After writing this I wound up thinking a bit about "examining one's desires" and why, exactly, I think it's a faulty way of thinking about the potential connections between sexual desire and sexism, racism, etc.
In order to use a real example but not make the discussion about my personal stuff, I'll give the example of my mom.
My parents are white. My mom has a thing for black men. For as long as I've known her, she's loved to watch basketball in part because she's a sports nut... and, in part (and she freely admits it) because she loves drooling over the hot black hunks on the teams. She had a girlish crush on my seventh-grade gym teacher that made me blush. She talked a lot at great length about the beauty of black men's bodies and the comparative ugliness of white men.
I don't think she had (or has now) any idea that her sexual attraction to these men could be at all exoticizing.
So let's say I decided to fix this. Let's say I snuck in one night and gave her copies of "Eating the Other" and the scenes from Invisible Man that involve the main character trying desperately to fend off a white woman who is desperate to be "raped" by a "boo'ful black bruiser" but has no interest in him as a person and no idea that he doesn't want to be seen as an oversexed animal.
And let's say she got it. Let's say a little lightbulb went off over her head and she remembered asking her kid embarrassing questions about the cuteness of her OMGBLACK GYM TEACHER YUM YUM!!11!!eleventyseven! and went "Oh my God, that was gross of me!"
Suppose all that. Now, there's still a huge question: Will this woman, whose sexual desire is so keyed into race, stop having sexual responses to seeing a certain subset of black men?
If she doesn't, what does that actually mean?
By asking this, I'm not saying "wow, you mean anti-racists, lay off my mama, she's programmed to lust after people with a certain amount of melanin!" I'm not asserting that isn't exoticizing when I ask "what does that mean?"
What I am wondering is exactly what it is we're trying to accomplish. Is it just awareness, such that "okay, now I've told her and she'll be less obnoxious about it and think before she airs her basketballer fantasies in front of people who will be very upset by them?"
Is it reprogramming, such that she won't experience these people as particularly sexually attractive? Clearly she'll hopefully have a respect for these men as people that she may lack now (I am not sure exactly how to analyze whether she does or not, and I think whether she does is much more complicated than just looking at sex/desire/arousal), but will that respect alter her sexual desire, or simply coexist with it?
If the attraction remains, strong as it ever was, but she's aware... have we failed, or have we succeeded?
Do we have a way to quantify what "examination" does and when it succeeds and when it fails? When is more "examination" needed, and when is it not?
My personal feeling is that complete naivete about a desire like this may warrant some encouragement of "examination." But outside of the situation in which someone has no idea that there's a history of exoticization (or whatever), I'm not sure asking "have you thought about what that means?" again is useful.