Erotic provocateur, racially-influenced humanist, relentless champion for the oppressed, and facilitator for social change, Scottie Lowe is the brain child, creative genius and the blood, sweat, and tears behind AfroerotiK. Intended to be part academic, part educational, and part sensual, she, yes SHE gave birth to the website to provide people of African descent a place to escape the narrow-mined, stereotypical, limiting and oft-times degrading beliefs that abound about our sexuality. No, not all Black men are driven by lust by white flesh or to create babies and walk away. No, not all Black women are promiscuous welfare queens. And as hard as it may be to believe, no, not all gay Black men are feminine, down low, or HIV positive. Scottie is putting everything on the table to discuss, debate, and dismantle stereotypes in a healthy exchange of ideas. She hopes to provide a more holistic, informed, and enlightened discussion of Black sexuality and dreams of helping couples be more open, honest, and adventurous in their relationships.

Showing posts with label respectability politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label respectability politics. Show all posts

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Slut Shaming

There is this very false and detrimental belief among young people that anything and everything that a woman does is empowering and that anyone who critiques, evaluates, or disagrees with women’s collective behaviors is slut shaming and imposing rigid respectability politics rules in order to control and oppress women.  This concept is damaging and unhealthy not only to the women who get offended by any sort of critique of women’s collective behaviors but to the cause of fighting for women’s liberation and for real feminism. 

First, let’s CORRECTLY define what slut-shaming is and isn’t.  Slut shaming IS the act of placing an inferior or stigmatized status on women for the normal, healthy expression of their sexuality.  Slut shaming IS denigrating women for having pre-marital sex, for seeking out and using birth control, for having an abortion, or for having multiple sex partners.    Slut-shaming is telling women that they can’t have certain kinds of sex, that they are immoral or unworthy if they aren’t virginal and chaste, it’s the male-dominated society’s double standard that tries to shame women for being sexual.  Slut-shaming IS criminalizing women for their participation in prostitution and men getting a free pass.

What slut-shaming IS NOT stating that sex work/prostitution is not empowering.  Sex work is, in fact, participating in the objectification of women, it is reinforcement of patriarchal, sexist, misogynist, violent, abusive, degrading, demeaning roles for women.  One can condemn sex work and not sex workers.  Sex workers are women who feel that they have no other viable skills, that they want to sell whatever they have that men will pay for, they are all too often victims of domestic abuse, molestation, and unhealthy home environments that lead them to sell their bodies.  Sex work has been made out to be empowering because women are getting paid and, supposedly, the financial exchange, the fact that women have agency in their own objectification, is supposed to negate the fact that they are still being used by men as cum dumps, as things, as less than human beings.  Slut-shaming is not critiquing the entire hierarchy of the sex work industry that deems that blond, educated, surgically enhanced, articulate white women are sold for more than even her Black counterpart. 

This false notion persists that sex work is glamorous, that it’s getting paid to do what you do for free any way, that it’s taking advantage of men’s weakness, their stupidity, their willingness to part with their money for something as simple as a few minutes of sex.  The reality is, sex work is degrading, it’s dehumanizing, it’s not at all empowering.  Young girls are convinced that being a porn star or a stripper or a prostitute is easy money but it never is.  There is always a man pulling the strings, setting the price, demanding more than was negotiated for, taking out his frustrations, and treating ALL women like things he can use.  COUNTLESS documentaries have been made to chronicle the stories of women who said they got into porn thinking it would be easy money and how they got strung out on drugs and were forced to do 12-16 hours of endless gangbangs, how they suffered physically and ended up in the hospital with STDs and displaced uteruses and other horrific things because some porn producer or director kept pushing them to do more and more and then they didn’t get paid or got paid less than what they contracted for.  There are far too many women who have told horrific tales of being raped and beaten by johns yet the masses still insist that prostitution is empowering.  The trafficking of children is an alarmingly dangerous byproduct of prostitution and young women don’t seem to grasp that it is a very real consequence to the normalization of prostitution.  Critiquing prostitution is NOT slut-shaming.  Critiquing prostitution is making an effort to dismantle the false belief system that tells women that their most valuable asset lies between their legs.  Critiquing prostitution is trying to destroy the sexist mindset that allows men to think women are objects and things to be used and thrown away. 

