By Sexual Correspondent Andrea Plaid
A while ago, Latoya Peterson, and I offered a two-fer about the Ciara/Justin Timberlake video, “Love Sex Magic.” The image of Timberlake pulling Ciara’s dog leash brought up the idea of “race play” and racism. Sexologist Bianca Laureano suggested that I talk to Mollena, a expert on race play, about it. (This interview’s entirety is posted at Mollena’s blog, The Perverted Negress.)
Andrea: What is race play?
Mo: I define “Race Play,” In broad terms, as any type of play that openly embraces and explores the (either “real” or assumed) racial identity of the players within the context of a BDSM scene. The prime motive in a “Race Play” scene is to underscore and investigate the challenges of racial or cultural differences.
Andrea: Would you mind giving an example of race play?
Mo: There are the obvious ones. We in the US like to think we have cornered the market on racial politics. So, obviously, people go for Antebellum South slavery stuff. But even there, there are many variations: you can have the White master/Black slave thing. You can have a “tables-turned” scenario, with a slave seducing the master, blackmailing them. The “Mandingo” black stud thing. And let us not forget we [Black folks] owned one another. And let us not forget the skin color caste system! “High yellow” versus dark skinned….
This expands to a lot of sins in this country: Whites [and] Native Americans; the internment camps where we packed up Japanese Americans.
But it isn’t just us….how about a captured Iraqi prisoner tortured by Marines? Or a Sinn Féin extremist being interrogated by a rogue SIS agent? Or a dark skinned Indian person avenging themselves on a lighter-skinned higher-caste individual? North [and] South Koreans. Hutu [and] Tutsi…
The only limit is your imagination.
This is part of the reason I boggle at the knee-jerk reaction people have. The fact that something is scary, dangerous, real: why does this mean you should not explore it? For fuck’s sake, driving a car is dangerous. Falling in love is dangerous. Understanding that part of the draw, to me, of BDSM is that it tests my fortitude in this body and in this mind and with this heat is what keeps me doing it. How the fuck am I going to let something stop me because it is scary?
Andrea: But we both know folks aren’t going to see it that way. They want to use that very real painful history to not think of it as fantasy fodder.
Mo: Sure. And more power to them. Not everyone volunteers to be hit with a whip traveling at the speed of sound either. But I do it because it fascinates me.
Andrea: But, I suspect, is some folks give it *too* much power. They use it as a way to police the desires of others. As you saw on the threads for my and Latoya’s posts.
Mo: And I understand that. But the root of all of that is fear. Straight up. Fear that you will be judged by the acts of others. Fear that there is something out there you cannot understand. Also, fear that it fascinates you, and that perhaps you are “one of those perverts.” That is often a deep rooted factor, too.
Mo: I have a very high capacity for empathy. Which is great! However. It doesn’t discriminate. I can empathize with MANY types of people, even those some would consider evil, [l]ike sadists. SO I can explore that in the relatively safe corral of BDSM, and see how it is to be aroused by the pain of others.
Mo: The idea that someone might hate you PURELY because of your identity is horrific. [I]t dehumanizes you, and it makes you “less than.” So, in the context of BDSM, it is fair game for that type of play.
Andrea: And words like “normal”–as in “normal” sex, which some folks wouldn’t consider BDSM and race play–get employed to convey “good.”
Mo: Right. If you do that “kinky shit” you CANNOT, by definition, be mentally sound. Or you have some agenda.
Andrea: Like not uplifting The Race! (Insert PoC group here)
My vagina isn’t really interested in uplifting the race. What pussy wants is fucked up stuff, really dark scenarios that test the boundaries and cut with an exhilarating level of danger. Stepping razor dangerous, like the song goes.
Andrea: Next question: how is race play similar and different from BDSM? If it is any different?
