My oldest son has no game. I learned this last year at a party I helped to host for Black teens in the Bay Area. He, outfitted in jeans, a black v-neck t-shirt, and black converse, had the same look he would get as a young child when he momentarily lost sight of me in a crowded mall: nervous and confused.
A Godiva box worth of various chocolate colored Sweets bopped, gyrated, jumped, and swayed to a mix of music that we, party coordinators, hoped was current and cool enough for the kids, while simultaneously appropriate to the few lingering parents. My son, stole glances at girls I knew he thought were attractive, but stayed standing awkwardly talking to two other guys. He didn’t know what to do. He hasn’t had to learn.
Most of the girls Zach has been around are White; and I contend more sexually bold and free. That’s the thing I’ve learned about concepts like freedom: they move and affect everything. Behavior is largely determined by one’s comfort level to do what one’s nature compels them to do. White girls have the freedom to explore, flaunt, and use their sexuality more freely than Black girls because they are free from stereotypes; from the pressures of not representing just the family but the Black race. Unlike their White counterparts, Black women were not seen in most television shows and movies as sexy or the object of male desire, until recently; and when we have been, it’s typically as strippers or prostitutes. Sex=dirty.
Additionally, sexuality and sensuality aren’t discussed in most Black homes (as far as I know). Christianity and the need for Black children to excel in education are the foundation of many Black girls’ upbringing. I’ve often told my friends when we are talking about relationships: no one taught me how to be a lover, a girlfriend, a wife. I was taught how to be a good student and employee. My mom used to tell me constantly, when I was distracted by things like boys and cheerleading, “you better keep those legs closed and get something in that damn head.”
We Black girls wear our innocence with pride. We talk about the things that White girls will do that we don’t do. It isn’t uncommon to hear a Sista say, “Girl, he’s only with that White girl because she will probably do anything. You know they are nasty.” We are quick to talk about the “fast” women: the ones who broke their virginity too early, or who wear their clothes too tightly, or slept with someone too quickly after breaking up with a boyfriend. We keep a count of the number of men we’ve slept with—ensuring that we are still in the “proper girl” range.
So, I guess I should not have been shocked at the enormous amount of backlash Gabrielle Union received when she talked about her sex life; her love of sex; sexual reciprocity (including “tossing her man’s salad”). She was admitting what good, Black girls don’t: we like sex. We are sexual and sensual beings.
Perhaps our harsh judgement of Gabrielle says a lot more about who we are and where we are in our overall sexual maturity; than anything about who she is. We aren’t comfortable with Black women being sexual or sexy.
Can’t we be in the church choir and still love talking dirty? Can we be professionally appropriate yet also have a fetish? Can we be considered “wifey” material and but still have sex on the first date (I was, and did)? Are we so controlled by “societal” rules, that we have failed to listen to something that should naturally and organically come from within?
Perhaps it’s time to release the shame – both that we own and that we place on others. Brene Brown wrote that “shame derives its power from being unspeakable.” “Shame keep us from speaking with our partners to discover what we both like and building a mutually satisfying sex life. Shame keeps Black women quiet when we are sexually abused. Shame is used to keep us trapped by our and other’s judgements.”
Does this mean that all of us should start sharing details of our sex lives with our friends? No, just as with sex — one should only do what’s comfortable to them – just as Gabrielle Union did.