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.

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