Monday, May 26, 2008

Let's talk about sex

Over on Racialicious, guest contributor AJ Plaid aka The Cruel Secretary wonders where are all the sex-positive advice givers of color--folks like Dan Savage or Susie Bright, but black or Latino or Asian. Aren't people of color sexual beings too?

And while we're on the topic, where are the mature sex-positive discussions about sex in the black blogosphere? Oh, we rail against sex as misogyny as portrayed on BET, and we tsk, tsk at irresponsible sex in the black community, but where is the celebration of sex as a wonderful, enjoyable thing?

You must read this (And not just because it includes a quote from me. Hee.). Here's an excerpt:

I posed my question about sex-positive sex advice to my staunchly Baptist, up-from-segregated-Mississippi, baby-boomer mom. I told her about writing this post, and we hashed out four major reasons why, at least, some African Americans in particular might shy away from the position—and I do mean “hash” because we went ‘round and ‘round about stereotypes about white women’s promiscuity, The Post-Bellum Black Community’s monolithic dignity, the Post-Desegregation Black Generations’ monolithic waywardness from that dignity. The reasons:

1) Historical sexual exploitation and its legacy, such as many white slavemasters and overseers raping enslaved African and African-American women. My mom recalled stories of white men in the Jim Crow South “who walked into the homes of Black men and had sex with whichever woman in the home he wanted, and the man could do nothing about it or else he would be killed.” These sexual situations bolstered and justified–and were justified by:

2) Sexualized racial stereotypes and African Americans’ sexual conservatism stemming from values interpreted from religious texts as well as perceived racial duty to “uplift the race.” Many an African American mother’s admonition to their daughters to not be a “fast” girl, “keep your panties up,” “keep your business out of the streets,” and certainly “don’t sleep with a white man” served as an familial check against personifying the hypersexual, promiscuous Black woman stereotype. “Black people during my time became buttoned up, almost sexless when we interacted with the larger world,” Mom said.

3) The perception that plain-spoken (and even graphic) sexual advice, especially the “do-you-and-y’all-with-full-consent-of your-partners-and-protection” ethos of sex-positive advice, is “white people’s domain,” which plays into the stereotype that white folks are sexually adventurous, indiscriminate, and indiscreet and, as mentioned before, the myth that the white body embodies sexual attractiveness and normalcy. An integral idea undergirding human beauty is the idea of, to be blunt, fuckability. This myth of the white body as the epitome and baseline of those concepts is partly perpetuated through the constant centering of white people in romantic leads in TV and films and featuring them on the cover of beauty and fashion magazines and mainstream porn. (And don’t forget the historical praising of white beauty in Western literature—and the exoticizing and denigrating of people of color.) Part of defining “Blackness” for some African Americans is the parameters of observed or perceived behaviors of white people and flipping the stereotype script. When it comes to sexual practices and proclivities, the flip to, say, a suggestion to try watching porn together or getting oral sex is “That’s what white folks do,” complete with a sneer and arm-crossing. So is displaying or discussing one’s sexuality in public spaces or for others’ consumption, why is why there was the uproar within Black communities over Ugly Betty’s Vanessa Williams photo spread in Penthouse, which cost her the Miss America crown a couple of decades ago.


4 comments: said...

Hey Tami!

This is an interesting piece.

I think that the sex act itself has a LOT of generational baggage for black women.

I think that we have to discuss this and process all that baggage in order to move into a new paradigm about redefining ourselves as sexual persons WITHOUT the residue of being defined sexually by white patriarchy and misogyny from within our race.

I was at a website (that I will not name) but it was a site that promotes the empowerment of black men so I clicked into it to see what the guys are talking about. Imagine my horror when a black women appeared on screen with her V set on fire! Yes... and a caption underneath about the black man needing to take charge. Setting a black woman's sexual organ ON FIRE?!

There is also the baggage that has a correlation of morality and asexuality.

Deep issues.

I have been ABSOLUTELY floored when I have been sexually involved with white men because of what they CLAIM they are used to sexually. White men make the brothas seem like pollyannas in bed.

And I don't just mean the heterosexuals! Let's not forget that brothas didn't invent the whole gerbil thing...and other um...techniques... that are out there. Oh geeesh...

I believe that black women are NOT taught to view sex with any connotations of purity. There's a lot to discuss....I'll come back when others have shared on this topic.

Thanks for letting me blow my trumpet!


Tami said...

I agree about the baggage thing. I think there is a tendency in our community to see normal sexual experimentation between consenting adults as "nasty" and due to some of the history that AJ mentioned in her post--something "white folks" do.

Do you think that the white boyfriends that you mentioned were more adventurous because inhabitants of the mainstream can exnjoy and explore sexuality without centuries of stereotype in their heads?

