This post starts off the new Black Witch series, “How Much Do You Love Me?” Normal posting resumes in April.
How culture see sex and sexuality, it is in such weird forms. It is everywhere but taboo, there are so many harmful myths within realities, misconceptions and stuff that’s just plain wrong or creepy. Sex and sexuality comes in different forms so let’s start with the basics and bust a few myths along the way, shall we?
The different forms of sexuality/orientation:
Heterosexuality: Pretty simple – it means that you’re attracted to the opposite sex. So if you’re a guy, you like girls. If you’re a girl, you like guys.
Homosexuality: Also simple – it means that you’re attracted to the same sex. So, if you’re a guy, you like guys. If you’re a girl, you like girls.
Bisexuality: Quite Simple – Attraction to both genders. Regardless of whether you are a guy or a girl, you like both guys and girls.
Now here comes the lesser known sexualities/orientations!
Demisexuality – A person, regardless of gender, does not experience a sexual attraction to anyone unless a strong emotional connection is formed.
Pansexuality – Attracted to all genders identities and both sexes. They reject the gender binary.
Asexuality – No sexual attraction to anyone. Doesn’t mean they don’t have the ability to have sex, just no desire to.
Now in case someone goes, “You forgot sapiosexual!” I’m gonna talk about this right now. For those that don’t know, Sapiosexual is supposed to mean “Sexual attraction to those who are intelligent” and is not a valid sexuality/orientation. Feeling emo? Don’t because here is why:
A) Intelligence is a bit subjective. What one person could see someone as smart, somebody else could see as a dunce. Intellegence is more than knowing how to recite Pi. For example, Neil Tyson-Degrasse is really smart…when it comes to astrophysics. When he made the remark he did about the Mayans and how invalid their wheel of the year was and that they were wiped out because the Western world was going New Agey and hijacking their wheel of the year, he didn’t appear so smart. If you need to know the weight of Mercury and the statistical probability of it sling shooting the Earth into Jupiter, he’s your guy. Ask him about culture issues or sit him in front of beakers and say, “Alright, Mr. Scientist, explain and prove this random illness that’s been popping up,” he probably wouldn’t know what to do because although he is indeed a scientist and considered an intellectual, that’s not his field. Does it mean he’s a Grade-A idiot? Not really. He just has weaknesses, like everyone else, which shows that “smart” is in the eye of the beholder.
B) It’s human nature to want to pick someone fairly not stupid…comparatively. Want someone who you feel is intelligent? Woo, that just means human nature is at work. Remember, intelligence is subjective. No one really wants the dimwit who sits in a tree eating paint chips and drinking glue all day…except for the guy or gal who is wooed by the “intellect” of this dimwit and their opinion on, say, how the music industry should stop picking presidents and that the government should never ration salt because it would cause a worldwide riot. The dingbat finds the dimwit smart by their own standards even though the rest of the world sees the two as pretty dumb both equally and individually. It’s a trait that people like, has nothing to do sexuality. It’s no different if someone likes a person who is good at music or very athletic, it’s a preferable trait, not an orientation.
In short, to claim being sapiosexual is pseudo-intellectual in and of itself.
Now that we have these out of the way, here’s the issues that the perception of the sexualities can bring
Heterosexuality: Problems with this sexuality: how strongly it is enforced. In movies, shows, everywhere, heterosexuality is heavily enforced as the norm to the point that any consideration otherwise can be met with violence, even death. And continually viewing the world through the scope of staunch heterosexuality creates stigma, terrible gender policing and possibly death (Don’t believe me? Ask the family of Matthew Sheppard and Marco McMillian). It’s considered the norm and the only norm, which is the main problematic part.
Homosexuality: Problems with this sexuality: How heterosexuality views it. Homosexuality, has been seen as a preference (in opposed to being considered natural, like heterosexuality), still considered a mental disorder in some places in the world or recently relieved of such status (United States just took it off the books in 1974/entirely in 1986), or a curse somehow. Also, it is mistakenly accused in those who do not participate in stereotypical gender roles in dress and/or personality.
