- Me: "Hiddles is so gorgeous!"
- Them: "Wow, I would love to suck his cock."
- Me: "Edward Norton is so talented; he's always amazing in his movies."
- Them: "I wanna fuck a blond guy."
- Me: "Benedict Cumberbatch SLAYS as Sherlock. Some of his acting roles are terrible (i.e. hell naw Khan and Assange, ICK), but in that show, he is a god."
- Them: "He has a great voice. I would love to hear it while fucking him on the set of Sherlock."
- Me: "Idris Elba did the damn thing as Heimdall in the Loki films!"
- Them: "*replies with nude photos of other men who aren't Idris*"
- Me: "I had a great relationship with someone wonderful some years ago--maybe was the love of my life; but of course not every relationship is sexual in nature. You've read what I've written on asexuality, so you know."
- Them: "So...how often did you fuck?"
- Me: "Cishet man. Cis man. Trans man. Masculine-appearing genderqueer person."
- Them: "Fuck fuckington, sex sexdipity doo dah day."
- Me: "I love getting my hair washed at a salon. I had a great Black male stylist recently."
- Them: "I almost came once at a salon by being touched. Salons make me horny! Touch me, tease me, kiss me and caress me, hold me tight don't let go, baby I'm about to explode, cause all my love you can control. Here I am, rock you like a hurricane!"
- Me: "Oh, Simon Baker from The Mentalist is #mywhiteboo."
- Them: "So...by 'boo' you mean you want to fuck him as a groupie?"
- Me: "Sure aces can make sexual jokes, many people do. But sometimes we might want to have a conversation about other aspects of a person, just like you do...right?"
- Them: "Cock. Penis. Twat. Vagina. If you were really sex positive, you would accept a sexual reply to any and all tweets that mention men. Prude!"
- Me: "*bangs head on desk while wishing it was possible to not have every reply to my tweets about someone male be about fucking*"
- Them: "Sex."
- Me: "*dives off cliff with parachute*"
- Them: "*follows me while yelling 'Seeeeeeex!'*"
Recently I had a conversation with a friend and I mentioned to her that a lot of my thoughts on sex positivity (even beyond the problems of it being very White and phallocentric in rhetoric and not always intersectional regarding inclusivity of history that impacts sexuality differently for Black women) actually involves the word “NO,” not the word “YES.” I find empowerment in being able to say “NO.” And when you’ve had the right to say “NO” taken from you at least once, it becomes really important to be able to say “NO” and not out of fear but out of genuine knowledge of what you desire and what you do not.
No, I don’t have to defend my sexuality to White people. White people regularly act as gatekeepers to both queerness and asexuality and White supremacy pathologizes heterosexuality for Black people as well, even with heterosexual privilege (though such privilege is not uniform; intersectionality matters). They regularly enter conversations I have about sexuality to police the terms used and try to parse things that they do not even know about (hi, White privilege) because of racial and cultural differences. Worse, they are usually plastered as the face of anything regarding sexuality, sexual orientation and gender among LGBTQIA people. The dominance of White supremacy in sexual politics has a long and hideous history for Black people and one that most certainly has not gone away—something that I elaborated on in my essay, The Large Space That White Supremacy Occupies In Conversations About Sexuality.
For a long time I identified as heterosexual but I would say, "well I am minimally sexual, not interested in sex, not interested in dating etc." But in reality, as a person who rarely experiences sexual attraction, so I am somewhat in the gray area of asexuality, I never even thought about my sexual orientation in detail until I realized that I had to come to terms with other things that happened in my life. Past pressures to marry when I didn’t even want to date. Zero interest in sexual intercourse in many years and delight and peace with celibacy (which has nothing to do with asexual orientation now, but is simply something related to the topic of sexuality itself; orientation is about attraction, not behavior). Buried memories of sexual assault that I tried to rationalize away for a long time. (And to be clear, no, being a survivor doesn’t change sexual orientation; no one is heterosexual “by default” and clearly the sheer number of Black women who are assaulted and are heterosexual should easily disprove the ignorance that Black women who are asexual or queer solely are because of “reaction” to assault.) Past really good relationships that I wondered about and thought "hmm, how did that go wrong?" The actual sociopolitics involved in sexual orientation, desire and sexuality itself for Black women, examined via a womanist lens. As I started thinking about all of this while simultaneously learning about nuances of asexuality/other sexual politics and also moved towards the point where I felt somewhat ready to discuss my own perspective, I then started to think about sexual orientation more deeply; more critically.