Rationalizing that sex work is empowering is the equivalent of rationalizing that cutting or bulimia is empowering.  I am not shaming the women who cut themselves or who have bulimia, they are women led to self-destructive behaviors because of low self-esteem in a society that doesn’t value them or their personhood.   The solution is not to insist that cutting or bulimia is perfectly fine as long as the person doing it considers it empowering.  Sex work is the commodification of sex, of women’s bodies, it places a value on them for what they can do for men, how they can please men.  Just because women can get a purse or expensive pair of shoes from it does not mean it’s empowering.  This concept that money is the great equalizer, that if a woman can get paid, then that makes getting used by men just fine, great in fact.  The propagation of this false narrative that sex work is great because you get to sleep with a basketball player or a rapper and get to live this glamorous life and be wined and dined, and maybe even end up the Real Housewife of one of these men drives dozens of young women to doing cam shows, and then dancing, and then selling it outright. 

The false narrative is that sex work is no big deal, that it’s easy money, that women (or male or trans prostitutes) are taking advantage of men, calling the shots, that they are in control.  You are NOT in control of a male-dominated situation where men have decided how much they want to pay to use you.  Even for the less than 1% of young ladies who find their way to the Presidential Suite during All-Star Week, you are not setting yourself up to be in a healthy relationship, not one of your johns is going to see your value as a human being, they are not going to consider you a partner with whom they need to compromise, share, negotiate, or respect, you are an object, a pretty possession that can be replaced when the next pretty object comes along.  It is not empowering to perpetuate the concept that women have price tags on their pussies.  AGAIN, that is not slut-shaming the women who sell their bodies.  I am not saying that the women who sell their bodies are bad, sinful, shameful, wrong, dirty, despicable, or any other negative or pejorative term.  It’s simply stating that the system of misogyny and sexism that manifests in the sale of women’s bodies shouldn’t be validated or normalized because it’s not healthy. 

“Well, I know lots of women who just like sex and they do it because they want to, and they weren’t abused or molested or anything.”   Most women who enter into prostitution were molested however.  They were raped, or victims of domestic violence, they were violated as young women and girls.  Most women (and men) become drug addicts, they are raped, they have horrific tales to tell of sick, twisted, perverted sexual acts they were made to perform.  Normalizing your abuse isn’t empowering either.  “Well, some women don’t have any other options, they don’t have any other skills.”  That, in and of itself, is the problem.  We shouldn’t be teaching young girls that what’s between their legs is a marketable product.  Young women refuse to hear that.  They are convinced beyond the shadow of an intelligent, logical, reasonable doubt that sex work is great. 

I get it.  Young women want to feel validation, they want to feel like they are justified in their choices because they don’t want to be made to feel embarrassed or stigmatized or shamed because that makes them feel insecure and defensive.  They rationalize that because they aren’t selling it on the street corner, because they are college-educated and they are paying off their loans, because they are only doing every once in a while to pay the rent or their car note, or because they have kids and their baby daddy doesn’t pay his child support that there is nothing wrong with it.  They don’t want to be made to feel bad about their choices.  But not all choices are healthy, even if you are a willing participant, and negative consequences result from many a bad choice. 

Because we live in a society where young people have NO concept of what a healthy relationship is, they immediately dismiss any model of a symbiotic, mutually beneficial partnering that I may suggest as an alternative because they know of no other reality other than the dysfunctional one they have been raised with.  Let’s say you hit the jackpot, your first time out you find the basketball player who just signed the $7 million contract, he doesn’t ask you for anything too weird or degrading or hurtful, and he is so mesmerized with your nana and your bedroom skills that he wants to make you his #1.  If you enter into a relationship with this man who has purchased your body, do you sincerely think that he will not cheat on you, or that he will respect your rules and boundaries?  He will not only not value you as a person or a partner, your opinion, your other talents and abilities, but he will not even blink when he is offered an opportunity to bed another woman because you are nothing more than a trophy, a thing he paid for to show off.  That is not empowering! 

Sex work is participating in the objectification of women and that is NOT empowering.  Participating in sex work is reinforcing that women are “less than”, that they shouldn’t seek sexual expression that is based on love, respect, commitment and mutual cooperation, it’s saying, “That stuff about women being respected and loved is fairy-tale bullshit that doesn’t happen in the real world, the best a woman can hope for is that she finds a rich dude who has more money than common sense.”  If fact, if I suggest that sex should be based on love, should be based on respect, should be based on a level of commitment to a relationship, I’m supposedly imposing respectability politics on the free sexual expression of women.  But that’s not what I’m saying at all.  I’m not saying that women shouldn’t be able to have casual sex.  I’m not suggesting for a moment that if a woman has sex purely for pleasure in the restroom of a club with a total stranger whose name she doesn’t know that she’s a bad person.   Our rape/porn culture has convinced young women that the only valid form of sex is degrading/humiliating/objectifying sex and that there is no other alternative other than some 1950s oppressive model of vanilla, conservative boring sex.    That will be the downfall of our society, believing that women were created to be slapped, choked, spit on, gagged, and used as a hole for men’s pleasure and that getting paid for that is empowering. 

