Yesterday, Brown Girl Speaks wrote about the notion, which Giddings refers to in her essay on Ida B. Wells' anti-lynching campaign, that black women are responsible for or to blame for black male sexuality. Today, Andrea Plaid discusses how that thinking has survived.
written by What Tami Said guest contributor Andrea Plaid
Moms and I had another round-and-round discussion about this—I’d swear that it started when I developed breasts. A distilled version:
“The woman’s role is to say ‘no’ to the man, to keep him at bay,” she’d start. “It’s not like the man doesn’t try to get his way, but it’s the woman who needs to say ‘no’ until he gives her a ring, at least. Then, she has something to back her up when she’s having sex with him.”
“But why should I have to keep the man at bay” I’d ask. “Why can’t he keep himself at bay?”
“Because the man wants what he wants. It’s his nature,” Mom would state. “It’s up to the woman to civilize him into wanting to be married. If not—and the woman just lays up with him and has babies by him—he just used her, spreads his seed, and keeps going.”At this point in The Sexual Message, Moms would illustrate her point by telling me about the Black girls who lived on her block, when she was a tween and teen, who became single teen moms. (Some context: Moms came “up North” from Mississippi during the Second Great Migration when she was 10. She grew up in mostly to all-Black neighborhoods, mostly because of de jure segregation that was slowly shifting toward de facto segregation. She graduated high school in 1963.) Moms and the girls would hang together, Moms would say, but she knew she wasn’t going to “let some boy use her like that.” (She’d add that, because of that singular decision, her girlfriends—and their children—never quite achieved the Black Middle-Class Dream. Moms knew this because she’s seen them over the years.) She’d talk about how she would sit under my “scoundrel” uncles at the table—they were much older than she was; (Moms is the youngest daughter out of 13 kids)--and would listen to how they talked about how they used women and knew no man would talk about her like that. Then she would underline her point by talking about The Bet: a group of Black men, including my late father, wagered that one of them would literally get Mom’s panties. (Yes, the actual proof of the event was to show the group her panties.) My father took on the challenge—and ended up taking my mom an engagement ring. And, my mom would brag, she didn’t have me until after they were married. Moms would also point to my sister’s birth as another example of the privileges of birthing after marriage, of doing it The Right Way.
In other words, her advice was infalliable--her life was proof of it.