Reflecting on my last major connection with a man some years ago—and that it was based on aesthetic and romantic attraction, a very deep and illuminating love that I sort of filed away under “love of my life” in my heart’s files, and for years that relationship was close and tight, though not sexual—also made me think about the politics of sexual orientation with an intersectional lens. This lens is regularly ignored by many Whites. And that’s their issue. I have nothing to defend to them. I refuse to even engage any who think I owe them an explanation. And I’ve come up against some really nasty ones too; disrespectful, racist, anti-intersectional. To discuss something this sensitive with that attitude and framework? Nah. I so do not owe them a conversation. A sentence. A word. In this context, I find empowerment in saying “NO.”
No, I don’t have to “prove” asexuality to heterosexuals by never speaking of men ever again. There’s something really weird that happens and this is mostly because of misinformation and ignorance on sexual orientation and the nuances of asexuality. If I mention that a cishet man is attractive (I now identify as a heteroromantic ace; but there’s women and other people I find aesthetically attractive, though never romantically/sensually before, hence why I don’t take on the panromantic label) it is immediately perceived as sexual, people inform me of how they want to fuck that particular man, nude photos surface, dick pics pop up, and the entire conversation becomes sexual and overtly and suffocatingly so. And certainly there is nothing wrong with people who regularly experience sexual attraction towards multiple people and often and daily, but they’ve already assumed that this is why I brought the person up. Worse, when they know how I identify, there is always the "I thought you were asexual" statement with the loaded statement "why are you mentioning a man, see, I knew you were a liar" implied. Again, this is all based on misinformation. People think “asexual” means “never look at another human again, never have/will have sex ever (some asexuals do; sexual attraction isn’t required for sexual behavior), never mention other aspects of a person, and if other aspects are mentioned that are not sexual in tone, it’s code for a sexual tone.” No. All of this is falsetastic and nopedafied.
In some cases like these I lead people to some information; in others, I don’t address them. The idea that I have to “prove” that I am not a “hypersexual” (the controlling image of the Jezebel) heterosexual who only mentions men I want to fuck is grounded in the racist sexism and misogynoir that Black women face. And even if a Black woman very sexual (which does not make her that racist Jezebel controlling image; sexuality is not automatically “pathological” simply because a Black woman enjoys sex), she can still mention a person who is attractive without people assuming that she desires sex with that person. I won’t let anyone control what I think and feel on this topic simply because they are ignorant on asexuality. In this context, I find empowerment in saying “NO.”
No, I don’t have to perform compulsory heterosexuality and chase heterosexual Black men around begging them to love me. I don’t. At all. And to be clear, I don’t mean to imply that actively sexual, heterosexual Black women interested in being with Black men are “chasing” them, at all. I mean that anytime Black men are not my central focus for the day, I seem to be put on trial for “hatred” of Black men in the same way that I am for deconstructing and critiquing patriarchy, sexism and misogynoir from Black men.
I don’t chase Black men around to insult or degrade them solely for dating someone not Black. I…don’t care. I know that I am supposed to care and be very angry and all of this crap that some Black men (and some Black women) want me to do, but I don’t. I was confronted by a fellow Black woman who was very aggressive with me because her view is very anti-interracial relationships and very heteronormative for “Black love.” Black love is often marketed and packaged as that which resembles the Obamas; attractive, educated, class privileged, theist, “respectable,” cisgender, heterosexual, married, monogamous. Well…Black love comes in a lot of different appearances, not only that one. And that one is fine too but it’s not the only one. Love is power and a place of resistance for Black people in a society that hates us and indoctrinates us to hate ourselves. Familial, platonic, romantic, community, and cultural love among Black people are important. All of these are types of Black love.
However, when Black men’s interracial relationships are used as “proof” of the “unreasonableness,” “bitterness,” or ”worthlessness" of Black women and they oppress and help facilitate the oppression that Black women already face in terms of dealing with White supremacy’s manifestations in beauty norms, colourism, sexuality and more, then we have a problem Houston. Then. But I find no use or joy in being worried about Black men’s sexual and dating habits on the regular. That’s an albatross I don’t want to take on. And I don’t want anyone trying to force me to. In this context, I find empowerment in saying “NO.”
