For centuries, black women have been perceived as hypersexual. Jezebels and Sapphires are the age-old stereotypes we’ve been associated with; our bodies have been constantly sexualized in a way we have no control over. Like all women, many of us have internalized this negatively-portrayed overt sexuality, making us embarrassed to rejoice in ourselves.
However, carefree black girls are on the rise, and we’re embracing and reclaiming our sexuality. Our bodies are not for public consumption.
It’s an act of self-care that isn’t always easy.
Author Sherronda J. Brown wrote about the incident and examined society’s expectations of black femmes compared to other races:
“In order for white women to be upheld as pure, black women are first defined as licentious and sexually deviant,” she writes. “This impacts how black women and girls come into their sexual identities, because there are expectations inscribed on us from the very beginning. The idea that we are inherently sexually irresponsible, but at the same time expected to always be sexually available, absolutely influences how black women and girls think about sex and how we think about our bodies as sexual conduit.”
As a queer black femme, I’ve always had to navigate the space between my own sexuality and society’s expectations of me. But I’ve come to realize that only I get to define my sexuality, and it’s an ongoing and healing process.
On this journey, I have discovered roadblocks we still have to overcome and resources that can help along the way.
There’s nothing wrong with being a ‘hoe’
Samantha Riddell created “Inner Hoe Uprising,” a weekly podcast, with her friend and former co-host Shanika Powell. The women were both in their early 20s and going through “hoe phases.” They confided in each other about f — kboys, budding kinks and how to navigate polyamory. They brought these conversations to a larger audience when they started “Inner Hoe Uprising” in 2015.
Akua Genfi is one the show’s current four black voices. She wants listeners to celebrate and defend black women who express their sexuality. Ask questions like, why does Nicki Minaj’s PAPER magazine covershoot rub people the wrong way? Why can’t Cardi B ask her man if “he wants the neck” or proclaim “a hoe never gets cold” on camera? She suggests people’s discomfort with this portrayal of black femme sexuality can be attributed to their own internalized misogynoir and a belief in respectability politics.
“Keep trying to turn the conversation,” Genfi says. “Take back and redefine terms like ‘hoe’ and ‘thot’ to illustrate that black women aren’t dichotomous. We aren’t just good girls and hoes.”
“I can be a hoe — a sexually liberated woman — and still own a business, get a degree or work at WalMart,” she continues. “I can be scantily dressed as I go to the club and hold an intelligent conversation with a turtleneck on during the day.”
Sensuality coach Rashida KhanBey has created a program that helps women explore their sexuality. Her sold-out workshop — titled “Reclaiming Your Sexy: A Body Confidence and Sensuality Workshop” — offers participants the opportunity to reconnect with “the truth about ourselves.”
KhanBey explains how we can revive our inner sexiness:
Taking a tour of her Instagram, you can see that this woman is the real deal. KhanBey owns every inch of her body. She is a curvier woman — like myself — and offers great advice on how to deal with the world around us.
“I find that my size and my matching sexual confidence seem to be more of a problem for others than myself,” she says. “I’m just enjoying everyday learning new ways to live and love my beautiful body.”
When I was younger and found the courage to approach someone, it was considered aggressive. “Play hard to get,” was a piece of advice I heard all too often but vehemently rejected. I simply could not relate.
But with the evolution of online dating, more and more women are embracing their sexual attraction to another person and shooting their shot when it comes to making the first move. I saw this manifest in a closed Facebook group I follow called Beard Game Matters. What I observed shows how far women have come in wielding their sexuality and re-establishing the power dynamic between men and women.
In this Facebook group, beautiful bearded men post photos of themselves — and wait to be lusted after. The women in the group are not shy about fulfilling this desire. Comments range from “Let me seduce you” memes to “Where are the Daddies at,” which was posted with a salacious selfie. Beard Game Matters proved that women can exhibit as much thirst for the opposite sex as men can, particularly with a little help from the Internet.
“I think offline a few decades ago, it was still very much discouraged for feminine people to make the first move to a potential masculine partner,” Riddell says. “Now we’re in the age of #SlideInHisDM.”
Genfi agrees with her “Inner Hoe Uprising” co-host. She attributes this social shift to safe online spaces, as well as the positive effects of the sexual liberation movement.
“I think women now feel comfortable expressing their physical attraction to others without having to think if it is ‘ladylike’ or ‘proper,’” Genfi says.
Unfortunately, like in many other digital spaces, misogynoir eventually crept into Beard Game Matters, and I would advise women who want to thirst after bearded men to look elsewhere.
Storylines about independent, sexually-liberated women are often painfully void of black women. With its four career-driven, wildly promiscuous characters, “Sex and the City” was perceived as iconic. We praised “Girls” for some of the same reasons. Both shows were a huge inspiration for me during my own “hoe” days, but they were melanin-deficient sitcoms.
But this year, Issa Rae coined the term “hoetation" on “Insecure.” This monumental moment — along with the rest of the series — gave us the representation we carefree black girls craved. We were finally able to relish in our own thirst and view the sexual experience of black femmes through a celebratory lens. (There was one common criticism about the show: There was little discussion about contraception. Rae noted this and said, we “will do better next season.”)
Black folks had come close to achieving what Rae has done with “Insecure” before. In the ’80s, Spike Lee released his first film, “She’s Gotta Have It.” We met Nola Darling, a young black heroine who juggled several men. Back then, seeing a black woman unapologetically embrace her sexuality was revolutionary.