Bisexuality: Problems with this sexuality: How heterosexuality views it and homosexuality is unnecessarily confused by it. Seen as a kink, accusation of “being greedy/confused/not sure if straight or gay”, seen as a kink (I figure it bears repeating twice).
Demisexuality: Problem with this sexuality: commonly confused for asexual, considered gray-asexuality despite being its own orientation. Depicted as being “chaste”, which is a behavior instead of a valid orientation.
Pansexuality: Problems with this sexuality: Despised by heterosexuality. Confused for bisexuality and thus catches all the problems bisexuality does.
Asexual: Problems with this sexuality: Confused for celibacy or abstinence, which are behaviors not a natural orientation
Now, you probably have noticed by now that the various orientations are depicted by their relationship with heterosexuality and strained through Western culture, which is fairly Christian so you could imagine the problems that can cook up.
This brings us to gender roles, gender policing and culture. This we could talk about alllllll day but still some folks could still be left in the dust so we’re gonna be example heavy. For that we’re gonna be bringing out some pretty useful folks: Janelle Monae and Nicki Minaj.
Alrightie, let’s roll onto the roles. Before we start with the examples, let’s explain.
Gender roles are what mainstream society determines as how one should act if they are a boy or a girl. So if you’re a boy, you’re supposed to be rough and tumble, aggressive, opinionated and dominant. If you’re a girl, you’re sweet and passive, emotional but not opinionated. So if you’re a girl that is rough and tumble, aggressive, opinionated and dominant or a boy that is very sweet and emotional, gender policing will be on the horizon and quickly, you bet. Gender policing is a cultural reaction that can appear in macro (society) or micro (individual) forms. The macro form could be a billboard selling whatever that depicts a dominant woman as a cold-heated harpy (because, remember, we’re supposed to be maternal), a show that codes a sporty woman as ugly and unlovable, or a joke that accuses a guy of being gay because he’s not that into football. It varies further when race gets involved.
Aha yes, homophobic-styled gender policing. Because one is not adhering to their “gender norms” (put in quotes because, in case you haven’t gleaned, gender roles are taught), the assumption is that they must be gay! I mean, it’s because, hey if a guy acts like a girl (for shame!), he must like guys because deep down, this gay dude wants to be a girl and if a girl is too aggressive like a man, she must like girls because hey, that’s what men do since everyone is naturally heterosexual and that’s that. And homosexuality can be discovered through how the person dresses, acts and think. So if you know a guy that knows how to pair colors or a girl that is killer in rugby, they must be gay and that’s that because men are suppose to be men and women are supposed to be women. And if you’re a straight ally, people will definitely wonder or accuse you as a closet gay because hey, no straight person in their right (and homophobic) mind would ever care about gay rights…unless they are one.
Yah, that’s logic-bending bullsh*t.
The problem is, people have been killed over this kind of thinking. If there was a guy that had a flower charm hanging from their phone, people would go, “WE HAVE A GAY HERE! GET THE BLEACH AND FIRE!” because oh noes! Flowers are feminine! And to be feminine while male is gay! Which is somehow a threat to society and no man in his right mind would step a level beneath him and become feminine and still consider himself straight! What these folks didn’t consider: A) Men are people, some pretend to be cardboard cut outs of masculinity and others don’t let their gender hinder them B) that flower charm could have a story behind it, such as it may remind him of his mother who passed on because that was her favorite flower and C) gender is applied and how one expresses gender does not mean anything on their sexuality. So, because of this really bigoted form of gender policing, people wind up dying simply because they didn’t not want to adhere to their gender role because of how limiting it is. Or deal with a lifetime of gender policing that can create a myriad of problems for the person being policed.
And one more piece of vocab: Slut shaming: “Slut-shaming, also known as slut-bashing, is the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings. Furthermore, it’s ‘about the implication that if a woman has sex that traditional society disapproves of, she should feel guilty and inferior’ (Alon Levy, Slut Shaming). It is damaging not only to the girls and women targeted, but to women in general and society as a whole. It should be noted that slut-shaming can occur even if the term slut’ itself is not used.”
Onward with the examples!