Thinking about sexuality in a positive way, in an empowering way also means being able to say NO. Not having to prove anything. Not having to perform any stereotypes related to any sexual orientation or actual sexual behavior. Not having to accept the controlling images that make heterosexual Black women “Jezebels” and asexual Black women “mammies” while oppressing queer Black women for being neither one and oppressing all Black women via misogynoir. It means a comfortability in my own decisions, in my own skin, and even being in an emotional place where I am writing these words right now. I…could not have done this even a year ago. Definitely not ten years ago. It means that I am learning each day how to think about sexual politics beyond sexual behavior because it most certainly involves more than the bedroom or individual personal lives. It means a liberating concept of sexuality is not having to use my own asexuality to prove my solidarity with other marginalized people and their sexual politics but knowing that they simply need the space (and some need more space than others; this speaks to one’s particular experiences with privilege, domination and oppression) to articulate those politics (albeit intersectional for it to really be progressive) and live life as they choose. It means my awareness of not fitting into many predisposed boxes for Black women is in fact a weight, especially regarding sexuality, but that thinking through my own politics on radical intersectional sex positivity where my own empowerment lies, helps this lighten.
- White woman to Black woman: "Wow I love your hair, I wish my hair was that way, I always wanted that, so jealous omg! Why upset, can't you take a compliment?" *proceeds to touch Black woman's natural hair*
- Black man to Black woman: "Ah sexy, damn you fine, bitch you ain't hear me talkin' to you? Can't you take a compliment?" *proceeds to touch Black woman's butt*
- White woman to Black woman: "Ugh, I think Jerry in accounting likes you. You must be so flattered, you date White guys too right?" *rolls her eyes, slanders Black woman to her face and/or behind her back*
- Black man to Black woman: "Ugh, you don't agree with my every word, so you must chase White men right, that makes you feel flattered right?" *rolls his eyes, slanders Black woman to her face and/or behind her back*
- White woman to Black woman: "Oh you're just jealous that I ONLY date Black men."
- Black man to Black woman: "Oh you're just jealous that I ONLY date White women."
- White woman to Black woman: "Oh, I thought the latest anti-Black misogynistic joke against Black women specifically, was funny! Don't you understand satire?"
- Black man to Black woman: "Whatever that White woman just said, I 100% agree. I didn't hear it, but that's no bother. Who needs facts when you have White women?"
Asexual Awareness Week website
Important because at times celibacy can be confused for asexuality. While asexual people can choose not to have sexual relationships (as some have despite never or rarely experiencing sexual attraction, even if they experience aesthetic, romantic and sensual attraction) or even date, there are people, heterosexual and queer who are celibate. Celibacy is disengaging from sexual activity. It doesn’t necessarily mean whomever that person finds attractive is no longer attractive to them. It doesn’t really even apply to someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction and doesn’t engage in sexual activity anyway, which describes many (not all) asexual people. ♠
- *in reply to a post about Black men needing a parallel to racism to be expressed before they can attempt to understand the racism, sexism, and misogynoir that Black women deal with*
- Black man: "Are you a Black woman that dates White men?"
- Me: "Well wouldn't I have to be? Why else would I oppose the oppression that Black men inflict upon Black women or oppose the way that White supremacist capitalist patriarchy creates a narrow space for Black masculinity to exist, which impacts the way in which Black men are oppressive and abusive to Black women. Because to date Black men must mean to give a pass to their abusive behaviors. Since I don't give a pass, then I must not only be heterosexual, I must date White men as well. Right? Some of you Black men and your ridiculously willful simplistic thinking. You're better than this. So stop already."
- Black man: "Fuck Black women. That's why I date White women anyway. They're better than y'all."
- Me: "Okay."
- Black man: "And...um...they're better than y'all!"
- Me: "Okay. Are you done because Scandal is about to start, so...gotta run..."
I have not personally come across this. Nobody mistakes me for anything but Black because of my complexion and my hair texture. There is no ambiguity. The only thing that came close was someone thought I was Black but Afro-Cuban because I used to dance salsa, so they spoke to me in Spanish, which I understand a little, but I explained to them that I’m Jamaican/first-gen American and not a Spanish-speaking Latina.
