All posts by Andrea

Interview with The Perverted Negress

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 MollenaMollena, 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. Continue reading

I Like the Erotic and the Porn: Looking Back at Audre Lorde’s “Uses of the Erotic”

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea Plaid

I feel like I can’t call myself a “good” Black feminist if I’m not down with Audre Lorde. I feel fake if I don’t raise my fist or give an “Amen!” when another Black feminist or a feminist of color says/writes/puts on a t-shirt, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

Then I add “sex-positive” to the “Black feminist” descriptor–I try to be of “do-you-with-lots-of-latex-lube-and-consent” crew–and then I feel like Audre and I don’t see sexing it up the same way, especially around ideas of what’s erotic and what’s pornography.

So, I sat down and reconsidered her essay, “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.”

But first, some background about me: I came to feminist theory, as bell hooks says, to explain the pain of my surviving rape at the age of five. I needed an answer to the pain of someone feeling entitled to override my bodily integrity, my being able to sexually consent. I also looked at my late father’s porn at a very early age, too. My mom said a “good Black woman” didn’t have sex before she was engaged and the “facts of life” were explained via her old nursing books or when a biological event (like my first period), a TV show, or a book mentioning sex precipitated the discussion by her.

Something had to give—or synthesize.

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The Race™-Approved White Guys [Humor]

By Sexual Correspondent AJ Plaid and Guest Contibutor (and regular commenter) Fiqah
robin and rihanna

After re-reading some of the responses to the Ciara/Justin Timberlake post and extensively confabbing over brunches about it, we finally figured out that the greatest transgression Ciara committed wasn’t the BDSM imagery (though some wanted to switch the argument from that to “this is just racist!” or otherwise dodge-the-discomfort comments and conversations) or that she and her gurls were doing their private dance for a white guy.  It was the white guy himself.

Then we did a bit of snooping. Thanks to our gal-pal in the sex & relationship scene, Twanna Hines of Funky Brown Chick, we found an Essence listing of white guys who have paired with Black women.  We looked at the posts—and at each other—and decided that they didn’t go far enough.

Therefore, in an effort to make sure such a pop-culture faux-pas don’t happen again, we’ve composed a list of white guys who are deemed The Race™-sanctioned—any Black female performer can be seen with these white performers and know she’s doing right by Us™. Our criteria:

  1. We know they’ve dated, are dating, are married to, have and/or have babies by Black women. (Having Black or Black biracial daughters, adopted or biological, is an added bonus. ‘Cause, as some of us wanna believe, if the white guy can touch/sex up/adopt/father a sistah, they can not possibly be…well, you know the rhetoric.)
  2. They can actually have performing-arts skills. (This leaves out Kevin “K-Fed” Federline.)
  3. They’re famous in their own right. (This kinda sorta leaves out Gabriel Aubry. Some early men-watchers know him as a model. But many more know him for siring Halle Berry’s baby. If you don’t believe us, say Aubry’s name and “model.” Then say Aubry’s name and “Halle Berry’s baby’s daddy.” Record the results.)
  4. We get the 6th Sense* that they’ve been with sistahs but aren’t talking about it.
  5. We sistahs have sensed the sexual tension between these dudes and the sistahs on-screen.
  6. They’re not Justin Timberlake.

So, in some sort of brunch drink-induced order, and with some of the sexiest snaps we can find on Google (oh yeah, the numbers correspond to the criterion/a we believe these guys fit. We assumed points 2, 3, and 6 for all of them):

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Lil Wayne, Sexual Violation, and The “Acceptable” Black Male Discourse

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea Plaid

I give mad kudos to Cara for her smartly written analysis about Lil’ Wayne having his rape exploited as talk-show fodder on Jimmy Kimmel’s show. She said a lot of what I was thinking when I saw the clip. She felt her thoughts were “long and wandering”, but she sorted through several pieces of baggage packed in that 2 ½ minute clip and, sometimes, the usual short-n-snappy post writing style just doesn’t cut it. But we can further unpack this conversation around race, men, and sexual violation.

The final consideration in analyzing the reaction to this story is the question of race. Again, Sociological Images asserts that the reason people do not see this as rape is because Lil’ is not only male, but a black male.

It’s certainly true that black men are hyper-sexualized, and that anyone who is hyper-sexualized is instantly construed as unrapeable, all other considerations becoming irrelevant. But at the same time, while Lil’ Wayne’s race surely plays a part not only in the failure to interpret his “virginity loss” as rape but also the prodding by the while males for him to brag about the assault he endured, I’m unsure that this would necessarily be interpreted as rape if a white male was the victim. For an example of why, you can again see above.

Then again, Anthony Kiedis is also interpreted as hyper-sexual both due to the image that he has created for himself and by virtue of being a rock star. Take that away and leave his situation with clearly older predators in tact, and you may have a situation where a white male would be seen as a victim, but a black male (or perhaps other male of color) would not be. It’s not easy to say. While we can say with certainty that racism plays a role in the reactions we see to the story that Lil’ Wayne recounts, we can’t say how exactly the reactions would be different when racism is taken out of the picture.

