I love my culture. I am proud of by heritage. I couldn’t imagine being anything other than an African-American woman. Yet as much pride as I have in my community I cannot help but turn a critical eye to its shortcomings. See, despite our history and struggles our community is not very progressive. We are behind our peers when it comes to many social issues. One in particular is how we view human sexuality.
What strikes me most about Black sexuality is that almost every thing is taboo. Homosexuality, interracial dating, and pre-marital sex are taboo. Not only who and when we have sex but how we engage in the act can be a taboo. Anal sex, oral sex, sex work, swinging, sexual deviancy, open relationships, all taboo. Why?
I’ve observed that religious belief is one answer. Much of the Black community is heavily raised in the Church (regardless of personal identification with said Church) which tends to make us conservative by nature and likely to shy away from anything that is seen as a sin. Even if the individual isn’t conservative the pressure to conform to the standards of his or her peers is enough to force compliance. How many of us have been admonished by our elders against “shacking up”? How many Black woman are going to be eager to explore their sexuality if the results brand them a hoe? Gender roles is another reason. The Black community tends to adhere to very strict gender roles. This breeds a natural aversion to anything that does not fit within that box. For a man to display feminine characteristics or a woman to have masculine qualities is not widely accepted and most often met with open hostility. Even more toward those that identify themselves as transgendered or the rare hermaphrodite. Both of these reasons causes us to hide our sexuality if what we prefer to engage in isn’t traditional.
What I’ve also come to notice is that we tend to be preoccupied with how other cultures view us, mainly Whites. I don’t need to point out the obvious fact that we are over sexualized. A slight obsession with eliminating this perception of our culture causes us to either police our sexual behaviors or turn a blind eye. The thing is, it’s impossible to police what comes naturally and though we turn a blind eye the truth is that we participate in many of these “deviant” and “sinful” behaviors. I know more than a few Black couples that swing. Had close girlfriends swear that anal sex is the best thing ever. Was instructed how to give proper fellatio by a gay black man.
Policing our sexuality brings a cloud of shame to something that is completely natural. Turning a blind eye restricts open dialog about more pressing issues surrounding sexuality- such as teen pregnancy, the AIDS epidemic, and LGBT rights to name a few. These are real issues that will never be fully addressed in our community until we revolutionize the way we view sexuality.