Black communities often seem to shy away from discussions on sexualities, as if somehow this clashes with culture, identity, or religiosity. A conversation about sexualities is not just about sex, which in itself is a discussion that begs having. Talking about sexualities encompasses: identity, culture, power, politics, gender, orientation and yes…sex, the act and/or the physiologically/socially constituted category.
What brought me to the question of black sexualities was my work in early sexualization and hypersexualization. I did a project a couple years back on the early sexualisation of pre-teen girls. This was in 2006, and at the time there seemed to be this pervading moral panic, mainly stoked by white middle class parents and academics about the sexualisation of their daughters, grand-daughters, relatives, friends etc… Super-sexy Bratz dolls, push-up bras for 8 year-olds, Katy Perry/Xtina and MTV were all culprits in this process. The rhetoric hearkened back to a time, when apparently Barbie let young girls know they could be all they ever wanted to be (with a perma-smile, butt-skimming hair, and boobs that would realistically result in a concave chest). Stories abounded about 5th grade girls providing oral sex to boys in the back of the school bus and lipstick parties. These were all very legitimate concerns. But nowhere in the reams of pop-psychology books, interviews, studies and Oprah and Tyra exclusives did I see a race or class-based analysis. Sure, Jada Pinkett Smith wrote a whole children’s book about loving yourself and your hair, because 8 year-old Willow had said something about wanting to be sexy. But there was no real engagement with non-white, non-middle class pre-teens.
It is precisely because of this glaring gap (deliberate or not) that we need to talk about sexualities. Black women’s bodies have been sexualized, historicized, objectified and used as symbols. We are rarely the architects of our own sexual stories and experts in our experiences. Sex is something that is done to black women, by the media, hip-hop, Johnny-down-the-way, or bs studies. We are painted as either these ravenous sexual succubi, completely asexual and undesirable non-beings, or hyper-masculine. It boggles the mind that we can be all three at once.
And yet, despite the ass-swiping credit card of Nelly’s tip-drill video, marathon gang rape of a California teen outside her prom, and sexual assault in the campus hallway, we still refuse to talk about it. That is until it explodes onto our screens in voyeuristic orgies penned by Tyler Perry…like Precious. But even then, the melodrama is just excessive enough for us to easily detach.
A frank discussion about sexualities is more than the sum of its parts. It is what is needed. Black women need to be able to articulate their stories and experiences, to be their won advocates and architects, in whatever way and along whatever spectrum they so choose.
This is why this event is so important.:
Saddi Khali in Ottawa Neo-NegritudeExpressions: Reclaiming Our Sexualities
It is important for Black women, and it is important for the Black community and for everyone in general. On November 18th, 19th and 20th do come out!