Unpacking the Kiedis/Wayne Comparison

Though both are famous male musicians whom were raped by older women in their lives (Kiedis’ father’s girlfriend; Wayne’s babysitter), the analysis can’t just rest on “these guys survived sexual violation.” It’s the same mushed notion that all female victims suffer rape and other sexual violence without consideration of other factors, like race. Rock stars, especially white ones, are given more latitude to discuss and display a gamut of emotions and experiences, including physical, emotional and sexual violations, from classic rock to emo and beyond. Lil’ Wayne, being a Black male–and a hip-hop artist at that, in an industry that says Black male voices are profitable and, therefore, listenable only in R&B and hip-hop–simply isn’t allowed that same space to talk about such issues.

Unpacking the Statistical Silence
The National Center for Victims of Crime runs down some of the latest numbers :

  • About 3% of American men – a total of 2.78 million men – have experienced a rape at some point in their lifetime.
  • In 2003, one in every ten rape victims was male. While there are no reliable annual surveys of sexual assaults on children, the Justice Department has estimated that one of six victims are under age 12.
  • 71% of male victims were first raped before their 18th birthday; 16.6% were 18-24 years old, and 12.3% were 25 or older.
  • Males are the least likely to report a sexual assault, though it is estimated that they make up 10% of all victims. Continue reading

Your Sex Acts–And Partners–Aren’t Uplifting the Race

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea Plaid

My gurl S., who followed the Justin Timberlake/Ciara post and thread very closely, just about fell out while we talked on the phone.

She was apoplectic over Timberlake pulling Ciara’s chain in the video, of that salient image of BDSM (and possible race play) as well as the article about race play I linked to in the comment thread. Too through, she told me she “had to get up from the computer when I read about race play.” “I mean, I knew about it, but I never read about it in detail. I just can’t believe it!!”

“I know,” I told S. “I know.” ‘Cause I’ve heard this reaction to race play before. Talking to another blogger, she flipped out pretty bad about it. I had to calm her down by saying, ‘I feel you. Personally, I think of race play and, yeah, I feel the body memories of slavery, too. And, yeah, I even felt a negative undercurrent in Hernandez’s piece, one of ‘This isn’t uplifting The Race!’ But, S., I’ll tell you what I told the blogger: the reality is–whether we like it or not–people are into it.”

“And, I added, “you can’t flip out about race play [with the Racial Uplift] argument because some folks can use the same argument about your liking anal beads: ‘The slavemasters–and white men–have stuck all kinds of objects into us to violate us. Why would you want to do something like that? That’s not uplifting the race!’”

S. got quiet. “Yeah, you’re right.”

Unfortunately, this argument gets whipped out among people of color when a PoC steps out of sexual line of “acceptable” sex practices and partners, especially in a public space, like Ciara did in her “Love Sex Magic” video. On the thread from the other day, she gets “read” as a slut corrupting the youth or a victim of the patriarchy or both. Some of the comments:

“Ciara is clearly desperate…her albums aren’t selling like the execs thought they would…in sense she is a slave…so the video is perfect fit.”

“The video is way sexualized to a point that’s unnecessary…My issue is with the fact that Ciara chose to go so far that she came off as tacky.”

“I don’t know that I’ve witnessed this much (grand plié in 2nd position) crotch, thigh waving and close-up butt rumbling by non-brown bodies in a music videos of late…She is dancing around and below him, she is an armrest for him, she is performing for him (and us – not an essentially bad thing, but a thing I’m keeping in mind) . . .”

“Ciara tends to be very sexualized in general. Did anyone see her performance with Chris Brown at the BET awards? This is how she markets herself…But I feel Ciara’s video is too sexual, and I blame that all on her. We need to start making women accountable in these situations.”

“I think the portrayal of Black women in general, rather a Black rapper or rip-off artist like Justin Timberlake, is discraceful no matter who does it. We have girls and boys, Black, white, latino, asian, in middle school watching this crap, and thinking this is how men and women act, and women should have to get half naked to get status while boys have to be immature, crass, and disrespectful, its alienating to the self and destroys creativity. What ever happened to convincing and natural sexuality?” Continue reading

I Didn’t Know My–Or Michelle’s–Ass Was That Interesting

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea Plaid

Did United Statesians electing its first president of color become an implicit invitation for liberal/progressive media outlets to talk about Black and brown behinds?

According to two of them, yep.

Salon started off the conversation with Erin Aubry Kaplan’s essay, “First Lady Got Back,” where she waxes ecstatic about First Lady Michelle Obama’s behind:

“…while it isn’t humongous, per se, it is a solid, round, black, class-A boo-tay. Try as Michelle might to cover it with those Mamie Eisenhower skirts and sheath dresses meant to reassure mainstream voters, the butt would not be denied.