As far as men doing this to your friend, this type of approach is based on the idea that Black womanhood and Black sexuality is "inherently" deviant and should be desired but only to the extent that it is still possessed in a body that is not “completely” Black* and thereby ”superior” based on Eurocentric beauty standards, shaped by White supremacy, on a sliding scale where your friend is placed higher than Black women but lower than White women. (*Though of course some men like this specifically seek Black women; although not all interracial relationships are based on twisted, stereotypical racial politics.)
As far as White men approaching her like this, that is them “looking down” on her from the pedestal that they create for themselves via White supremacy. As far as Black men approaching her like this, that is them “looking up” at her from the social position that Blackness is ascribed to in a White supremacist society, which is the bottom. It’s deemed “slumming” for White men (which I alluded to here) and an “improvement” for Black men (which I alluded to here).
Certainly interracial couples exist without this above, though the history and racial politics never evaporate; they have to be understood, deconstructed and the oppressive ideological portions consistently discussed, challenged and rejected. But for those who cannot do this, then the games that I explained above continue.
As for racial questions as a pickup line? These men that talk to your friend suck and hope they are condemned to drink warm beer and sleep on a bed of Legos for eternity. How utterly ignorant they are.
Hope this answers your question. Take care.
In my essay Compulsory Heterosexuality, The Myth of Uniform Heterosexuality and Black Women (Yeah…This Is Personal) that includes my personal reflections about sexual orientation, sexual experience and sexuality, I mentioned that I view myself as somewhere between minimally sexual heterosexual and asexual. One of the comments left on that post was by someone who mentioned to me that the labeling for what I described about myself is Gray-A Heteroromantic, a distinction in asexuality. I vaguely knew of the distinctions in asexuality until my late 20s (mid 30s now) and though what I read about them over time sounded similar to what I felt, desired (or didn’t desire) and experienced, I was not sure about using the actual labeling. However, the chart below is helpful for me in imagining these clarifications. It’s not an “authority” on asexuality; just a chart.
It’s not about looking for an “appropriate” label because what exists will exist with or without categorization, but the language and conceptualization is effective. And it makes more sense for me than trying to explain why I am “heterosexual” yet have very little in common with heterosexuality other than a limited past experience with heterosexual sex, as I mentioned in my previous essay.
I always stuck to the label of minimally sexual heterosexual because what other Black women who are heterosexual in the most common sense of the word (but of course still face sexual deviance stereotypes and oppression because of misogynoir in a White supremacist society, despite having heterosexual privilege) told me about what they desire, how they respond to that desire, what sexual activity interests them and how they emotionally respond to all of this didn’t really speak to my feelings or experiences, though of course with my friends, we always respect eachother’s identities and desires etc. But when thinking about the complexities of heterosexuality, those assumed not to exist because of heterosexual privilege being viewed in a blanket way (no privilege is blanket; i.e. I don’t see anyone sterilizing heterosexual White men as heterosexual Black women have been by the State), I realized that some people I’ve known seemed asexual and seemed forced to perform heterosexuality—a few even alluded to this. I haven’t felt that force to do so in many years (thankfully), as I alluded to in my previous essay, but that pressure does exist and I did somewhat feel that pressure when I was much younger.
I was not sure about this label since asexuality is heavily policed. (Well…any sexual orientation and sexuality that is not State-sanctioned, State-licensed, monogamous, heterosexual and White has some level of policing and oppression associated with it, some more than others, and all intersectionally so.) And sometimes this policing includes "any sexual activity in one’s lifetime whatsoever means ‘disqualification’ from asexual identity." I don’t believe this is true, just as I personally know lesbians who’ve had sex with men before and are still lesbians. I get tired of the “past sexual activity” = “sexual orientation, core of desire” equation. It’s just not true. If sexual orientation was solely related to who someone recently had sex with, then all heterosexual or queer people who are celibate would be deemed asexual. And we know that’s not factual. When I write it out, it’s clear that it is not true, yet in my actual life because of this fairly minimal sexual past, I felt somewhat stuck with “heterosexual” as a label even if it didn’t really speak to who I am with the nuance I feel necessary.
