Being Fetishized While Traveling Abroad

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“J’aime la noire!”

“Hola hot chocolate!”

“Que labios tan lindos!”

“Take me to Africa!”

These are just a few of the things I’ve heard from men while traveling abroad. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached (especially online) about my skin, hair, or lips alone. Things that, if I looked like other women in the country, would probably never be a topic of discussion.

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Now I don’t believe that the nature of this approach is ever intentionally malicious. In fact, most fetishizers believe they are only exercising a “preference” for looks. Obsession over your “ethnic” features is just appreciation for the “exotic” and “different”. They don’t see the issue with confining your entire identity down to just your physical traits. They don’t imagine their desire for a tryst with you as a hunt for which you are merely a trophy.

To be clear, this works in all directions. Men and women of all nationalities can be fetishized alike. I’ve had discussions with my Chinese friend about similar experiences she’s had throughout Europe. I’ve known plenty of African/African-Americans who have been in these situations in Asian countries. Caucasians can be fetishized. People even fetishize members of the same ethnicity.  *Cough* like light-skinned/dark-skinned obsessions in the black community *Cough* 

But this post is specific for those of you who experience it while traveling abroad. What can I do to prevent it? How do I know it’s happening? Why should I even care?

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Well, I don’t have all the answers. I just have perspective and my experience to share. I talk a little more about specific encounters I had in my “Dating Abroad” YouTube video that I will link at the end of this post. Check it out if you have the time. But in the meantime, all I can really say is YOU have to set the standards and boundaries you desire. For example, there are certain approaches that get an automatic swerve from me.

“Black women are so sexy” SWERVE. “Your lips are so full” SWERVE. “Oooh I like chocolate” SWERVE. “Can I please kiss you?”  #SWIIIIZZZEERRRVE.

And no, I’m not making this shit up. I’ve been asked to be kissed several times abroad. Like, excuse me? Do I look like Lucy van Pelt??? (+50 points if you know who that is). I am NOT here satisfy your little ebony porn fantasy. 

So I define anything that reduces me to my appearance and/or a lust for my “type” of look as fetishization, and therefore unacceptable. That doesn’t mean that these things can’t brought up at all, just not as an initial or recurring conversation. But again, that’s my own interpretation. Maybe you don’t mind it that kind of discussion, maybe you take the admiration as a compliment. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You have to define your own meaning.

Okay, and what about prevention? Is there a method? Unfortunately, I’d have to say no. People are going to like what they like and approach how they want. I would never tell any individual, especially not a woman, to alter their identity to draw less attention to themselves. The only thing for you to do is keep your #SWERVE game heavy and discernment on 100. Remember, not EVERY person is a bad guy (or gal)!

Have you ever been fetishized abroad? Where was it? Let me know!

About Lauren Victoria 87 Articles
Lauren is a Chicago native and budget traveler obsessed with foreign languages, neuropsychology, dancing, and applesauce. She recently quit her full-time job in social services to be a human English dictionary in Madrid, Spain.
  • Hahahah what a lighted read for a genuine topic. Yes it’s crazy how fetishized our beautiful melanin can be, I’ve had comments like those you mentioned above and worse because of the way I look. Maybe I’ve just become used to it now but I tend to just laugh at it these days because like you said, there’s no method of prevention. Thanks for writing this!

    Ama / Albatroz & Co.

  • Yes, during my recent experience in Oaxaca:

    A scooter rolls up next to the curb and stops in from of me.
    He speaks.
    We speak.
    He’s communicating in Spanish, and I’m assuming he’s asking about the furniture…buuuut then I hear “muy guapa”.
    “¿De donde eres?”
    At this point, I realize he’s there to speak with me, Only.
    I respond: “États Unis”.
    No need in being puzzled. Yes, confused by his close proximity, I mistakenly respond in my limited french.
    He understood, or not because it didn’t matter. He was really only ‘hearing’ and interpreting the language of glowing brown skin (insert and remember the effect of my being fruity) and cleavage. Apparently it was inviting him to somewhere to do something.

    Excerpt from: I AM. Morenita

  • Tessa

    Yes, especially in Europe. It sucks, but I always wear jeans and plain tee when I travel.I get so envious of white girls who can where whatever they want to when traveling. I got bold in Paris once and thought I was gonna wear a cute floral summer dress. In no less than five minutes did I turn around and go back to my hotel room and change. I was stared at like a piece of meat, men of all ages approaching me. It sucks, but I just change how I dress when i’m abroad to reduce get approached and solicited 🙁