‘You’re so exotic’: What it’s like dating in Exeter as a woman of colour

Really, it’s just moments of being mildly turned on and wildly offended

Right, navigating sex and romance in Exe is hard enough as it is. Adding the element of not being white shouldn’t actually be a big deal and usually it isn’t. But sometimes, being hallmarked as one of the whitest unis in the country catches up to you and it’s difficult to avoid the fact that you can feel unattractive here. If this does happen though, a cheeky Unit 1 Friday does wonders for the ego, trust me.

All of this does, however, mean that a lot of us have accumulated golden anecdotal material. After numerous conversations with women of a variety of races, here are the crème de la crème of quotes said to women of colour on dates (by men of all races mind you). Stemming from pure innocence (or ignorance, you decide), this collection of tone-deaf comments should provide you with some insight into what it’s like to date here as a girl who isn’t white.

‘I only date black girls’

‘I dated someone Indian before you as well actually’

‘My mum always said I was going to bring home a Japanese girl’

Let’s start with the classics. You can interchange the race to give you the same effect (think Wordle, just not wholesome or belonging to the New York Times). This is the watered-down version of “you’re so exotic” and always makes me feel so special knowing I’m part of a string of girls who probably have nothing in common with me apart from their own complexion. In fact, fetishise me further, I dare you. I’ll wear a sari if it helps.

No shame in having a preference btw but I just don’t think every situation requires you to bang on about it. The only thing that makes this situation worse is if they get your ethnicity wrong and you end up spending the rest of your time explaining the differences between different areas in Asia. 

‘You know your religion just uses sex to oppress you right?’

Oh man, my bad. I didn’t realise you’re the one who’s been practicing my religion for as long as I can remember. This is also massively rich coming from the man in my bed right now who, shock horror, wants to have sex with me. This one did genuinely stop me dead in my tracks though. How can I possibly respond? What on earth is he going to say next? Are you going to start quoting scripture? Do I need to grab a headscarf?

All I’m saying here is, just because you think the fountain by the Arab institute adds a certain ambience, it doesn’t give you the right to comment on my sexual boundaries that probably don’t actually have anything to do with my beliefs. Maybe I just didn’t want to fuck you.

‘You’re so exotic’

Mate, I’m from Essex. The only exotic thing about me is that it takes me half an hour to get to London and the Basildon sign looks like the one in Hollywood if you squint at it from a distance.

‘Wow, you speak really good English’

I mean, I’d like to think so considering its my first language, I was born here AND grew up here. The only way I could ever be bilingual is if you consider my Spanish GCSE an appropriate measure of knowledge.

‘Can I get the “n word” pass after sleeping with you?’

A sure-fire way to secure a second pipe, I can tell you that for free. Another outrageous one here, making me believe you’ve spoken to a total of four women outside of your own family. I don’t know why people can’t comprehend the fact that not being white doesn’t automatically make you black and with even a shred of will power, it is quite easy to refrain from using racial slurs in your daily language.

Like you won’t pass out if you can’t sing about Paris in its entirety, and I hate to break it to you but she’s still gonna be ordering that fish fillet whilst you’re acting like mango shisha gets you high.

‘Wait, I thought you couldn’t date’

‘Are you just using me to rebel against your parents?’

Okay clearly, I just get off on men telling me I’m repressed. I thought I’d couple these two together because I just love a good saviour complex. Honestly though, what kind of homelife are people assuming we have? I mean go ahead, please save me from the suburbia that is my life and give me my independence. If I had known it was as easy as finding someone with a family crest, I would’ve never cried over just missing the first last year.

‘My ex had dreads too, you know’

 SO good to know. I forgot where I asked but now that we’re here, let’s talk about why you guys didn’t work out. I heard she blocked you.

‘You’re so pretty…for a Black girl’

Okay, dating is just not the same without this gem of a backhanded compliment. Again, the race here is interchangeable (how resourceful!). Wanted to end here because this one is a true rite of passage. No, it is not possible to just be pretty, full stop. It’s inherently linked with your race which has apparently never produced an attractive person. Ever.

In all seriousness though, it really lets you think about how restrictive beauty standards are. Whatever our media exposure is, it tends to offer quite a two-dimensional perspective on beauty in general. It’s important to remind yourself from time to time that the notion of “being pretty” is actually ridiculously subjective and you’re a lot more than what you can see in the mirror (bit wet I’ll admit, but I’m having a moment).

Disclaimer: This is intended to be a light-hearted piece, using a collection of quotes that were collated after a series of conversations with various women of colour. This is not representative of the experiences of ALL women of colour at university and is not targeting a specific group of men.