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women’s lives change in radical ways, once we stop asking for permission to become the ‘she’ that is scripted for us by our deepest desires. 

this is not selfish. this is not reactionary. this is our humanity asserting its right. 

an honest engagement with our own pleasure produces work that is nothing less than transformative — not only for us but for anybody lucky enough to be fucking with us at that time.
joan morgan #PleasurePolitics
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Missed the Politics of Pleasure Panel with Joan Morgan, Dr. Kaila Story, Dr. Treva Lindsey, Dr. Brittan Cooper, and Esther Armah? Or want to relisten to it in its entirety?

Click here to get the panel’s audio podcast for free!!

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     Let me begin this post by declaring my stake and investment in the project of rearticulating and reframing narratives around black female sexuality. I was born to a Black Puerto Rican American mother who birthed me at age 18. I was raised by my mother, grandmother, aunts, my mother’s friends who had children the same year I was born, and in a community of Black women who had children out of wedlock and raised us without the constant presence of men. My mother, and the mothers in my community, at times were on government assistance to supplement their low paying-jobs (don’t ever let my mother know I said that in public though). My mother, and the other single-parent, unwed black women in my community also dated men who were not their babies’ fathers.

     White supremacist and heteropatriarchal logics would have you and me believe that my mother, my grandmother, and the black women in the community I was raised in are licentious, amoral, and abject. Reagan was likely referring to the women to whom I owe my very existence during his diatribe about “welfare queens”. For a while I internalized these sinister myths. I remember being called a bastard as a child and feeling so mad and betrayed by my mother for not being married to my absent father, and for dating men who were not my father. But as I grew up I realized that the love I was given by my mother was not compromised or tainted or flawed because she was an unwed single-parent who dated other men; that I was not somehow deprived of something because of the absence of a male parent or my mother’s love life.

    In fact, I would argue that I greatly benefited from being raised by and in a community of single black women. They cultivated an affirming love that allowed a gender queer black boy like me realize my full humanity and self worth in ways that men in my community would not; they protected me from men who literally tried to “beat the faggot out of me.” In fact the community of single black women I was raised in created radical and subversive environments that challenged and averted, with all the spirit that only a mother wields, the types heteronormative and patriarchal violences that a queer black boy in the hood like me would encounter.

     With that said, I am committed to articulating a new politics of black female sexuality simply because my mother exist, my grandmother exists, and the love that they have for me and I for them exist, and I want to honor that love and help liberate them from the stigmas and shame that circumscribe their lives.

     Also, I believe that new articulations of black female sexuality will have the possibility to liberate other bodies and desires rendered deviant within the white supremacist heteropatriarchal capitalist project; and so my theorization of a new politics of black female sexuality might also help me to rearticulate a politics of black and queer desire. The ways we choose to love, who we choose to love, and how we choose to create family will not be obscured or erased or contested or pathologized by dominant narratives that seek to do exactly that.

    A new politics of black female sexuality should be grounded in the histories and experiences of black women, but should also have the potential to reframe the politics of desire of other marginalized folks. It should be embodied and expansive; and engage the physical, psychic, and emotional dimensions of black women’s lives. I recognize that my attempt at articulating a pleasure politics of black female sexuality ultimately might be limited and flawed by the male privilege that I have access to, and, whether consciously or not, exercise in my daily life. Ultimately I believe that only black women can rearticulate their politics of desire, but as a person who is deeply invested in the livelihood of black women, I hope that these following ideas and words might help us move closer to black women’s erotic liberation.

-Kiyan W

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Reframing Narratives Of Black Female Sexuality

"The master narrative is whatever ideological script that is being imposed by the people in authority on everybody else. The master fiction. History." -Toni Morrison

Did enslaved black woman have orgasms? Do folks living in threatening and violent circumstances experience pleasure (sexual or non-sexual)?

Black woman, within the American Archive, are always and already tragic. The victims of sexual violence, rape, and torture. This is the dominant narrative. One that is indeed a part of the past and present experiences of Black women. But there are other stories, other experiences, other narratives that have been untold and obscured (including Black women’s erotic lives) within the dominant narrative; that have denied Black woman full humanity. Denied them pleasure.

My experiences as a Black boricua genderqueer person from the hood leads me to believe that we, as marginalized folks, do experience moments of pleasure within our oppressive conditions. And there is power in reclaiming our erotic knowledge. That we are not always victims, but through moments of pleasure (dancing, singing, orgasm-ing, etc.) we reclaim and exercise and feel our power and agency as human beings.

My thinking is motivated by Black Female Historians/Artists/Scholars/Activists like Annette Gordon-Reed whose rigorous historical work explores the pleasure and agency that Sally Hemmings (possibly) experienced in her relationship with Jefferson; and Suzan Lori-Parks who reimagines Sarah Baartman as a human who has complicated desires, emotions, and feelings in Venus.

-Kiyan W.

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(Excerpt)

I thought about how i couldn’t wait to lie down next to my girlfriend again. Then I thought about the woman lying next to me now, my mother lying there in the dark, with so much fear. Fear of knowing me, of intimacy between us, of closeness to another woman… Could she know about this kind of loving, too? I try not to sleep too close to her just in case…

When I was 15 and images of intruding hands woke my mother up at 2 in the morning, did she ever fear tender female ones on me, inside me… loving me?

(Small pause)

I sense her response will be a quiet question followed by an even quieter answer.

(Pause)

All I’m saying is… she taught me how to love a woman. All I’m hoping for is… that you can do the same ‘ama.

- AM 

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imagewhen I heard the word “pleasure” tossed around. Like many others, I had never thought about what a politics of pleasure meant, nor the importance of  articulating one.

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imagebecause I learned that pleasure is knowing what you love, doing what you love, and loving it shamelessly

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imagebecause embracing the potential in a politics of pleasure gives us endlessly possibilities to empower ourselves and others

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I do indeed find pleasure in the Twerk. Back in chicago, we call it juking. It’s been a part of my life growing up and going to parties and I will admit I enjoy mastering some of these booty shaking skills.

-TB

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Audre… Audre… Audre… Lorde have mercy. The power of the erotic is a thought that once did not exist in my realm. If it even came up at all, pleasure was nothing but a mere after thought. Growing up in a household where girls could not leave the cul-de-sac without a male escort, where no men were allowed to bathe the children for fear of pedophilia, where tight clothing and short skirts were met with looks of vehement disapproval and shame, it seemed black female sexuality was meant only to be defended from the world. Though I’m thankful for the protection I felt growing up, as a woman I feel adamant about my embracing of the erotic. Plus, it’s almost impossible to live in Las Vegas your entire life without normalizing the erotic. Damn, I love dem strippaz. “In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.”- Audre Lorde

 

Audre… Audre… Audre… Lorde have mercy. The power of the erotic is a thought that once did not exist in my realm. If it even came up at all, pleasure was nothing but a mere after thought. Growing up in a household where girls could not leave the cul-de-sac without a male escort, where no men were allowed to bathe the children for fear of pedophilia, where tight clothing and short skirts were met with looks of vehement disapproval and shame, it seemed black female sexuality was meant only to be defended from the world. Though I’m thankful for the protection I felt growing up, as a woman I feel adamant about my embracing of the erotic. Plus, it’s almost impossible to live in Las Vegas your entire life without normalizing the erotic. Damn, I love dem strippaz. “In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.”- Audre Lorde