Mo: It isn’t different from BDSM, it is an aspect of BDSM. It can encompass many different aspects. Obviously, role-playing comes to mind. In the same way that a pair of 6″ stilettos and a pair of flip flops are both shoes, race play and a spanking, for example, can all be aspects of BDSM. But different types of people are going to find either one sexier. The vast majority of kinky people would never admit to dong racially based play or fantasizing about it because of the PC thing. My thinking is this: in the same way pendulums have to swing to reach equilibrium, the BDSM community has to breathe around this aspect of Kink.
And as to those who are non-kink identified….it is even more challenging. They have a double hurdle: “Grokking” kink at ALL, then groking one of the MOST controversial types of play.
Andrea: That gets read on the outside of the communities that white folks want to re-enact slavery again and BDSM may be that vehicle. Ergo, “keep BDSM away!”
Mo: Yeah, because kink is a gateway drug for racism. Please.
Andrea: What I’m running into is people want to do those things and use 1)white folks, 2) the ancestors, and 3) the [children] as their reasoning to not even think about the issue.
Mo: Most “white folks” (meaningless term, blah blah) are more uncomfortable around this than you know. And I have spoken with the ancestors. They are delighted that I can fucking choose to do this for a few bloody hours. I can go into the Big Ass Ice Cream Parlor of Racism and have a sample spoon, and leave. I’m not trapped there being force fed the Rocky Road Ice Cream of Oppression until I am sick. It is all about choice.
Andrea: And consent.
Mo: I hope people fucking get that. Understand this one thing and then you’ll be well on the pathway.
Look, I have never lived in the South on a plantation and felt the terror of my life every moment at the hands and whims of an owner or of another slave with an agenda. However, I can pretend. And, in a very real emotional sense, I have tasted what that is like. It is a screaming band of pain that still resonates in this country, on this fucking planet, you know. But it is just under the radar. I can hear it when I play there. I experience it. It is a terror that I can’t completely understand. But one thing I learned in this play: resistance is harder than it looks.
Andrea: Then the question comes back: “But *why* would you want to do that? Can’t you just look at lynching picture and get the damn point?” (I’m being facetious…and to some folks, quite blasphemous. But I’m going there….)
Mo: Why is because I live viscerally. I obtain a profound benefit to living the reality as deeply as I can emotionally. In the race play scenes I have done that involved black / white dynamics, do you know what the scariest thing was? That I ultimately gave up. I am NOT of the resistant blood. I’m a quitter. I was afraid, I gave in. That is a lot to have about your nature revealed.
Andrea: What did it reveal?
Mo: That I am, at heart, obedient. Even in a scene where I had disassociated and genuinely feared for my life, I gave up. I’m genuinely, at the core, submissive in a way I am certain does not translate to my present-day self! I hoped it would be quick and over fast.
Andrea: Obedient…to whom?
Mo: Obedient to authority.
Andrea: I think I’m getting it…grokking it.
Mo: *LOL* Win! We all like to think we’d be Kunta fucking Kinte–
Andrea: ‘Cause that’s the narrative we’re fed from yea-high. “We gotta be strong in the face of whitey, y’all”
Mo: Sure, go ahead and be strong in the face of whitey. But if you get hot because whitey has beaten your ass and taken you down…but you endured….then you have a whole new lease on life, man. In honesty, there were millions of us enslaved by a few hundred thousand people. Jews were systematically destroyed by Nazis in camps where there were many, many more prisoners than guards.
Andrea: I remember someone saying the biggest damage the Nazis did to Jews was psychological.
Mo: It is true they had people walk to their own deaths. Fucking horrific. And yet if someone of Jewish descent wants to have a Nazi interrogation scene, to sip a bit of that bitter, bitter cup, who the fuck are you to say that is wrong?
Doing race play is HARD. It isn’t some walk in the fucking park. And finding people I trust enough to do it with is almost impossible because it is hard, and they are at risk.
Andrea: It’s like we hold the painful history as a sacred mythology that is not to be blasphemized.
Mo: But it is not blasphemy to want to touch that wound. You can’t heal something in your soul by letting it remain in its original state of pain. It HAS to be touched. Otherwise it will never heal.