Alrightie then. Here you have Nicki Minaj, she is a Black, female, rapper who is also noted for how she dresses, which is usually in a sexy manner and occasionally dabbles in alternative fashion. (She’s once worn lolita, Demonias, and 6% DokiDoki). One thing that pushed her success in hip hop, a sausage fest grade male-dominated genre, is her ability to assume masculinity such as being brash, loud, putting bass in her tone and being dominant.
And here we have Janelle Monae, she is Black, female, a singer who is also noted for how she dresses, usually in black and white, suits and a pompadour. Wearing a suit, a clothing style that has been coded as masculine for centuries, and being the head of Wondaland Arts Society, she exudes what would be considered masculine because she doesn’t really require the assistance of guys. If anything, the men of Wonderland are moreso the supporting beams in comparison because they don’t have to be around for Janelle Monae to have any relevancy.
Okie dokie, we have our folks, Monae and Minaj. They’re both Black women in the music branch of the entertainment industry and to get to where they are and achieve noteworthiness, they had to assume “masculine” traits. This is not to say that feminine traits won’t get you anywhere in the biz if you’re a chick (because that’s not true) but that masculinity is considered the norm and femininity is a subset. And here comes the gender policing because you better believe they both catch it but in different ways and for different reasons.
Minaj encounters gender policing through slut shaming, homophobic accusations (because remember, only straight people play their proper roles) annnnnnd if you ever wanted to know for fact that rape culture exist, you don’t have to look any further than how Nicki Minaj gets treated. Because of how she dresses and acts, commonly Minaj is derisively slut shamed. I think at this point people have called her everything from whore to ho to whatever derogatory word is there for women who are open sexually. That or guys assume that her clothing and actions are non-verbal forms of consent to treat her as a objectified thing instead of a whole human (Example: Regis Philbin). To be sexually assertive and aggressive is supposed to be a “guy” thing and because no one slut shames male rappers for acting the exact same way or at a more increased level because let’s face it, Kanye West and other well known rappers are probably the picture definition of “yo-yo knickers”.
Since she’s Black, that definitely complicates the problem because she does not get the same slut shaming that Lady Gaga and Katy Perry does. Oh no, Minaj catches worse because of her race. She’s not simply a “whore”, she’s supposed to be a low down, dirty, little welfare sucker of a skank. Yay, racism. That stuff can bend logic better than a telekinetic can bend silverware. Nicki Minaj is subjected to the Jezebel stereotype, with a side of Sapphire. The Jezebel stereotype is the assumption that she – like other Black women – just gooooooootta have it. Sex is all they think about, sex is all they want. Binkin’ like bunnies is all they want, just like the Black male counterpart, they’re like animals. This is because Western society’s perception of love, sex and beauty is based on White, Christian, heteronormative and preferably male ideals. So much commentary is made on Minaj’s body and what it is supposed to do for other, not herself. She’s been compared to Sarah Baartman, The Hottentot Venus, by Afriboos because she’s showing her body off and with multicolored straight hair at that. Male – and even some female – rappers who attempt to diss her go straight for the body first and her skills second because it’s a much easier target to call Minaj a ho – regardless how hypocritical that charge is for the average mainstream rapper – and to slut shame her for not being “proper”. Because she is Black, female and likes her body enough to show it off, that’s enough to make society to foam at the mouth and police her gender. I mean, she’s supposed to be a girl, she has to be demure and genteel but instead she’s all dominant and emasculating. That’s where the side of Sapphire comes in. Not only is her persona is aggressive, it’s aggressive to men and in a patriarchal society, that’s a no no.
Being aggressive while female is supposedly threatening because gender roles dictate that only men are supposed to be aggressive, if women were aggressive, that’s an unnatural problem according to the role. The Sapphire is the Black woman who is ever mean with her wagging finger and sharp tongue. She is not nice and will not simply cooperate with man, oh no. Loud, rude and uncouth is the description of the Sapphire.
