The Dating Divide

Race and Desire in the Era of Online Romance


$80.75 Hardcover | $28.45 Paperback | 320 pages

ISBN-10 : 0520293452

ISBN-13 : 978-0520293458

Celeste Vaughan Curington, Jennifer H. Lundquist ,

and Ken-Hou Lin

Honorable Mention, Goode Book Award, ASA Family Section


The Dating Divide is the first comprehensive look at “digital-sexual racism,” a distinct form of racism that is mediated and amplified through the impersonal and anonymous context of online dating. Drawing on large-scale behavioral data from a mainstream dating website, extensive archival research, and more than seventy-five interviews with daters of diverse racial backgrounds and sexual identities, the authors illustrate how the internet fosters openly expressed forms of sexual racism rarely exposed in face-to-face encounters. The Dating Divide is a fascinating look at how a contemporary conflux of individualization, consumerism, and the proliferation of digital technologies has given rise to a unique form of gendered racism in the era of swiping right—or left.

The internet is often heralded as an equalizer, a seemingly level playing field, but the digital world also acts as an extension of and platform for the insidious prejudices and divisive impulses that affect social politics in the "real" world. Shedding light on how every click, swipe, or message can be linked to the history of gendered racism and courtship in the United States, this compelling study uses data to show the racial biases at play in digital dating spaces.

From the Back Cover

"The Dating Divide illuminates dimensions of online dating that have remained in the dark. This timely, original, and provocative book tells a story that is not simply about online intimacy, but about how race and gender intersect with desire in private realms of contemporary life."

—Maxine Baca Zinn, Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, Michigan State University

"Does your race affect whether you get messages on a dating site? Using data from a major dating site, the authors of The Dating Divide reveal the sad truth that whether you're white, black, Asian, or Latino/a trumps almost everything else. But the effect of race depends on whether you're a man or woman and whether you're gay or straight. This is the definitive intersectional analysis."

—Paula England, Professor of Sociology, New York University

"This trenchant analysis of online dating patterns reveals a new form of digital-sexual racism that reinforces white supremacy and stereotypical images of people of color. The authors draw on a wealth of qualitative, quantitative, and historical data to show that what often passes as 'individual preferences' in dating is rooted in structural forces, and that these dating patterns help perpetuate race-based inequalities in wealth and resources."

—Shirley A. Hill, Professor Emerita, Department of Sociology, University of Kansas, and author of Black Intimacies

"Online dating offered the potential to dismantle racial boundaries by democratizing courtship. Not only has it failed to deliver, but it has created a unique form of digital-sexual racism marked by white privilege, anti-Blackness, and gendered tropes. These categorical preferences and biases are reconstructed through and within online dating sites under the veil of individual preferences. Based on analyses of millions of dating profiles and in-depth interviews, the authors masterfully show that despite the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of dating pools, dating apartheid remains in place."

—Jennifer Lee, Professor of Sociology, Columbia University

"Drawing on 'big data' from a major dating website and probing personal interviews, The Dating Divide masterfully shows how dating and mating in the United States are deeply embedded within relations of status and power, yielding a romantic landscape starkly segmented by race, gender, and sexuality. In affairs of the heart, as in America generally, whiteness continues to rule."

—Douglas S. Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, Princeton University

"Online dating opens doors for people to meet across racial groups. This groundbreaking study nevertheless uncovers a manifestation of digital-sexual racism in American intimate life, based on data from millions of users on a dating website, along with in-depth interviews of seventy-seven online daters. For understanding race in America, this thought-provoking book is a must read."

—Zhenchao Qian, Professor of Sociology, Brown University

"An expert dissection of 'color-blind' narratives of sexual liberation. It reveals the enduring power of white male privilege in the novel context of online dating and shows how structural racism invades our romantic lives."

—Russell K. Robinson, Walter Perry Johnson Professor of Law and Faculty Director, Center on Race, Sexuality and Culture, University of California, Berkeley School of Law

"The authors analyze the data that have been 'hiding in plain sight' to show how the search for love and intimacy is racialized. This asks us to ask ourselves: is the 'taste' for a homogeneous racial match in itself racist?"

—Pepper Schwartz, Professor of Sociology, University of Washington