Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Politics of Sex Blogging

"I might seem to be a 'straight no chaser' blogger, but if you look back, you don’t see a lot of discussion on sex and dating.
That’s because every time I tried to write those posts, I was afraid someone would know too much about me. That I might be a bad girl. And bad girls are always punished, at least in the Black community. There’s very little room for a respectable Black woman to be erotic and talk openly about it. But I’d like to do that."
--B.C. Flippin aka Honoree Fanonne Jeffers aka PhyllisRemastered

"The erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to the woman who does not fear its revelation, nor succumb to the belief that sensation is enough... The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos and power of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For once having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves... The function of the erotic is to encourage excellence and to give us the strength to pursue it... When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the life-force of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives...
The erotic is the nurturer or nursemaid of our deepest knowledge... Another important way in which the erotic connection functions is the open and fearless underlining of my capacity for joy... Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing ourselves to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor merely the safe... We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings...but when we begin to live from within outward, in touch with the power of the erotic within ourselves, and allowing that power to inform and illuminate our actions upon the world around us, then we begin to be responsible to ourselves in the deepest sense. For as we begin to recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering, and self-negation, and with the numbness that so often seems like their only alternative in our society. Our acts against oppression become integral with self, motivated and empowered from within...
When we look away from the importance of the erotic in the development and sustenance of our power, or when we look away from ourselves as we satisfy our erotic needs in concert with others, we use each other as objects of satisfaction rather than share our joy in the satisfying, rather than make connection with our similarities and our differences. To refuse to be conscious of what we are feeling at any time, however comfortable that might seem, is to deny a large part of the experience, and to allow ourselves to be reduced to the pornographic, the abused, and the asburd."
--Audre Lord, "The Uses of the Erotic"

A couple of weeks ago in my Black Women and Popular Music Culture class, we raised the question of whether Black female musicians can manifest images of their own sexuality that don't contribute to their own objectification. That question resonated pretty deeply with me when Professor Brooks asked it in class, and it wasn't until I started reading that post on PhyllisRemastered (which is a great blog, btw, and you should all check it out) that I realized how applicable it was to Black female bloggers as well.

My less-safe-for-work posts are generally the ones that get the most attention on this blog. And though nobody really has the gall to say it to my face, I feel like a lot of the reaction I garner from people (especially the people with whom I interact on a regular or semi-regular basis) is something to the effect of I'm "doing too much". Some individuals commend me for talking about things there are unwritten rules about not mentioning (shoutouts to BD and SM who are coming to mind), but sometimes I wonder whether people think I focus too much on sex and sexuality. I think about what would result from my being Googled by my boss (do they do that even once you're employed?) or by grad schools in the future or by my father again (though the disillusionment this would engender is on him this time; I told him not to) or some other member of my family. I wonder whether I should put my website or my Twitter account on my LinkedIn profile--are they "professional"? Well, this blog is about my passions and my passions inform my scholarship and interests...yet they remain unlinked. 

Can I, as a Black woman, be open about my sexuality (in ideology and in practice) without seeming hypersexual(ized)? Am I contributing to the Jezebel stereotype by openly being a Black woman with an interest in intimacy, a preoccupation with passion, an enthusiasm for the erotic? Am I hurting myself in some social aspect by getting to know myself [and others] intimately? Am I hurting some larger "us" of Black women?

...These are the kinds of questions I could let keep me up at night. But I value my sleep. And even more than my sleep, I value myself and my right to express all that I am in my own space. A non-trivial and growing part of myself is a sexual being. I am also a social being, political being, an intellectual being, an activist being, an ever-questioning being, a poetic being, a musical being, a creative being, a womanly being, a Black being, a fun-loving being, etc. etc. etc. And I won't be limited in any the expression of any of those selfhoods by pressures for "respectability" or "not airing my dirty laundry" or any such similar bullshit. I want my whole self to be a being centered in the erotic as defined by Audre Lorde. I won't see parts of that self diminished, disfigured, or dis-empowered by so-called strategies for avoiding or delegitimizing stereotypes that are just as restrictive as the stereotypes themselves. I will not be a "lady". Nor will I be a whore. I am neither and both and a million stops along the way. I contain multitudes.              

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