The goal of Feminism 2.0 should not be for women to be as sexually indiscriminate as men because men are unhealthy and warped in their views of sex.  That’s not something we should be striving for and equality on those terms is conforming to sickness.  We should be evolving in our views on sex.  We should be seeking to view sex in a healthier, more holistic, more empowering way.  Instead we are reinforcing and normalizing the objectification of women, we should be looking to use sex as a tool of communication, of meditation, of connection, of YES, even of love.  I’m not trying to impose puritanical rules on sex, I’m not saying that sex should be boring and only for procreation, that isn’t healthy at all either.  Sadly, the masses can’t see any other way to view sex other than to simply reinforce the status quo, to participate in the unhealthy practices that have become the norm.   Sex should be something that is earned with trust, with communication, with vulnerability, with intimacy.  Until we grasp that, until women decide that there is no price that a man could pay for her most sacred space, that as a holy sex priestess, she will only allow men who respect, revere, and cherish her to enter her sacred walls.  Then, when a man has earned that right, fuck like animals.  Fuck the sheets off the bed, wake the neighbors, experiment with anything safe, sane, and consensual.  When you find a partner with whom you can share your secrets, your vulnerabilities, your dreams and fears, then is when you can share your nastiest fantasies and make them a reality.  THAT IS EMPOWERING. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Empowerment and Respectability

In college classrooms all over the country, Black young women are being taught that anything and everything that a woman does is empowering.  They are being taught that sex work, promiscuity, vulgarity, and choosing to be degraded is a Black woman’s agency.  They are being taught that respectability is a dirty word, meant to oppress women and people of color, and make them conform to some sort of 1950s, Caucasian model of behavior.  Feminism in college classrooms all across this nation has come to mean conforming to sexist, oppressive, misogynist standards of attractiveness to men. 

I know EXACTLY the moment this new scholarship began.  I witnessed its birth.  More than a decade ago, Bill Cosby spoke out publicly saying that Black people shouldn’t buy $200 pairs of sneakers for their children when they don’t have a computer and that they shouldn’t name their children ghetto names.  He was quite detailed and went on and on about how Black people have “dropped the ball.”  White people ate it up.  White people heard their role model dissing the behaviors they found offensive from Black people and they rallied around him like he was the Moses himself delivering the Black commandments.  

The response from the Black masses, way back then before our collective consciousness became anti-intellectual and ghetto, fell in one of three camps.  The first were the “Yeah, Bill, you tell them! Those niggers! I’m not like them,” camp.  They suffer from what I call the AIC or the Assimilated Inferiority Complex.  They think whites are superior and they want to be liked, seen as good as, and respected by whites.  They needed to distance themselves from “those” Black people so they ridiculed the patterns and behaviors that habitually show up in impoverished black communities.  It should be noted, they were the loudest and most populated camp. 

The second camp was the, “Don’t air our dirty laundry in front of white people,” camp.  They were willing to admit that the things that Bill Cosby was talking about had some validity but that he couldn’t talk about it in front of white people, he could only discuss it in private in front of other Black people so a whole lot of hang-ringing, finger-pointing, and accomplishing-nothing could be done.    Apparently, it’s not okay to talk about our dysfunction in front of whites but it seems to be a greater sin to actually work to heal the collective ills that plague our society. 

The third camp roasted marshmallows and sang campfire songs about how the ghetto was some sort of Black cultural manifestation of creativity and survival that was a bastion of all things good and righteous.  It is this third camp that created this backlash against respectability.    Respectability was associated with whiteness and therefore ipso facto respectability became bad.  This group, this small faction decided that any behavior Black people collectively exhibit was deemed inherent to our blackness and thus it was all good.  Buying your three year old $200 sneakers was fine because if white people could do it, so can we. 

All three camps are misguided and wrong.  The “I’m not a nigger but those other Blacks are,” the “We might have problems but let’s not talk about them in front of white people,” and the, “Everything Black people do is justified no matter how dysfunctional it is,” philosophies are all flawed.  Perhaps the most detrimental is the third camp who feels that anything and everything that Black people do is somehow a cultural inheritance.    We don’t have to speak well because speaking well means you are trying to be white.  Noooooo, slaughtering the English language is some sort of adaptation of Gullah dialect that is passed down blah, blah, blah.  In reality, our inarticulation is because whites have denied us equal education.  There is nothing inherently Black or African about not using verbs other than Blacks have been historically denied education to keep us stupid.  But to the misguided masses, they want to believe that not being able to use the English language makes you more Black.  Only to the deluded does being intelligent, being an academic mean you are denying your Blackness, as if intellect is only the domain of whites. 