Andrea: And being as puritanical as we are about sex, we wield that history when it comes to our sex lives–the double bind.
Mo: I am not recommending that people run out and play aunt Jemima Uncle Tom games with any random [White person], for the love of Ganesha. I’m saying that, if this intrigues you, think about why. And I am saying it if repulses you, think about why–really think. Don’t do some knee-jerk bullshit.
And Black folks in the US are not known for being sexually liberated. Which is why the hypersexualization of our imagery over the years is a double helix of irony.
Andrea: But that wound also gives us an identity. And, like I’ve said to folks before, we love self-mythologies, sacred stories we tell about ourselves.
Next question (and we sorta touched on this)–why do you think communities of color, specifically Black communities, feel the need to police their desires…to the point they won’t explore sexual/erotic practices that some folks deem “racially incorrect”? And, more importantly, play police for The Race?
Mo: There is certainly the aspect of our very conservative and deeply religious background. We have a strong church-based community–that isn’t something that is easy to shake. The fact is that we have put ourselves in a position where we have to “prove ourselves” in order to survive. From jump, we’ve been at a disadvantage here. So now that we’ve reached a point where we actually have a fighting chance, people don’t want anything that may jeopardize or mitigate, in THEIR eyes, our position of moral superiority. It is the idea we are “above” that.
Andrea: ::nods head:: And we do that by saying certain sexual practices, like BDSM and race play, are the things that “white folks do” or “what white folks want us to do.”
Mo: Exactly. So we deny ourselves the very fucking freedoms that our ancestors, or parents and grandparents struggled to give us. Freedom has no business being compartmentalized so that it remains frozen in some idealized space. Freedom is messy.
Andrea: The interracial history, esp. when it comes to fucking, is so fraught that we’d think “folks” would look at the Ciara/Justin Timberlake vid[eo] and think, “He’s oppressing her, and she likes it. Gahh!” and clutch their pearls.
Mo: Yeah. OK. SO? The part here where you have all the info you need is this: “And she likes it.” The “why” is none of your fucking business–in this case, the “why” is purely money.
Andrea: What? Mollena, that’s racial blasphemy.
Mo: I know, I know. I feel us slipping back to the 1950s every time I masturbate. It is a huge burden, really.
The one thing–the only thing–that separates BDSM from abuse is consent. Now, there is implied consent. However, at no point is [there] not [sic] control. Never.
Dominants can wear what they want and do what they want. The idea of teasing with the body can have a dominant tone. What bugs me is that it is “OK of the black person is dominant but “NOT UPLIFTING THE RACE!!” if she’s submissive. I have gotten shit from black dominants about race play–even as they top white submissives.
I’ve had people who I know for a FACT do race play fuck me over in public for doing it in public. But it is OK for them to do it, just not OK for people to know about it.
Andrea: Jeez…even in race play there the “We gotta be strong–in this case, top white folks?”
Mo: Yes. Payback, you see. We aren’t getting reparations, so go beat up some White [person] and get yours.
Andrea: And, it’s up to *you* to keep my image up. SMH
Mo: Exactly, because then, of course, all White people will feel all PoCs are fair game…but the thing is this: ignorant fuckers have been doing inappropriate shit for years. Is it possible that talking about it makes it bloody fucking clear that it is never OK to make that assumption? But when I get a message form a POC who says to me “I thought I was the only one, thank you for talking about that, I felt terrible!” it is worth it. Truly.
Andrea: Guuuuuuuuurl. ::fist pump::
Mo: Really. I have, in my 12 years, had one person say to me “I wanna do a race play scene with you.” ONE. Why is that? 1) I am, evidently, hella intimidating (which kinda sucks but that is another discussion), 2) I live in CA, where the PC thing is strong, and 3) I make it bloody fucking clear it is not acceptable for you to ever ask someone to bottom to you in that type of scene. I feel it really has to come from the person being the “victim.” This is my approach. If they are doing it in their heads anyway, best to know WHO those people are, right?