As America fretted about Obama’s exoticism and he sought to calm the waters with speeches about unity and common experience, Michelle’s body was sending a different message: To hell with biracialism! Compromise, bipartisanship? Don’t think so. Here was one clear signifier of blackness that couldn’t be tamed, muted or otherwise made invisible. It emerged right before our eyes, in the midst of our growing uncertainty about everything, and we were too bogged down in the daily campaign madness to notice. The one clear predictor of success that the pundits, despite all their fancy maps, charts and holograms, missed completely? Michelle’s butt.”

As my friend Tom would say, “Stop, Miss Gurl.”

There’s more–infinitely more–to what makes our new First Lady beautiful and a challenge to the white-beauty standard than her boo-tay. If Aubry Kaplan would have delved into the beauty-brains combo she started to discuss (“She has coruscating intelligence, beauty, style…”), the piece would have been sort of all right. Nope, just Michelle’s ass.

Then here comes Alternet with Myra Mendible’s “Big Booty Beauty and the New Sexual Aesthetic. Her take on the ass thang:

“We should not underestimate the symbolic value of buttocks. Butt metaphors helped European cultures categorize and describe their others, ascribing bodily differences certain moral and intellectual attributes. Gilman argues that, “Beginning with the expansion of European colonial exploration, describing the forms and size of the buttocks became a means of describing and classifying the races. The more prominent the more primitive…” (Making the Body Beautiful). British culture, in particular, identified the buttocks with primitive or debased sexuality (Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex). Non-Western women were associated with the “lower regions” of the body and characterized in terms of their abundant backside. Similarly, in American culture, the U.S.-Mexico border marked a figurative divide between Northern mind and Southern body, rationality and sensuality, domestic and foreign. This bodily trope culled associations between the lower body and the inferior, more primitive “under” developed “torrid zones” south of the border; it often served to rationalize U.S. military interventions or corporate exploitation of Latin American labor and resources.”

Analytically speaking, what Mendible wrote is what Aubry Kaplan should have written: a more nuanced reflection on the history and meaning of the colored butt in the erotic imaginations and racial and gender definitions of white people and Black men and Latinos and how that loaded image became a policy of exploitation for both groups. In other words, a little intersectionality would have helped Aubry Kaplan’s essay. Continue reading

What’s on your inauguration ball playlist?

by Racialicious sexual correspondent Andrea Plaid

My homegurl Bianca and I IM’d each other last night about the history we US citizens made with electing Barack Obama as president. (I still get chills thinking about it!)

Then The Question came up: what music should play at the Inauguration Ball?

So, Racialicious readers, the question is on the floor–if the price of admission to the Ball was one song for the playlist, which song would you choose? (My choice: “Funky Kingston,” by Toots and the Maytals.)

Go Ahead, Vote for Obama’s Body (Slightly NSFW)

by Racialicious Sexual Correspondent Andrea Plaid

As some of you Racialicious readers know, quite a few of us love some fine men around here, regardless of our genders and orientations. And what I mean by “fine” is how Lisa Jones, author of Bulletproof Diva: Tales of Race, Sex, and Hair, means it: “cute with a story.” So, I’m getting this out of the way right now.

I think Senator Barack Obama is a fine-looking man.

But what’s been said recently about this sexy man and his self-identified Black phallus is causing some consternation and situating his sexuality in a strange dichotomous discourse.

Former Playgirl editor-in-chief Nicole Caldwell wrote a feature in last week’s NY Press about how obsessed some people are about Obama’s looks, by how sexy he is, and how their ideas about his sexiness falls into racialized sexual fantasies, namely that his Black maleness makes him good in bed and how that stereotype may anchor some of the buzziness in folks’ erotic fantasies about him and may be the reasoning behind their voting for him. However, that stereotyped-based buzziness, Caldwell contends, may be the very thing could ruin his chance to become president.

This being a sex-centered issue of the NYP, Caldwell tried hard—maybe a little too hard—to bring the bawdy talk about Bama. In her lede she interviewed a 52-year-old white moderate Republican man who had sex with a white twenty-something Obama supporter. During the sexual encounter, the Democrat moaned a name: Obama’s name. In the piece itself, she describes how women have written to her about how Playgirl perpetuates racist stereotypes about Black men by featuring brothas with long penises, the post-Kennedy/Nixon debate mindset of the physical and the visual mean the political, and the US celebrity culture and race operating in our collective erotic imagination. Then she calls in the cultural and political analysts, including our own Carmen Van Kerckhove.

(Note: Caldwell called Racialicious “salacious.” Like I said, we can get down like that over here—and, yes, Carmen starts a lot of it with her Keanu Reeves posts–but La Playgirl EIC is seriously reaching, like all we do is write about the folks we want to sex up and how, served anti-racism style.)

“I’ve always been a little perplexed around the media’s obsession with Barack’s looks,” says Carmen Van Kerckhove, co-founder and president of racial consulting firm New Demographic and head of the popular and salacious blog, Racialicious. “He’s good looking for a politician, but he doesn’t have movie-star good looks.” Van Kerckhove calls this overemphasis on the candidate’s looks trite. “People think, ‘I can’t be racist, I think Obama is good looking.’ I’ve always interpreted people tripping over themselves to say how good-looking he is as revealing a level of [embedded] racism.” Continue reading