Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

Fifty Shades of Trump and Shaming Women Who Enjoy Erotica

When I thought this election couldn’t get any more sensational, disturbing and sexist, a tape leaks of Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump from 11 years ago explaining how he grabs the genitals of women he’s attracted to. “When you’re a star they let you do it.” I’m sure his wealth, power and male privilege also play a part in why he feels entitled to grab women. Trump’s boast of sexual assault triggered women across all political spectrums. I don’t care what party you vote or don’t vote for, many women can identify with being sexually assaulted, harassed or encountering a perverted man who made them feel uncomfortable. 

But some Trump supporters think women are not only overreacting, but actually opened the doors for this kind of language. Since Pussygate, I’ve noticed memes and political commentators comparing Trump’s remarks about force to Fifty Shades of Grey.

“Unfortunately we have made that to be a culture, a 50 Shades of Gray culture in society where man can talk like that,” said Trump supporter Scottie Nell Hughes on CNN. She also mentioned Magic Mike, a film about male exotic dancers, as another example.

Many issues rose up for me.  First, those dismissing Trump’s remarks as locker room talk are focusing on Trump using vulgar language, instead of the aggressive actions he is speaking about. Second, author E.L. James and the Magic Mike filmmakers aren’t running for president. And last time I checked, men were saying disgusting things about women long before Fifty Shades hit bookshelves. Yes, Fifty Shades is about a couple into BDSM. While I have myissues with the series, the actual practice of BDSM is about consent. Finally, they’re implying that women who enjoy adult, erotic entertainment shouldn’t be outraged because they like reading and watching things about sex.

Now we’re tipping into the shaming area for women who consume erotica. A woman choosing to enjoy erotic entertainment isn’t an invitation for language glorifying sexual assault or the act itself. Nor does it mean they condone it. One in five women are sexually assaulted. It’s hard for me to believe that the millions of women who read Fifty Shades, watched Magic Mike are okay with a man saying he wants to grab the genitals of a woman he’s attracted to. There is no correlation between Trump’s actions, and women being fans of erotica. These kind of remarks remind me of people who say women are asking for rape when they wear short skirts.

Erotica is one of my favorite genres of literature, especially by Black authors. I read it, write about it and have researched it.  The ways writers, of all backgrounds, use words and stories for sexual expression interests me. That doesn’t mean I want or enjoy unwelcomed touches.

My butt started to poke out and get rounder in middle school.  I hated when boys in my class grabbed my behind.  I hated when men sexually harassed me in college and at the workplace. It’s not just men. The last person to grope me was a female co-worker.  Yes I like erotic art and literature. My interests don’t justify me being harmed. The fear, anger and vulnerable feelings that followed from these violations shook me.

Saying that women took part in creating this culture, which is actually rape culture, because we read and watch erotica, or even listen to sexy joints by Beyonce is ludicrous. If that’s the case then men who watch Westerns and mafia films condone gun violence and shouldn’t be upset when innocent people are killed. Silly right? Should I assume people who watch slasher and horror movies have established a culture of evil and stabbings? Should we blame boys and men when they are sexually assaulted since so many males in this country consume pornography? No to all of those questions. Yet, society judges women.

Even Melania Trump, who posed nude years ago, denounced her husband’s words. I have nothing against Mrs. Trump’s photos. It’s her body, she was a model and that was her right to pose. I’m not surprised she disproved of her husband’s remarks.

If Trump said the word “pussy,” but didn’t share how he force touches and kisses women, I don’t think there would as much outrage. There might be even less outrage if over the past year Trump showed more respect to women. But between the sexual comments about his daughter Ivanka, body shaming women, interrupting Hillary Clinton – his public engagement with women is disgraceful and misogynistic.

As my Southern grandmothers say, “You got to tell it like it is.” First Lady Michelle Obama did that in New Hampshire when she said to a crowd, “Strong men, men who are truly role models, don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful.”

This election and Pussygate is just another reminder that rape culture continues to be a major problem in our country and our world. As Mrs. Obama powerfully stated, “A measure of any society is how it treats its and women and girls.” If one and five women are sexually assaulted, we need to treat our women and girls better.

Tuesday, Nov. 8th can’t get here fast enough.