And how about that homophobic styled gender policing? Because Minaj is acting in a “masculine” manner, folks made the assumption that she is actually bi or gay because she made masculine references about women and through the play of language to establish an air of dominance, folks assumed “O hai, she must be gay because she’s making the same references that a guy would.” Also the assumption follows in the vein of the Lesbian trope which fetishizes lesbianism as something from a normal orientation to a sexual fetish for men because of the patriarchal “Hey, heterosexuality is the staple, right? Women exist because we exist, why would they actually be in relationship with each other? It doesn’t involve us, that doesn’t make sense.” And in hip hop, which is pretty notorious for being misogynistic to the point it’s quite clear they don’t see women as people but as things to show off to the point they faded out their own female emcees, it’s not that surprising they would expect such out of Minaj because of how sexualized her image is and even if it weren’t, they’d figure a way to somehow. Notice if any guy rapper were accused of this level of homosexuality, it would be as if calling him weak or feminine – an insult, in other words. Guy rappers are expected to sell using their wit, women rappers are supposed to sell using their body.
Now, for Janelle Monae!
Monae encounters gender policing through slut shaming (but a different variation!) and forced homosexual coding. Now, I know some folks are going, “But no one is calling her a slut for her clothes! She’s all covered up and ain’t flashing everyone! She’s so proper and refined!” And thar ya go, le slut shaming train has pulled into the station. This takes away Monae’s right to wear whatever she wants and even making assumptions about her over it. Because she’s wearing a suit, people are surprised that she curses, wears revealing undies (her pants split on stage, sexist uproar happened) or pretty much acknowledges that her body is her own. Either people are telling her to show skin to sell more records – remember, guy musicians aren’t usually told, “Alright, we need a spike in sales, strip down and here’s a boa, get creative” or anything of that nature – or to never break from the prim and proper look because if so, people will change faster than the speed of light.
Thankfully, she weakens the Black woman stereotype of the Mammy, Sapphire or Jezebel but she could fall prey to the “Black Women are strong” stereotype which makes people believe the erroneous fact that she is made of stone and forever stoic in opposed to a person who, just like everyone else, has good days, bad days, great days and craptacular days. Because she’s, welp, a person. That stereotype is something from a mixture of racism and sexism because already Black people are not really seen as people in modern day media but as moving caricatures of various stereotypes thus Black women would be seen in a misogynistic and racist way that is supposed to only benefit mainstream (read: White) culture. One of those stereotypes is the “Strong, Resilient Black Woman”. Don’t think it resonates today? Ever heard of the “I’m a strong Black woman that don’t need no man” meme? Yah, there’s your racism wrapped within sexism in sentence form that diminishes Black women who hold their own to be made of steel and bossy because remember, we live in a heteronormative, patriarchal society so a woman being independent? How…masculine. But hey, Black women are used to holding their own without a man because they’re so strong [read: this is a really racist statement]. So Monae does weaken and cut through the main three stereotypes but society still will attempt to press a stereotype on her image because we do NOT live in a post-racial society and never did.
Since Monae usually wears suits and a pompadour and that’s codified as “masculine” and “male”, she has to deal with people going, “SHE GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!” because she wears a suit. Orientation apparently can be defined by a piece of clothing. Everyone, please know that this is a really, really REALLY STUPID way to determine someone’s sexuality. If you think women wearing suits somehow flags them as gay, you’re probably the paint chip eating dimwit I described earlier in this piece. Clothes don’t define gender. A guy could wear a skirt, doesn’t mean he’s straight or gay, he’s just a guy who is wearing a skirt. A girl wearing a pair of pants does not mean she’s straight or gay, she’s just wearing a pair of pants. It’s just clothes but to everyone else, it is something to read into and scrutinize. This is gender policing because if she wore a skirt, fussing would not ensue because she would be a woman following her “normal” gender role and they’d just would slut shame her based on how short her knee-length (or longer) skirts are instead.
Basically Monae gets hit with “Put on a skirt!” and Minaj gets hit with “Put on some pants!” Can’t catch a break nowhere.
This is how gender roles, gender policing and slut shaming can be complex issues for women because of sex and sexuality is used. It should be reminded that not acting out gender roles does not equal “gay”, gender roles are made up and enforced by society and culture as not all cultures and societies believe the same about what men and women should do and how they should act.
And my! This is a lot of info I’m sure so we’ll stop here and I’ll follow up with “No More Mr. Nice Guy” but the next column will be written by Twyla Cummings.