Sure, people get ideas. But if you think denial and silence will crush desire–
Andrea: But ideas don’t equal actions.
Mo: All you have to do is look at a few numbers on the porn industry.
Mo: Ideas CAN move to action.
Mo: But I am not responsible for anything except living an ethical life, being true to my God, and respecting this planet and her inhabitants–the rest is outside of my control. And those who would be The Race Police can take a fucking page from the Serenity prayer. Grab some wisdom. You are never going to change the way people are wired.
Andrea: People act as if the ideas will run tsunami-like and overtake them. Thus, Timberlake and Ciara are making it open season on white men (and PoC men) to put dog collars on Black women. It’s like, dudes, no. It’s not.
Mo: You canchange your attitude and judgments around other folk’s desires, and choice.
–[and] send them my way, please, those hot white men looking to stalk and tackle Negresses. I got a boot handy for them.
Andrea: Last of my questions (again, we touched on it, but for the record)–how can we move the conversation within our communities so we can talk about BDSM and race play as sexual/erotic possibilities?
Mo: Yeah. there is the rub. First off: people who do play this way have to come out of the closet. Until players stand up, there will be a continued marginalization–and that there is the easy part.
The harder part is having people within the community put down the “Us vs.Them” thing. It can’t be all about being apart from our desires because they are scary–there has to be room in the dungeon for everyone’s emotional play. Every person who is ashamed of their desires is anther person we damage indirectly with our scathing commentary and harsh judgments–
Andrea: –or the desires may make “those folks” think you’re fulfilling stereotypes.
Mo: Whether or not you are fulfilling stereotypes, this is beside the question. I know this is nuanced, but it is critical: all stereotypes are based on facts and observations that have been bred and fed to damage and wound and kill. If you take that snarling dog, that offensive beast, and tame it to your own ends, you win.
The hardest part is taking yourself out of your comfort zone, thinking differently–
Andrea: –to talk about kink and BDSM and race play if not do it.
Mo: Yes. And to listen to those who are dumb enough to expose themselves to threats and ostracization and loss of friends and ridicule and psychological dissection. Who is more racially sound? The person who melts down and freaks out and blows up because someone calls them a nigger? Or the person who, on hearing that epithet, knows that they have been given the gift of information? Knowing that an ugliness has been revealed, and now you can act accordingly? Those words don’t control me anymore. I am not immune to racism. But I’ve been inoculated, and my soul can fight off that spiritual infection. I think THAT is overcoming.
Andrea: Now let me get this right: it’s wrong to ask [to assumptively ask about domming or subbing in race play] because….
Mo: For me, I feel it is wrong to ask because I now know you want this specific thing, and I have to trust that you don’t have creepy ass motives. And for me, it is important for me to suss the person out without this in their head or my head. I need to just feel them emotionally. Then, if the thought occurs to me, “Hey…they might be kinda good with that…,” then I drop the hankie, as it were.
Andrea: I think I’m getting it…it’s an assumption about you’re not being indiscriminate about how who you’d play with.
Mo: Right. If you assume that I’ll do that with you, I kind of use that as a litmus test.
Andrea: It’s like, “I’d know you’re into it, and I’m into it, so I know you want me (strange person off the streets) to play with you.” And your reaction is, “Ummmm…do I know you like that? Just because I’m into race play doesn’t mean I wanna play with *you*.”
Mo: EXACTLY–and I stress that really really hard when I teach for the fact is most PoCs don’t wanna go there.
To my critics, I say “Look, this is the alpha and omega when I present.”
Andrea: You mean the PoCs who are into race play?
Mo: No. To the PoCs who do not think it is OK. Their position is well diagrammed in my presentations. So [zie’s] position is well represented. Really.
Now excuse me while this white guy ties me up and slices my clothes off.
Mo: Good for them. Sex is sexy. It is sometimes fucked up–and that is also sexy.
*Grok(king): “to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed-to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science-and it means as little to us (because of our Earthly assumptions) as color means to a blind man.”
Image Credit: Mollena/Self-Portrait