Can You Explain to Me What a “Ho Tape” Is?

I think that one of the reasons why some Black women have a hard time talking about Black women’s sexuality within academic settings is because of the emotional dexterity and vulnerability that comes along with doing so.

For instance, there is a line of feedback in my paper that says “Can you explain what a ho tape is”? Now it makes sense that the professor reading my paper asked this question because it is legitimate.

You have to think about the context. She has several statements asking me to clarify my methodology, to get to my analysis, suggestions on verb usage, suggestions on how to be a more precise writer. All of which I am hella grateful for.

But it is also a bugged out thing to read first, because I came up with the idea of “ho tapes” three years ago, and so it is also audacious for me to put my own kinda blog theorizing in my academic work.

FYI, for me “ho tapes” are the internal voice that Black women hear when they are debating whether or not to engage in a sexual act. Often times, the politics of respectability play a role, and I theorize that frequently our “ho tapes” stop us from experiencing pleasure, or they allow us to center the pleasure of another while making our own secondary. #buggedout?

But there is also something very surreal about Black women’s sexuality being taken seriously in this context. It reminds me that it I am very fortunate to be able to study Black women’s sexuality, to put my own ideas out there and for them to be taken seriously. This process also forces me to clarify what I mean when I come up with new terms, which is a good practice.

So, Josephine, I know you miss our discussions, I miss them to, but please believe you are with me because i have put you and so many of my friends in my work.

Maybe I am on to something here. Maybe writing is less lonely when you have your friends in it, ho tapes and all.


What do you think of the idea of a Ho Tape?

Isn’t it awkward to have to justify something like this in an academic setting?

The irony is that Black women are called “ho’s” in Black communities and in some pop culture spaces…all the time.

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  1. Ms World says

    The “ho tape” is real! I can’t wait to read your book or published research in full because the parts of your work featured on this website and your Tumblr are amazing.

  2. Renina says

    Girl Thank you. The “ho tape” is really real and it is about to be even realer when I talk about it in public at my first academic conference in a few weeks. #Oakland. I am glad you are enthusiastic about the work…it really helps to know that people care about the shit in my head. #ClaimingGenuis. ~R

  3. Deanna says

    How are “ho tapes” different for black women than for white women? I know as a white woman I struggle with the same questions about my sexuality.

  4. Renina says

    @Deanna…Oh. I don’t even know where to begin with an answer to that. So, I will say a couple of things and I will give you some things to read.

    First, Black women’s sexuality is a racialized sexuality. So, this means that because of the historical ways that race and gender have played out on Black women’s bodies “ho tapes” are different for Black women. For instance, historically Black women were legally codified as not being “rapeable.”

    I think that the narrative of Sarah Baartman, an the work of Darlene Clark Hine and Lorraine O’Grady gets to Black women’s historical experiences.

    Sarah Baartman Here:

    Darlene Clark Hine Here:

    And Lorraine O’grady says:

    “The female body in the West is not a unitary sign. Rather, like a coin, it has an obverse and a reverse: on the one side, it is white; on the other, non-white or, prototypically, black. The two bodies cannot be separated, nor can one body be understood in isolation from the other in the West’s metaphoric construction of “woman.” White is what woman is; not-white (and the stereotypes not-white gathers in) is what she had better not be. Even in an allegedly postmodern era, the not-white woman as well as the not-white man are symbolically and even theoretically excluded from sexual difference. Their function continues to be, by their chiaroscuro, to cast the difference of white men and white women into sharper relief.”

    I hope that clears some of it up.

    After you read these, I’ll answer any questions you may have:)


  5. Biany Isabel says

    My friend and I just talked about the ways that black survivors of abuse think about their bodies, sexuality, love etc. I can absolutely relate to your use of this term. Sometimes we do not even put our pleasure on the table (not primary nor secondary)–non existent at times.

  6. Renina says

    Girrrl. I was on a panel yesterday talking about “ho tapes” and that was type surreal. Someone in the audience asked me one hell of a question about reifying the madonna/whore binary for Black women by using the “ho tape”, which is something that I hadn’t thought about before.

    Putting pleasure on the table for Black women is real as shit.