June 29, 2006

Musings on interracial preferences

Background on potential effects of interracial mating, from GNXP archives: here, here, and here.

I got my hair cut yesterday and something crystallized in my brain: I am not only not attracted to Northeast Asian girls, but being touched by them in a sensual way actually makes me somewhat uneasy. Normally the girl who shampoos my hair will be a curvaceous Latina, who I don't mind massaging my scalp at all, but yesterday it was an Asian girl -- an attractive one, if you'd asked any other red-blooded male. When I receive the shampooing, rinsing, conditioning, second rinsing, and towel drying from one of the curvier, duskier girls, it feels like my hair is a scoop of espresso ice cream being licked lazily by ten tongues. (Have I mentioned that my dream girlfriend would be a hair stylist?) But yesterday felt like being confined to a dentist's chair while she poked and probed. Again, this wasn't due to technique, but rather just knowing that it was an Asian girl. Strange, I know: some males would drive across town for a haircut if they knew they'd get to have their skin caressed by an attractive Asian girl.

But, as I have mentioned before, my grandmother is Japanese, and I tend to be more non-conformist (or novelty-seeking, or whatever) in my preferences and behavior. Now, I only saw my grandmother once, maybe twice a year when I was growing up, so it's not that I'm going against what I was exposed to during development, or deciding "Well, I've been around those females for long enough now; time to see what else is out there." And though I tend to seek out the exotic, this rarely results in latching on to someone of a different continental race -- mostly within the broadly defined Caucasian group, but the ethnic groups more visibly distinct from my Caucasian background (French, Irish, Welsh). Ground zero for hotness would be Persia, decreasing somewhat in intensity as you move just outside (though still w/in the Caucasian group) -- Semitic groups, the assorted swarthy southern European groups (and their white or mestiza descendants in Latin America), and to a lesser extent South Asians.

What's strange is how reciprocal this is. My only real girlfriend in high school was half-Persian by descent, though phenotypically she could've passed for 100%. (My first encounter w/ the discrete, rather than blending, nature of inheritance was when I met her younger sister, who had uber-pale skin, invisibly blonde hair, and blue eyes.) The other "relationship" I had in high school was really more of a mutual crush that never took off, but she was South Asian (from Kerala, though so light-skinned that I first thought she was Greek). Before that, in middle school, my first girlfriend (who actually asked me out) was Salvadorean, and another mutual crush was Italian. (My biggest regret so far in life is not asking her out, despite her friend confessing that this girl had a huge crush on me).

College was a gauntlet of rejection -- hence the reminiscing just now about better times -- but the one enjoyable date I had was w/ an Equadorean international student (which is to say, ethnically Spanish). Of all the girls I'd describe as good-looking who've ever shown interest in me -- not that I'd need to grow another hand to tally them up -- all have been from the geographical area whose inhabitants I'm most attracted to, w/ Persians being overrepresented here as before. I've shown no interest in Northern or Eastern Euros or NE Asians, and neither have they shown interest in me. Ditto for other continental races (not that I've met that many New Guineans...).

I promise there's a point to my navel-gazing and thinking out loud. The question is: why this reciprocity? Do I and girls from the region I described unconsciously recognize that we'd make babies that would enjoy hybrid vigor, and so we both seek each other out? I could imagine a visual and/or olfactory mechanism whereby we ascertained that the other was exotic but not too exotic: inspecting facial geometry, skin / hair color & tecture, etc., as well as inhaling info about their HLA profile. Perhaps we both have an ideal set of physical features in mind, and I happen to met their checklist and they mine -- yet Asian girls actually fit quite a few of my criteria (skin color, hair color / texture, eye color, amount of body fat, etc.), but I still don't feel the same spark, not even a glimmer.

Now, I don't believe that only one factor accounts for the whole story, but of the three above, I'd say just hybrid vigor holds water. But there's also a positive assortative mating angle to it as well (that is, the opposite of hybridization), namely for whatever personality traits that dispose one to seek out partners who are exotic but not too exotic. Though many such genes are doubtless involved, one that's received lots of attention is the dopamine receptor gene DRD4 (updated here), which has 3 alleles of interest: 4R, the ancestral one which is most common around the world; 7R, a derived one which is associated most w/ ADHD and to a lesser extent the trait of "novelty-seeking," which varies greatly in frequency across populations, from roughly 0% among East Asians and African hunter-gatherers to near fixation in the Amazon, and at in-between levels in Europe and Africa; and 2R, another derived one which is associated w/ trait values between those of the mellow 4R and wild-child 7R, and is found mostly in East Asia (though still at low levels).

To the extent that two wanderlustful [1] wild child types will assortatively mate for such traits, then all else equal, I'd be more likely to be drawn to an individual from a population in which the 7R allele was more frequent than where it was not. Hence, the near aversion to East Asian girls. Don't get me wrong, I don't see this sobreity as an across-the-board defecit -- it's great at the tutoring center where I work, where a mellow mien will place someone on my good side. Indeed, as Harpending & Cochran suggest in the above link, the 7R allele probably never rose to appreciable frequency in East Asia due to elaborate social structures requiring stability and evenness of temperament. And obviously there are other guys who prefer Asian girls precisely b/c of their more composed demeanor (which others incorrectly interpret as a desire for "passive" girls), so it's an advantage in this sense as well.

In any event, my online "learn Farsi" journey awaits!

[1] Chen, C., Burton, M. L., Greenberger, E., & Dmitrieva, J. (1999). Population migration and the variation of dopamine D4 (DRD4) allele frequencies around the globe. Evolution and Human Behavior, 20, 309-324.


  1. Givne that you've often written about your difficulties in finding women, it would not be a wise idea to rule out whole groups of women based on some ill-defined ethnic preferences. Cast as wide a net as possible, in other words.

    Iron Rails & Iron Weights

  2. But like I said, it's not that I don't prefer Asians... it just feels downright weird being in any sensualish situation with them. And they've also shown no interest in me, so nothing lost. You have to figure out which groups are most likely to reciprocate, and then try your luck with them.

  3. in a trance7/1/06, 3:20 AM

    I just think you're quick to jump to conclusions. Might be better to think about interracial relationships more in terms of the personal connection between you and that someone. Maybe you need to look into racial groups whose historical backgrounds you can relate to the most.

    That's an interesting post, though. Worth thinking about...

  4. If the appropriate moment ever arose and you mentioned to the girl washing your hair - whether she's Latin or Asian - that you consider it a sensual experience, she'd probably be highly insulted and would refuse to work on you again :)

    Iron Rails & Iron Weights

  5. I felt weird using the word "sensual," but I didn't know what else to use. But it's close enough -- they don't just shampoo it like you would to yourself; it's more like a slow scalp massage.


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