disregards your soul and conscious and mental capabilities, and only worships the objects of your person that you have no control over.
Why wouldn’t women, as a counter reaction to the reaction men have towards their bodies, take advantage of this situation? It’s a mode for survival. It’s getting backed into a corner and trying to reason with your attacker, only to find that kicking and screaming has a more immediate effect. But that’s what this is. It’s kicking and screaming. It’s noise; a distraction from the core issue of why we aren’t cherishing each other properly.
I guess this entire rant is about finding some kind of medium. Yes, this is a body/soul dichotomy issue, with that whole feminism twist. It’s unfair to disregard our basic instincts to find a worthy person to reproduce with because in this way, we’ve always objectified each other. It’s also unfair to say that our souls are the only meaningful factor to our existence because our survival mode can make us do some nasty things to each other.
This whole survival mode/defense mechanism thing stems from humanity being ugly to us, but only justifies our ugliness towards it. It makes us forget our connection to humanity through greed and vengeance.
So I guess I should let go of this ‘exotic curiosity’ thing and embrace it?
- Written October 2010