Question: I'm seventeen but very interested in intersectional sexual liberation. My mom and aunt are always talking about Beyoncé, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and many black women who are openly sexual or express sexuality as a step back for all black women. I disagree. I was wondering your thoughts on this and how I can have a conversation with my mom and aunt about this topic.
First, we want to congratulate you on not only wanting to explore what sexual liberation looks like for you, but for also wanting to have this conversation with the older women in your life. There is no right way to be sexually liberated. Some people find it liberating to talk openly about sex and some people find it liberating to practice celibacy - it's really about creating a definition for yourself that isn't influenced by fear or shame. Because everyone's definition is different, what one person finds liberating might be a turnoff for another person. So it's ok for you, your aunt, your mom, and Rihanna to have different definitions and expressions of their sexuality.
Beyoncé, Nicki, and Rihanna are a continuation of Black women musicians who are vocal about their/our sexuality. When Black people were freed from slavery, there was a split in how we talked about our sexuality. There was the church and gospel music, which upheld this view that women should be virginal and pure and then there was Blues music, which was referred to as "the devil's music". In Blues music women like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, openly talked about sex, having affairs on their husbands with other men and other women. There has always been a group of Black women creatives who have explicitly talked about our sexuality. Zora Neale Hurston, was one of the first authors to write about a female orgasm in "Their Eyes were Watching God". Alice Walker's "The Color Purple", showed a liberating lesbian relationship between Celie and Shug (a Blues singer). Nina Simone, Donna Summers, Lil Kim, Khia, are all Black women musicians who talked openly about their sexuality - and we see Beyoncé, Nicki, and Rihanna as continuing that tradition.
We encourage you to find out who some of your mom & aunt's favorite women musicians are and to do some research on the lyrics in their songs. We also encourage you to ask them if they feel the same way about women talking openly about sex in music as they do about men talking openly about sex? Talk to them about their definition of sexual liberation and how it might have changed and why it changed from when they were 17 to 27 to 50 and when they're 70. It's ok if at the end of the day you all have different definitions, it's just great that you all are openly talking about it. Hopefully everyone's perspective will help you as you put together your definition of sexual liberation and prepare you for if/when it changes.
We hope you find this information helpful! Please let us know how the conversation goes!
peace, power, and pleasure,
Dalychia & Rafaella