Latina woman looking frustrated
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I’ve been dating, loving, and being disappointed by men for a bit more than 10 years now. It’s repetitive: I’ll enter a committed, monogamous relationship after I’ve assuaged all of my critical inner thoughts about the partnership (aka, after I’ve ignored red flags). I’ll commit with a full belief that this relationship will be different than the one before. That my feelings for this person are unique, that I’ve never experienced someone like them. But if I examine my past experiences with dating, I can find a huge problematic theme: Latina fetishization.

I am a Chicana from East Los Angeles, where I grew up in a predominantly Mexican-American community. I had moved to West Los Angeles for college, where there is a whiter, wealthier population, and I experienced some culture shock. New in college and reeling from a breakup with a guy from my hometown, I started dating white men for the first time. I quickly realized that, to these other college students I dated, I was (heavy sarcasm) “the new flavor in town.” I cannot lie—I was into the attention I was getting. But as a naive 20-year-old, I did not immediately pick up on the fact that I was being treated as a sexual object based on stereotypes about Latina women.

Despite having grown up in one of the most diverse metropolitan cities in the world, I had been in a bubble, away from this kind of behavior in my personal relationships. At first, when I realized why I felt so uncomfortable, I gave these men a pass. I was certain they didn’t know any better. I told myself that they hadn’t developed a mechanism for checking themselves after making inappropriate or stereotypical remarks toward me, so I chose to educate them. If I didn’t actively engage with their backwards thoughts, I felt complicit. So I spoke up and assumed that, eventually, they would realize the errors of their ways. Right?

Nope. And I continued to encounter white men who fetishized me and only pursued Latina women after college and in longer relationships. I’d given so much effort to those who showed little to no desire to grow. I look back and think that I would’ve been better off alone.

Now, in my mid-to-late twenties, I’m sticking to way more nights in the great company of myself. I prioritize this time over meeting people who either emulate the behavior of men I’ve dated in the past or are just plain disappointing. I’m really starting to believe that my valuable time is better spent in the comfort of the amazing home I’ve created. I’m not opposed to dating entirely, but it’s going to take an incredible person to change the sweet peace of my solitude.