Recently I’ve had some good conversations—mostly with Black and other women of colour—about the identification range amidst asexuality and how asexuality is excluded from sex positivity (which is supposed to accept all sexual orientations). The space that Whiteness occupies in sexuality (and everything else) has seriously left some people of colour having to defend and “prove” their identities to Whites; sadly, I watch this all day online. Thus, I find discussing anything with them on this topic to be very stressful; I can with only a handful of Whites. It’s become a “papers please” sexuality conversation with most them. And Black women ain’t got time for that. Further, there is complication because of race and gender. “Asexual” is readily associated with the mammy controlling image as is “hypersexual” (and usually heterosexual) with the Jezebel controlling image. Thus, even what should be “normal” sexual orientation classifications for most people (though asexuality has a greater stigma than heterosexuality, of course) for Black women there is oppression attached to whatever is claimed. (voltafish has two good essays on this: here and here.) This is why self-definition, exploration and reclamation is so important for us, regardless of how we identify.
Since my limited past sexual experience is hetero, I always claimed “hetero” as ID and accepted what heterosexual privilege accompanies that (though with all privilege, it’s nuanced; i.e. though both White and Black men have male privilege, it does not manifest in the same or equal ways for them). I’m not interested in “shedding” heterosexual privilege. Again, I didn’t write a difficult and (the aforementioned) personal essay of 2500+ words that was painful as fuck to write, to be quite honest, just to duck and dodge heterosexual privilege. It was to talk about how heterosexuality is not uniform and especially so for Black women, even if they are cishet. It was not “oppression olympics.” I loathe the term now. The term has come to mean ANTI-INTERSECTIONAL and erasure of differences. I feel like people are spitting on Audre Lorde’s genius every time they want differences silenced.
One thing that is clear is that sexuality is not a topic that can be discussed without intersectionality. Like…just no. I won’t even have a simple back and forth on Twitter if it is not intersectional. What Black woman has the luxury of ignoring intersectionality in a conversation about sexuality when people use stereotypes of our sexuality to build their careers while we’re punished for our nuanced realities that are viewed monolithically? These stereotypes are used to justify the idea that we can’t feel pain, invite street harassment into our lives, can’t be abused, can’t be raped, are sexually irresponsible, can’t be good mothers, drive Black men away (as if they’re halo-wearing innocents that we seek to harm), or that we’re all hypersexual heterosexuals (where hypersexual is a pejorative). As a tweet from @bad_dominicana alluded to, Black women who are heterosexual most definitely have privilege compared to Black LGBQ women and cis privilege when compared Black trans women. But when Whites in the LGBTQ community skip their happy asses over, ignoring the massiveness of White privilege and are ready to claim how heterosexual privilege for Black women—whose sexuality has been utterly devastated by White supremacy for centuries—are unilaterally oppressing them or are “more" homophobic etc. without recognizing how Black women are regularly excluded from womanhood, then I realize that we can’t really discuss sexuality. And just as I mentioned before that my closest friends are Black women, Black women tend to be the people I feel most comfortable discussing sexual politics with.
Because I find men attractive and like close emotional bonds (what I think of as the somewhat oxymoronic phrase [and only so because our society places sex above all] romantic non-sexual friendship; I also alluded to this in the original essay) from time to time though my interest in sex is minimal, virtually none in dating, zilch in marriage, and feel fine with years of aloneness (not the same as loneliness; not being in a heteronormative couple is not the same as having no one in your life), because my desire is barely like what heterosexuality covers, and wasn’t even when I was in heterosexual relationships in my younger twenties, I feel like Gray-A heteroromantic describes my sexual orientation best, and in a way that makes more sense to me than heterosexual.
It’s important for people to be able to discuss all sexuality including heterosexuality with nuance, acknowledge/check heterosexual privilege with nuance, not view asexuality as some sort of “reaction” to theism/shame/hatred of the opposite sex/abuse, and allow the space for judgment-free listening, learning and acceptance.
(My previous essay elaborates on how asexuality is not a “reaction” to something else, so please do not reblog thinking you’re going to “diagnose” me or worse, assert simplistic misogynoir as to how I “need” sex to “fix” me. It’s oppressive bigotry to suggest anyone’s sexual orientation itself is pathology.)