by Latoya Peterson
Whose Pussy Is This?
Now I have to ask this question
Cuz you mothafuckas keep disrespectin’ my shit
In every line that your lame asses spit
I’m forced to hear about my pussy
That is always on sale
A hot retail item
wrapped in plastic
And this shit is drastic
Bcuz everyone thinks they too have ownership of something that belongs to me
And I do not agree with this [...]
—”Whose Pussy Is This?” by Chyann L. Oliver, published in Home Girls Make Some Noise
It all started with a note, surreptitiously passed to me in health class in 9th grade. My friend poked me across the aisle, and handed me a bit of notebook paper. In pencil, the note read, “Toya got a big ole butt, oh yeah!”
I first became aware of the male gaze when I was twelve years old. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I realized that a guy pulled up behind me on a busy highway, inquiring if I needed a ride somewhere and telling me how pretty I was. Until that point, I thought men only catcalled girls who wanted attention. I had friends who wore tight skirts and low cut tops and makeup, all things that were generally forbidden in my mother’s household. My outfit that day had passed muster with her – a blue baby tee, wide leg jeans (as went the suburban style in the 90s), white reebok classics. I looked my age. And yet, for some reason, men reacted to me differently.
The note slipped to me in 9th grade was the beginning of the realization that despite my best efforts, the most remarked upon part of my body would be my ass. More polite people would talk about my figure and point out all the benefits of being a classic hourglass. Less polite people would quote song lyrics at me (“Whoop, whoop, pull over, that ass is too fat!) or make rude remarks about what they would like to do with my ass. It never seemed to matter if I was a size 10 or a size 18 – my body shape would not be denied, no matter how many pounds I packed on.
Over time, I learned different strategies to cope with the attention I received. A large part of coping was reclaiming my body and learning to embrace my curves as a part of my own sexuality. In order to do that, I had to learn to separate the ideas projected on to me by others and understand how I felt about my own body. I discovered the affirming power of hip-hop – as well as its destructive objectification of the black female form. Just as Mark Anthony Neal informs his feminism with the acknowledgment it can be difficult to reconcile feminist principles with heterosexual male desire, it can be difficult to fuse cultural beauty standards, popular perceptions of the female form, and still come out with something resembling a healthy sense of the sexual self. Continue reading