I wonder if it would benefit black women more to defend our rights to be seen as more than just sexual beings who appeal to and excite the white male gaze, rather than to vehemently defend our right to be objectified and exploited. We must reject the continued fetishization of our features and the psychological, physical or emotional abuse that we endure as a result of our hyper-sexualization in the media.
It’s true that black women have just as much of a right to enjoy sex as anyone else and we shouldn’t be shamed for expressing our sexuality. Sex is powerful and it should be a pleasurable experience for both parties involved. However, I believe that black women need to be careful about joining the sexual liberation bandwagon, when we’ve so often been stereotyped as overly promiscuous.
Moreover, we could stand to be more persistent in our vetting process for determining who is worthy of having sexual experiences with us. While I hate the hypocritical standards of purity in Western Christianity—where men are allowed to gawk and stare at women, while women are blamed for “tempting” their fellow male counterparts and leading them into sin. However, I think there is something that black women can learn from the very Judeo-Christian idea that the body is a temple.
As black women, we’ve been taught to disregard our health and safety for the benefit of others, and as a result, we often allow undeserving men to waste our time and sexual energy. However, things could really improve if we collectively decide to value our physical bodies more and develop higher standards over who should be allowed to engage in sexual activity with us.
Having high self-esteem and daring to think of yourself as a rare prize is something that will help you avoid spending energy on men who don’t value you similarly. Instead of allowing ourselves to get caught up in beta males who don’t provide or who neglect and abuse us, we’ll only choose to expend our efforts on men who show signs of leadership, responsibility and most importantly, who respect us.
So, the facts are that black women are hypersexualized. But the solution to this issue is not “sexual liberation” as we think of it today. For black women, true sexual liberation looks like media representation that shows our humanity and that prioritizes our value as human beings, first and foremost. Instead of appearing in 30-second cameos where we exist only to be objectified, we need to be the leads of the films—the love interest who must be wined and dined and wooed, before she gives any attention to her romantic prospects. This will give us the opportunity to express our femininity and unique womanhood in a way that highlights our worth.
As black women, it is in our best interests to be extremely vigilant about our bodies and whom we allow access to it, by choosing sexual partners wisely and only spending efforts on men who truly value us and our bodies. We need to go into relationships aware of the signs you’re being objectified and be willing to run at the first signs of trouble.
All in all, we deserve so much better, and if the world isn’t willing to give us what we deserve, we need to be willing to give it to ourselves.
Grace is a freelance writer and blogger from Canada. Her work has been featured on HerCampus, 21Ninety, Read Unwritten. She is a voracious reader, a dog-lover and a self-professed pop culture junkie. Her other hobbies include watching sappy romantic comedies, consuming too many strawberry-filled doughnuts and people-watching. Grace currently attends university, where she is working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Pre-Law.