Like so many Latinx people, I’m proud of my heritage. I’m proud of where I’m from. And when I’m attracted to someone, I want them to take in interest in my background. What I don’t want is for my background to be reduced to a stereotype — and for that stereotype to make people want to date me. I am not your Latin Lover, and I don’t want to be.
I remember the first time I came across someone who truly brought into the whole Latinx Lover stereotype. We matched on a dating app and seemed pretty compatible until she asked me where I was from. After I told her that one of my parents was Puerto Rican, things took a weird turn. While I know that “I love Latin men, they’re so sexy!” is intended as flattery, it’s anything but that. There’s nothing flattering about being reduced to just your sexuality.
My experiences with the Latinx Lover stereotype don’t start and end there, but I’ll spare you the cringe-worthy anecdotes. I’ve lost count of all the ways I’ve been told that Latinx people make for great lovers over the years. If I go the rest of my life without being reminded of the stereotypes around Latinx people and sex I’ll be a very happy man.
Needless to say, I’m not a fan of painting all Latinx people with a broad, fetishizing brush.
Let’s say that you’re sick of it too. What can you do when you feel like someone is trying to date you because they fetishize you? Well, first of all, if they come out and say they want to be with you because of the stereotypes about Latinx Lovers, you shouldn’t date them. If someone fetishizes you, they’ll never see your full humanity. If they can’t see you for more than just your culture and the stereotypes around your culture, they aren’t right for you. They’ll never appreciate you for anything more than someone who adds spice to their bland bedroom.
But the thing is, people who genuinely believe in stereotypes usually don’t say it outright. However, the early warning signs are often there, if you’re paying attention. How people describe you gives insight into what they think of you. When someone describes you as “fiery” or “passionate” where words like “excited” would work — that’s a big warning sign. I’d also be wary of people who say that they only date Latinx people. In my experiences “I only date Latinx people” is code for “I only date Latinx people because they’re interchangeable to me.”
The Latinx Lover stereotype was the one I encountered most when I was dating, but it’s not the only one Latinx people deal with in the dating world. So, let me set the record straight. Latinx people aren’t all Latinx Lovers. Latinx women aren’t all fiery. Latinx men don’t all subscribe to machismo culture.
Latinx identity is incredibly diverse and our experiences of being Latinx vary greatly. We come from all walks of life. We come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. We’re not a monolith in any sense. Many Latinx people, myself included, struggle with what it even means to be Latinx. All that said, I think we can agree that none of us want to be reduced to being a Latinx Lover stereotype. We’re more than that, and we want to be seen as more than that. We want to be wanted, to be desired, to be loved. But, most importantly, we want to be valued. Valued as partners, as people, and not just sex objects.
Honestly, the hardest part of navigating the dating world as a Latinx man wasn’t the racism or bigotry. It was the fetishizing. Being told that someone didn’t want to date me because I’m Latinx was never as gross as being told someone did want to date me primarily because I’m Latinx. Well-meaning prejudices are still prejudices.