By Guest Contributor Kama Spice
I recently remembered a first time. It was at a most inopportune moment of intimacy. I wouldn’t call it a flashback, but it was one of those sly memories that you have to worry like a bone before it makes itself clear.
I remembered that the first time my breasts had ever been fondled like that—and that I experienced pleasure from—was by my grandfather. The memory left a hollow feeling, as if a hole had been blown open in my chest. I had to grieve, of course—grieve the loss of innocence, the absence of choice in an awakening that should have been filled with wonder and magic and spirit as well as sensuality and sexuality. In its stead, I was left now, for life, with a memory that would leave me quaking with a revulsion that was laced through with arousal and shame. A crime of the gravest proportions—and one that would go unpunished by any state, federal, or cultural laws because I would not tell. Because I would swallow the shame and believe it mine until I was decades away from the crime.
I’d always yearned to have those kinds of innocent sexual awakenings I’d read about in coming of-age stories or watched on TV or in the movies. The kinds with white girl angst and supportive parents or adults who helped teens accept themselves and work through their problems. The reality is that all of my firsts happened before the age of thirteen—most before the age of seven when my parents weren’t looking.
When I grew older, I learned through talking with cousins and friends, that mine was not an uncommon experience—at least among black and brown girls. All of us knew well the creepy uncle, the leering cousin, the adult males around us who stared when they thought no one was looking, or whose hugs and “affectionate” touches lingered just a touch too long. And most of us had parents who worked too many hours in the day to ever catch up on sleep, let alone keep track of what was happening with their children.
We didn’t want to be additional burdens. We wanted to be loved innocently like the smiling children in Disneyworld commercials. We wanted back what had been stolen. We were desperate to be little girls, but we’d been introduced to adult mysteries, and the time for innocence had slipped through our fingers.
At the same time, we weren’t quite ready to be adults. We were staggering around with great loads in our arms, trying to figure out this unpredictable terrain we were in—trying to figure out who we were, where we were headed, and if we would ever get somewhere solid, somewhere safe. Many of my cousins and friends went on to date violent, abusive, unavailable, or inaccessible partners. Others were promiscuous or self-destructive in their search for the love we all desperately longed for— that elusive, innocent, safe one that is every child’s birthright. We thought that maybe if we entered enough scenarios that reminded us of the abuse we’d had no control over as little girls—maybe if we re-created those scenarios enough times as adults who now had more power and control over our lives—maybe this time we would triumph.
Maybe this time we would come out unmarred, with our innocence intact.
We kept replaying those scenes in various ways, in varying intensities. Some of us still are. Many of us were able to break the cycles enough to become functioning, successful women, and some committed to doing the psychic surgery required to remove the poisons from our wounds. It’s lifelong, the work of re-wiring psyche, brain, mind, heart, sexuality and spirit. For me, the journey is ever-evolving. When a person’s sexuality is desecrated, so too is her spirit. The two are inextricably intertwined, like threads on a vine. When one of those threads is hacked, it’s the entire soul that reels from the impact.
I knew how to plunge headlong into sexual interaction, and enjoy it, but knew nothing about opening my heart and soul to another person. I knew the pleasures of the flesh well because I’d learned them early, as had my cousins and sisters. But the terrain of sex mingled with love was a dangerous one for all of us.
Now, I write erotic romance. It has been healing and liberating on many levels. All of my stories intertwine sexuality with sensuality with spirituality, because to me they are all different facets of the same gem. All of my stories look at the sexuality of girls and women within the context of the larger world they live in—one that is usually male-dominated, where sex is a pleasure and privilege reserved for men, in a society where young girls are often the most vulnerable members.
Some of the most powerful healing for me has been through creating a fantasy world based on some of the underpinnings of what we know, but that bends these realities to empower the women and girls in that world. My characters are shapeshifters—descendents of saber-tooth cats, and I write the sex scenes on the page, not off the page. In other words, I don’t end a scene where they’re about to have sex with something like, “and then they closed the door.”
If you’re squeamish about reading explicit sex scenes, these may not be your cup of tea. But for me, writing them—writing scenes of explicit, consensual sexuality where women willingly and actively participate in their own pleasure—has been empowering. It has been incredibly healing to write sex within the context of spirit and love. In a way, I know I am rewriting my own history.
The emails I get from readers—women who get what I’m doing and were similarly violated before they even had a vocabulary to define the violation—are an extremely gratifying bonus. There are numerous studies that show poverty and racism exponentially increase the likelihood of childhood sexual abuse for girls of color. I can’t change those conditions, but I can continue to write new stories, and rewrite old ones.