Education does not make you white.  Speaking correct English does not make you white.  More importantly, not everything that you do is empowering.  Today’s youth has no concept of what the concept of empowerment means.  To them, manipulating people is empowering.  To them, lying, cheating, stealing and using people is empowering.  Dear God, anything that gets you money is supposedly empowering, even if you must sell your soul, your humanity, your dignity and your body to get it.  If men use women, that’s supposedly empowering as long as women co-sign it.    

Then, there is poor old me.  I’m the fourth camp.  I belong to the “Yes, there are collective dysfunctional behaviors in the Black community but we have them because we have been historically, systematically, and institutionally disenfranchised for centuries, NOT because we are inherently inferior.”  I am member of the, “I’m not afraid to call out our dysfunctional behaviors because I have solutions and alternatives to the current slave mentality that continues to keep us oppressed.”  And I am the leader of the,  “Education, articulation, and respectability are NOT the domain of white people and striving for excellence is not to be as good as white people, it’s to be the absolute best you can be as a human being of African descent,” camp.    Being respectable is not a bad thing, it’s not inherent to white people.  Empowerment means gaining power, autonomy, and integrity through your actions. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Empowering vs. Not Empowering

 Young Black women have been sold a bill of goods.  They've been told that anything and everything that they do is empowering.  They've been told that degrading themselves is empowering, that objectifying themselves is empowering.  Well, I've got to do something.  I know they won't hear me.  I know they will react violently, calling me vile names, but I must speak out and tell them that there is no power in devaluing yourself and your womanhood to your sexuality 

·         Owning your sexuality, not being ashamed of the number of partners you’ve had, not being slut-shamed for not conforming to the concept that women have to be asexual and pure to have value.  Human beings are sexual beings.  Women have a right to pleasure and they shouldn’t be ashamed of their desire and/or need for touch, intimacy, arousal, pleasure, or orgasms.  

·         Being indiscriminate with your body, sharing it with people who have not earned your trust, respect, or who don’t value you as a person.  Having casual sex with people whose only intent is to get off, who don’t see your totality as a human being is not empowering.  Can you have casual sex?  Of course, that is your right as a human being.  Is it empowering to be used by someone in essence so they don’t have to masturbate?  No.  Is it empowering to use someone, to not take their humanity, feelings, and personhood into consideration?  No!  You derive no power from letting people use you, nor is it empowering to use other people. Using people is manipulative, it’s immature, it’s dysfunctional.  As much as people want to deny it, as much as people swear that casual sex has no consequences, it does.  Physical intimacy with another person is not recreation.  I’m NOT saying that sex is bad, I’m not saying people need to be chaste and asexual.  I’m saying it’s immature to think that using people is empowering.  

·         Feeling confident and beautiful in the skin you’re in.  Holding your head high, knowing that in your own unique imperfection that there is value and worth beyond anything that society can define or label. Empowering is being an individual who doesn’t conform, who doesn’t NEED external validation in order to feel attractive but who can graciously say, “Thank you,” when it’s given.  Empowerment is the unshakable knowledge that your beauty comes from being intelligent, having integrity, creating a style that is not contingent upon having men lust after how many of your body parts are on public display.  Empowering is knowing that you are sexy without having to show that you are sexy.  

·         Spending inordinate amounts of money on your clothes, shoes, make-up, hair, and nails, often times to the point of debt, in order to conform to what society says is attractive is not empowering.  Needing external validation of your attractiveness = not empowering.  Putting your sexuality and body on display like it’s a commodity to be purchased.  Defining your beauty by what men determine is attractive to them.  Needing to alter everything about your appearance before you can feel confident, having to present to the world this false image of perfection at all times.  Calculating your self-worth by the number of people who tell you that you are sexy or hot, measuring your beauty by comparing yourself to celebrities is the very definition of not being empowered.  I KNOW, I know, you’ve been told that anything that women do is empowering.  You’ve been told that a woman objectifying herself is empowering.  Conforming to patriarchal, sexist, misogynist, limiting definitions of what it means to be a woman is not empowering however.  It’s the very opposite of being empowered if your power comes from being seen as pretty or sexually desirable to fuel men’s desire for you.