On Black Girls and Pleasure


Waaaaay back in 2008 I wrote a blog post in the summer time, right after we learned that Erykah Badu was pregnant with her little bear about the fact that Black women’s bodies do not belong to themselves.

Looking back I realize that I was inspired by the fact that that in public people feel entitled to touch our hair and our bodies, and in private our families and loved ones feel that they have say so about our hair texture (nappy vs. straight, or re: going natural).

So. This brings me to this morning when I finally figured out WHY I am writing about Black women’s sexuality.

Saturday, I got no work done. Nonya. This was the first time this year where my schedule got completely upended.

Last semester was on #Aquemini Saturday. My boo’s do be my muses. o.0

Rather than go to read and write on Saturday morning, we drove to Balitmore for brunch and that shit was luxurious.

Then I slept. Then we went to the movies.

Granted, I was behind as shit on Sunday, because so many chores didn’t get done.

So this morning, I was saying that I wanted to GO BACK to Saturday; It was impromtu and fun; it felt like a vacation.

Then Goldy turned around and called me greedy. I was like, “I am greedy because I want to hang out the you and not be running 5011 errands for two or three hours straight?” “I don’t think it’s greedy, I think I am being a human being.” She got my point.

It was in THAT moment that I realized why I have been writing about and invested in Black womens sexuality and the social and economic forces that shape how Black women make sexual choices at home and in public.

Many of us are told by our mothers that all we need to do is “work” because “you can do bad all by yourself.”

When many of us were little, language is used with Aunt’s, Uncles, and grandparents to discourage them from giving us stuff or being nice to us otherwise we may get “spoiled.” Spoiled food is rotten and inedible.

All of this leaves me with a few questions.

Out of a desire for our mothers to protect us, and make sure that we have tools to deal with a fucked up world, did they make Black girls and pleasure two mutually exclusive categories?

Did our mothers socialize us to run away from pleasure?

Does enjoying pleasure mean being “ruined”? Ruined for who?

Why are the boys in our family not talked about in the same way?

Are the boys in our family ever described as being “spoiled?”

Does it have the same meaning when it is used to describe girls?

Comments

  1. Hmmm. In my experience, both boys and girls can be spoiled–but there is a much lower behavioral threshold for a girl being spoiled, than a boy, especially in the black community. We have internalized our pathology so much that a black boy who doesn’t sell drugs, isn’t in a gang, and makes passing grades in school is put on a pedestal. But I digress.

    I’m the youngest and a daddy’s girl, so while I have had some men I’ve dated call me spoiled, it was never a real issue. The criticism I heard came from other women. I’ve been with my fiance since college and we doted on each other from the beginning. A former friend told me she was “disappointed” because she thought he would “put his foot down and check me”.

    Unfortunately, as Ms. Hurston said, “woman is the mule of the world” and we are glorified from putting all others before ourselves. Women aren’t “supposed” to seek pleasure–unless it’s by shopping.

  2. OHHHHHHHH SHIT.

    “We have internalized our pathology so much that a black boy who doesn’t sell drugs, isn’t in a gang, and makes passing grades in school is put on a pedestal.”
    ————
    Really? Is this true. Or is it possible they they are allowed to be deviant, to talk back and do hella shit WE COULD NEVER DO, and be forgiven for it?

    I do hear you about when our Boy cousins and brothers don’t have children and have passing grades being light weight worshiped whereas we are expected to do that, get a full scholarship AND have a part-time job.

    Women Aren’t suppose to seek pleasure unless it’s shopping. #iheardthat.

  3. I like the way you have presented this and the questions you have followed.

    As you know the conversations you and I have had about my son, I work hard every day to steer clear of the spoiled tag. It’s the other family that is the problem, and I know what the problem is. It stems from his Dad passing away when he was a baby.

    So yes those who spoil the boy have also had the nerve to say that he is spoiled, I correct them at every turn and let them know, not be me. That’s the truth.

    I don’t think it has the same connotation for boys and girls.

    Does enjoying pleasure mean being “ruined”? Ruined for who?

    I believe this can be some people’s perception, but definitely not mine. I have decided to live my life enjoying and getting pleasure from in every way I can that benefits me!!

    Great Post!!! :)

  4. I love this post. Sometimes I feel like you’re my therapist.

    I’ll start out with the fact that I was a “spoiled child.” Even though I grew up in a working class family, I was spoiled with love and material goods (toys) when I was growing up during the pretty prosperous (everyone in my family had jobs)time. Even when my parents divorced, my father was laid off, we always had a nice present under the Xmas tree.

    Now my mother is a product of a single-parent family (her grandparents did help raise her though) where in the end she and her sister had enough education, skills, and life experience to end up with decent jobs and the know how to take care of themselves (have their own place to live, pay their bills, etc) but my uncles seemed to miss out on this skill set. I attribute it to my grandmother raising her daughters and loving her sons. One of my uncles didn’t move out of my grandmother’s house until she moved into a senior citizen only building- and only now does he have his own place with the help of my mother and aunt.

    So my mother decided to raise both of her children (me & my brother) to be able to take care of themselves. I also think my mother raised the kind of son she would want her daughter to marry (meaning my brother is a great guy, a fabulous husband and amazing father). My brother in turn is raising his daughter “to be fearless.” My brother is kind of a feminist.

