New research from dating app Bumble shows the disturbing reality of fetishization in the United States: 45 percent of survey respondents don’t have a clear understanding of what the word means as it relates to identities, race, and body type.
The groups most likely to face fetishization were also the most likely to recognize it, according to the survey. One in four Black women and one in six Black men surveyed said they experienced unsolicited fetishization while online dating. A third of American Indian or Alaska Native men experienced such fetishization while dating online, while 21 percent of Asian women and 18 percent of Asian men have.
“As a dating app, Bumble has the opportunity to shed light on how the fetishization of race, identity, body type, or even profession can be dehumanizing and negatively affect a person’s dating experience both on and offline,” said Charlotte Brown, engagement manager at Bumble, in a press release.
To bring attention to these egregious stats, Bumble released a video featuring public figures like activist Raquel Willis and comedian Jenny Yang:
Bumble encourages users to block and report anyone who exhibits fetishization or any other sexual harassing behavior, Brown noted. She went on to say that the app wants to lead with education and “give our community a chance to learn and improve.” This is exemplified by Bumble moderators’ ability to share resources with reported users in hopes that they change their behavior.
Though Bumble is not afraid to ban users either: “We will not hesitate to permanently remove someone who consistently goes against our guidelines as unwelcome fetishization is a form of sexual harassment on Bumble,” Brown said.
Bumble has made other efforts to stop harassment on the app, as well. In January, for example, Bumble banned fatphobic comments and body shaming. Given that Tinder just released the AI feature Are You Sure? to stop inappropriate comments before they happen, it seems that the popular dating apps are beginning in earn to try to keep the environment safe for users.