Black Women and Sex…oh no!

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who met a boy, a boy who made her very happy. The girl was so happy that when the boy suggested that they get married because they were in love, despite the fact that she was only 18 and he was only 20, the girl said yes. The girl said yes because she felt deep shame over the fact that she and the boy had been doing sexual things.  She was the daughter of a man who was strict and in the process of becoming a minister, she knew sexual things were bad, very bad…at least that is what she was told. So the girl ran off and married the boy, they were so broke that they didn’t even have enough money to live together. They spent the first two months of their marriage living at home with their respective parental units and didn’t tell anyone they were married. Finally the secret was too much to hide and they told their parents and the boy’s mother let the young couple live at her house until they could save enough money to get their own place. By this time, the girl realized maybe marriage had been a bad idea after all. Unfortunately just as the girl realized this, she also realized she was pregnant. In the end the marriage barely lasted two years, though it did produce a son who is now a magnificent young man.

After that marriage ended, the young girl spent a few years doing things that young adults tend to do and once again she lived in a state of angst because it was deeply ingrained in her that having sex with anyone other than a husband was just wrong. Eventually the young girl would marry again and unlearn all the rules of respectability that made pleasure seem so wrong. Now the young girl is a not so middle aged woman who thinks that the appearance of respectability is a great way to keep women from being in touch with their true nature.

In case ya didn’t figure it out, that young girl is yours truly. Today’s post was inspired by this piece, which is well worth the read. It does a great job of explaining the whys of why Black women are not likely any time too soon to claim the mantle of sluttiness. Or as I would rather say openly embracing and claiming our sexuality, I am not a fan of the word slut because historically it has been used as a pejorative.

Speaking as a Black woman, I will say that the politics of respectability run deep in the middle class Black community. To quote a piece from Bitch Magazine that sums up the game of respectability politics “Respectability politics work to counter negative views of blackness by aggressively adopting the manners and morality that the dominant culture deems “respectable.” The approach emerged in reaction to white racism that labeled blackness as “other”—degenerate and substandard—with roots in an assimilationist narrative that prevailed in the late-19th-century United States. Black activists and allies believed that acceptance and respect for African-Americans would come by showing the majority culture “we are just like you.”

All of this need for respectability means that more than a few Black women grew up with certain notions around sex and for many of us we carry those notions into adulthood. Even certain sexual acts in the Black community carry the connotation that only certain types of women do those things.  As a result many of us live our lives at half capacity when it comes to our sexual selves because in many ways the cost to embrace our full sexual selves and fly our freak flags is too damn high.

A few years ago, I wrote a few pieces about polyamory and non-monogamy which I admit is a fascinating concept to me since truth be told, most us just aren’t winning at the monogamy game. Almost immediately I had several Black women question me on why I would write such a piece, after all that is just nasty. Really? Says who. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea and while I admit the logistics seem pretty hard to navigate in my head, it does seem to work for some.

By the same token there are more than a few white women who are openly living non-monogamous lifestyles and even earning a living sharing their tales with others. It seems not a week passes where a piece isn’t making the rounds talking about non-monogamy in one form or another. The media portrayal of these women is hardly salacious but when a Black woman openly embraces a non-standard and/or open sexual life style she is portrayed as off, or put in one of the boxes only reserved for Black women. We aren’t allowed to be multi-dimensional women in general and when it comes to sexual matters it seems the only boxes that exist for us are uptight or other…and no one wants to be put in the other box.

However the gift of having spent a few years on this dusty rock is that I have learned that begging others for acceptance and denying oneself is a great recipe for regret and bitterness. Like the author of the Racialicious piece, I want Black women to have the same freedom for sexual experimentation that white women have. However I don’t think that will happen until we make that choice for ourselves. Audre Lorde once said For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”

 

Sistas…let’s get positive!

Note, this post is not for the squeamish. I am talking about sex today so feel free to redirect if you are related to me or under 18 or….

I am not a fan of the Oppression Olympics as a general rule, but as an open minded and thinking gal, well sometimes there are exceptions to the rules. I am not the first blogger of color nor will I be the last to note that since Barack Obama’s ascension to the White House, suddenly the world is curious about us Black women. I mean shit; the First Lady of the Divided States is a Black woman! Yikes!

Since late 2008 I have read more reports about our wooly heads that some of us are learning to love or else beat into submission. (Guess the state of Black women and our hair didn’t matter before 2008) Then there is the sorry state of romantic life for Black women, it seems at least once a month yet another piece is churned out lamenting the pathetic state of love for Black women. Shit and those are the more complimentary pieces written about us. Let’s take a detour to the less flattering sides and you will learn about how poorly we live, we are broker than broke and then some of us are just “bad” mothers. Of course we can thank ole Ronnie Reagan for creating the mythical welfare mother image, a Black woman with a passel of kids looking for Uncle Sam to finance her brood since of course she has no man and she is too lazy to work! Never mind that the data says otherwise, the average welfare recipient is white, yet for most when they think welfare recipient they see a woman of color.

Yet negative imagery of Black women is nothing new, Black women historically have been portrayed as Mammies, everyone loves Mammy! That big asexual woman who tends to all except for herself, then we have the evil mouthed Sapphire and last but not least the hypersexual Black woman with an insatiable sexual attitude who well due to her wantonness good men and bad just couldn’t control themselves. Jezebels created a great diversion to overlook the millions of Black women since slavery who were sexually assaulted…after all she was asking for it!

Thanks to these pervasive and negative stereotypes of Black women it’s meant that we spend a lot of time striving to prove we are not those stereotypes sometimes to our own detriment. Especially for college educated and or middle class and above Black women, we live in a space often times mindful that we will be judged harsher than our white counterparts.

Fear of judgment and desire to break free of stereotypes has meant that too many times we are afraid to claim our sexuality. Lately I have been reading a great deal about the sex positive movement and wondered how many women of color specifically Black women would be willing to openly acknowledge and or embrace the label of sex positive? Considering it wasn’t that long ago that a blogger who incidentally I like but don’t always see eye to eye on started a movement to get sistas married off I suspect that for many of us, being sex positive would be considered a bad thing or at least not something we would claim. I admit this piece today was sparked by reading this piece about a sista in California opening up a sex positive shop and gallery. Over the years I have known way too many sistas who if a conversation ever turns to the idea of sex toys will give you the stank. Funny because sex toys have gone mainstream, hell you can even get a gadget or two at the local drug store but for many sistas it’s still not something we will openly acknowledge. Ironically almost all my white buddies will admit that hell yeah, they keep a Big Red (or whatever color) under the bed but sistas will quickly tell you they don’t need a toy, they got a man! Fabulous, a man or woman is fine but nothing says you can’t self-love yourself either or use that toy with someone else.

So sistas I say as we strive to advance don’t forget that it’s okay to acknowledge our sexuality and to find pleasure in whatever manner suits us. If it is safe and between consenting adults, the body is a temple and pleasure is allowed in the temple.