    My mother was an amazing parent but she couldn’t deal with the sex issue. She never explained anything sexual to me, including how babies are made or menstruation. However, I was told in the 5th grade when I was about 10 years old that I shouldn’t get pregnant when I’m older because it would ruin my life (my mother got pregnant and married in high school). This was very confusing to me because I had no idea how a baby was conceived. Now mix this with growing up in the Baptist church and hearing that having sex outside of marriage is a sin and the need for me to be the exemplary example of Black femaleness which means that you keep your legs close at all times or until you are married led me to be afraid of sex or my accurately- my great interest, desire to engage in sex.

    I feel like my mother wanted to make sure I had the skills & knowledge to deal with the world but in the process she sent me weird messages about sex. She didn’t want me to repeat the cycle of having a child as a teenager, so she decided to give me no information about sex and then drag me to church all the time. All my info from sex came from kids in my neighborhood, books ( I was reading the “Female Orgasm” at the age of 13, pop culture, especially soap operas (as a kid I thought if 2 people rolled around on a bed fully clothed that was sex because that’s what they did on “All My Children” and “Dynasty”), and finding my uncles stash of dirty magazines. So, now I’m sorting through all my baggage about sex in therapy. Basically I want to engage in sexual activity but it has to be the “right circumstances” or I’m a dirty ho. And even now when I have a master’s degree, good job, traveled around the world, and lived abroad all on my own- I still would freak out if I got pregnant outside of wedlock.

    I know my brother doesn’t have this kind of baggage because he’s a male and was always the golden boy -ivy league, student govt president, captain of high school football team, and now has a doctorate, fab job, big house, great wife & kids.

    I’ve written too much already- basically I think our mothers try to teach us the best they can and if they feel they’ve made mistakes with having a child too early, or bad decisions about men and they haven’t really sorted through the issue to deal with it – we (the daughters) end up getting life lessons that sometimes doesn’t apply to us ( I was never going to have a kid as a teenager because I was determined to move to New York City or London and I know I couldnt take a kid with me). I’m done. Thanks for listening.

  5. Ms Brownbelle- just wondering why your former friend felt your fiance needed to “put his foot down and check” you?

  6. @Ms. World,

    I’ve written too much already- basically I think our mothers try to teach us the best they can and if they feel they’ve made mistakes with having a child too early, or bad decisions about men and they haven’t really sorted through the issue to deal with it – we (the daughters) end up getting life lessons that sometimes doesn’t apply to us ( I was never going to have a kid as a teenager because I was determined to move to New York City or London and I know I couldnt take a kid with me). I’m done. Thanks for listening.

    I hear you. My momma had my sisters, twins at 16, so I KNOW about Black mommas and their “you better go to school and graduate and don’t be like me” narratives. My grandpop also made her marry their dad. #ummhmm.
    That being said, I am curious about how they ways in which our mommas implemented talking to us about sex, or not, shaped how we come to think about it as adults. In fact, in my research I ASK questions about this particular issue.

    In some ways, Black mommas desires to keep us from repeating “their mistakes” ( and I say this with the belief that a human being is NOT a mistake…or perhaps, unless you are a serial killer then…) but not giving us ANY information.
    So we are left to fill in the gaps.

    Don’t trip if my posts be like therapy. I once, for a long time actually planned on being a therapist, until a partner years ago discouraged me from doing so because he couldn’t see how I could have a black client base in Brooklyn. I know. #youngshit.
    If you can’t be a Black therapist in BK, where can you do it?

    Also, honest writing, I believe, heals, and that is a good thing. Besides, I need to balance out the grimey with some good.

  7. Renina, I see your point but I think it goes beyond forgiveness to justification. Boys who exhibit pleasure seeking behaviors are not spoiled, or deviant, but “lost”. A man can commit gang rape, and make a comeback as a motivational speaker sponsored by major media & corporate entities (see Genarlow Wilson). Yet on the other hand, a woman who makes her own money and decides to spend it on mani/pedis, vacations or expensive clothes is spoiled. Women who seek pleasure are damned for it.

    Ms. World, my former friend was likely projecting her issues onto me. She had a boyfriend who was extremely cold, frugal, told her that he didn’t find her attractive because she gained some weight, was a selfish lover, etc. (unfortunately she is still with this guy). On the other hand, my fiance is very gregarious with his friends, and brash at times. But he’s the complete opposite with me, and tones it down when he brings me around his boys so that I feel more comfortable. When he’s around I don’t open doors, carry things, or pay unless I want to. I guess she thought that due to his public persona, he would be more like her boyfriend–misery loves company.

  8. Well shit Gina.

    I would argue then that being able to seek and experience pleasure is fundamental to being a human being. #pow.

    I like your blog too.

  9. I was definitely socialized to turn away from my pleasures, if those pleasures were not approved by my parents, most importantly, my mother. Every time I reached out one way or another for the things I liked/loved/just wanted for a hot minute, there were dire consequences. To this day, my mother has no qualms voicing her disapproval of the things I love that she thinks aren’t fitting for a woman and/or mother. She has been so influential in my Depths of Denial, that I actually deal with residual guilt EVERY TIME I do something that feels good to me. I am 38 years old.

  10. Girl you aint’ never lied.
    I think the fact that moved to the east coast from Oakland, so young, at 18, that I have had the privilege of space that a lot of Black girls, working class Black girls have never had.

    I do want to contend that our mommas DO mean well. I mean, I can only imagine what it was like for our mothers generation to try and raise us up to take care of ourselves when we were never meant to survive.

    Feel me?

  11. I feel you, and I have forgiven my mother because I know what she was trying to do. I had to explain to some white women at my workplace that a LOT of Black/Brown mothering comes from a place of fear, and not the kind of fear they know about.

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