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'As a black woman I'm always fetishised': racism in the bedroom

In a Bedfordshire nightclub, white couples queue to have sex with black men. Meanwhile, black women are routinely snubbed on dating sites. Why do racial stereotypes persist when it comes to sex?

It’s past midnight, November 2016, in Dunstable, a small town in Bedfordshire. My friend Miranda has accompanied me here for moral support. We scale a no-frills metal staircase at the end of an alleyway behind the high street, where a weary blond woman is ruling a domain of coats, Cash and lists. She has a defeated manner, like the only sober person at a party when everyone is drunk. I’m wearing a too-big red dress stitched together by a very mediocre tailor in Senegal more than a decade ago. I have no idea why I decided to make myself look so dowdy. Miranda is doing much better; she has obediently put on a basque, along with a skirt much shorter than mine, and boots that elongate her long legs. She’s calmer than me, too. I’ve given the organisers fake Jewish-sounding names. It was the easiest way of manipulating our actual names without revEaling the fact that we are both black. Had we sounded black, I’m not sure we would have been allowed in.

As it’s our first time, Eddie – a solid black man, dressed in the standard-issue suit and a bouncer’s armband – has been asked to show us around. His presence is comforting; he seems like an island of sanity in a sea of grotesque chaos. The first thing I see, once Eddie has led us past the dancefloor and the bar, is a shaven-headed black man on his knees on a large bed, with a white woman on all fours, doggy-style. He is wearing an unbuttoned shirt, and nothing else; she is in a basque, suspenders and boots. Another man is kneeling next to him, waiting his turn. To the left, on the same sateen mattress, a woman is kneeling with her back to us, naked from the waist down. A man has his hand on her ample butt cheeks. Other men hover around the bed, beers in hand, watching. “This is one of our playrooms,” Eddie says helpfully. “It’s not too bad now, but it gets very busy later on.”

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