How Do Women of Color Define Sexuality?



This spring I attended the Empowering Women of Color Conference at UC Berkeley. I’m amazed that graduate students, GRAD STUDENTS, have organized and hosted this for 31 years. I barely had time to wash dishes when I was in grad school let alone organize a conference. I spoke at this conference a few years ago.

I attended a workshop titled “Reclaiming Love: Behind the Brush and Pen of Frida Kahl, One Mujuer of Many Who Has Nothing to Lose But Her Chains “ San Francisco State University grad students Jewell Bachelor and Marbeya Montero presented this great workshop. I love Frida Kahlo and wanted to reflect on what I learned in a series of posts.

For an icebreaker they asked us to list three words to describe women of color and sex. I t was hard to choose just three.


1. Complex—Sexuality is complex for many women in general, because of sexism, misogyny, patriarchy and homophobia. For women of color, we add racism to that oppressive cocktail.. As a Black woman I know there’s a racist history to our sexuality in the United States. And because we don’t know how people will perceive us because of all of these things, we may not express our sexuality how we want.

I always say women are damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Our presentation to the world may be too conservative for some, too sexy for others or just right to a few.

But complexity isn’t all negative. Culture plays a part in our sexuality. Sometimes that’s not always a bad thing. I’m a Cali girl with Southern, Black Protestant roots. Just even liking boys was strongly discouraged. On the other hand, Black musicians and artists have made some of the best, sexy, sensual music ever.

I also love how in Black culture most of us find curves sexy. The Black woman’ s behind is special. Black women have been twirking and shaking our asses for centuries, going back to Africa. These movements are more sexualized in the West, but a Black woman shaking her ass to entice her lover or just be sexy is beautiful. Even Beyonce  knows what’s up. She starts off her song “Rocket,” “Let me sit this ass on you, show you how I feel.” She initiates a sexual connection to her lover with her boo-tay. 

When I see women from the Caribbean wind, I think it’s gorgeous. But the complexity is that we’re shamed for it. Or women of other races who try to imitate it get more approval. Race makes sexuality more complex.


2. Pleasure

I hope women of color are experiencing pleasure. We sing about it. We rap about it. We write about it.  We paint and draw it. I hope women of color of all sexualities are experiencing pleasure.
Many of us have experienced pain and abuse when it comes to sex. But I’ve also met women of color who are learning about their bodies, and what turns them on. It reminds me of the book The Color Purple when Celie, a poor and abused woman, first experiences sexual pleasure with Shug Avery.

I’m meting women more willing to tell their partners what feels good, what they want. I’m reading more articles about Black women experiencing pleasure”out of the box” whether it’s being open to loving someone from another race/culture to embracing their kink.

3. Agency

It’s extremely important for women of color to be able to express and define their sexuality according to how they see themselves through their own eyes.

Okay so that was the first part of this series. Part II is coming up!  


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