The gerbil thing is an urban legend as far as I know. And, if it is happens, is a mark of bestiality not homosexuality.

Can you share more on what you mean about black women NOT being taught to view sex with connotations of purity? Because I would think just the opposite. I think we DEMAND absolute purity from black girls and women, lest they get labeled "fast" or a "ho."

AJ Plaid said...

Hi Lisa and Tami--

First of all, thanks for the major link and shout-out, Tami. Wow!!!!!

::headdesk about website showing Black women with genitals on fire::

Lisa, I have to co-sign with Tami re: the gerbil thing and white men. It *is* an urban, the urban-legend debunking site attests to that. I love ya, but I think it's too easy to subscribe to racialized sexual stereotypes, even the sexually "free" white guy. I do think that, due to white-skin advantage, some men may feel unencumbered by, as Tami said, centuries of racial stereotypes so they can be "freaky," but could they also have felt experimental with you way because they viewed you as sexually "freaky," too, because they heard (and, thanks to BET and other media, have "seen") that Black women will do anything in bed? Also, they do have to deal with the stereotype that they're not so well-endowed, not quite as good in bed, etc. in comparison to (the stereotype of) Black men and Latinos. Perhaps what y'all did in bed came out of that pressure to "represent" in bed to you, as a Black women who could, in their minds, have had MoC lovers and could have something to compare them to? Just some thoughts, friend...

I also have to co-sign with Tami re: Black women not being taught to view sex with connotations of purity from personal experience. For example, when I told my mom I consented to adult sex, she wouldn't speak to me for several days because, in her mind, I didn't acquiesce to her demand to "stay pure" until I was at least engaged. To her way of thinking, that's not how she raised me. said...

Hello there,

What I mean about the issue of black women and their conditioning about sex and purity is this…

Sex is not being thought of as an expression of our humanity that is pure.... sex is being taught to black girls as something that is "naughty".

There is no correlation between being sexual and being pure.

Being sexual has connotations of being impure.

It has been reported that at least one in three black women has been sexually assaulted and that most black women who have been assaulted were assaulted in the reluctance to discuss how those violations have impacted the self-definition of a woman sexually may also be a factor in the inability of so many black women to embrace a more emotionally-healthy sexual identity.

Many black women can not identify who they are sexually because of there is a lens of violation that they view sex through. (Of course, I am not saying all black women…but I am saying MANY.)

As for white men and their sexual practices, European men viewed themselves as heterosexual even when experimenting with sexual relations with other men. Beastiality was not uncommon among the Europeans although they LOOOVE to claim that the Africans are the ones who are into beastiality.

I have found that MOST white men believe the stereotypes about black women….most o them believe black women are sexually available (because they see a lot of black women objectifying themselves) and they believe that black women are sexually uninhibited because they see images of black women who are overtly sexual…

Most of these men are floored to learn that many black women are "prudes" in bed. When black women they meet and get to know express their aversion to “kinky” and “freaky” sexual acts, they THINK “oh they are just pretending to be prudes”! What an insult.

Part of it is that they have encountered so many white women who are down for whatever that they assume that the black women must do it ALLLLL.


I also think that white men see black women with children outside of marriage (which in THEIR culture is often tied to lower moral standards) and they think that the acceptance of children by different fathers indicates that black women have negotiable boundaries when it comes to sex. We don’t but I am listening to the conversations and the conclusions that they seem to arrive at that are just baffling to me.

I can recall conversations with white men who were discussing their sexual fantasies and my jaw would hit the floor at some of the things that they would even THINK about doing! I mean, really...the things that they want to do with various fruits and vegetables and different sauces with different smells and all the way that they like to have textures involved in the sexual experience...I mean ...come on now! White boys are just way out of hand in terms of what they require for an orgasm!! I am sorry….!

I just can't go into all of the things that white boys come up with that they want to try and I keep asking THIS a fantasy you reserve for black women or have you tried all this out on the white girls? They usually say, "I learned it from them!"

Also…as far as stereotypes having a role in how we perceive the OTHER…stereotypes about white men and white women do play into how black people perceive white people sexually…

Many white men are SHOCKED when I tell them that many black women perceive white women as being very nasty...not nasty in terms of attitude (although THAT perception is out there) but just nasty in terms of hygiene and nasty in terms of sexual practices. They had no idea. It was as if I was the only black person who openly shared the stereotypes. I tell them that white America freely promotes their stereotypes about blacks but black people do not openly discuss the prevalent stereotypes about whites. So he was floored to learn that white women are considered nasty by so many sistas. I have found that many black women do NOT want to be associated with anything that they perceive "white girls do" sexually.

Let me give more thought to these perspectives and return a bit later.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!


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