Category: BW Series


This post is part of the month long series “Stuck in my Head”. Normal posting resumes in April

It is difficult to live with mental illness. There are harmful stigmas, exaggerated myths (such as the ever popular insanity=creativity myth) and a lot of misinformation which prevents proper treatment. Many people, diagnosed or not, suffer from mental illness but it is still met with suspicion or treated as if it is an honor to have your mind pretty much stage a mutiny against your better sensibilities. It is more complex when race and gender is taken into account.

Mental illness is not imagination run amok no more than physical illness is just an act. There is the everlasting stigma that mental illness is either fake and a person just needs stricter discipline or that the person is just a face paint kit away from being The Joker. Having a mental illness  does mean that something is malfunctioning in your mind (or brain) but it doesn’t mean automatically you’re going to become a serial killer, most people suffering from mental illness just want to live life the best they can.

Being Black with mental illness, it is twice as hard to be listened to because there’s the (well-earned) historical distrust in the medical community and the idea that “Black people don’t have mental illness, that’s just White people complaining about how good they have it.” There’s also the idea that church and prayer solves everything, even when it doesn’t. A Black person with  mental illness tends to suffer in silence until they pop because the community won’t let them admit there’s a problem because it shows weakness and society at large won’t let them admit there’s a problem because society can’t even see the Black person as a human enough to even consider they may have issues just like everyone else. If it breaks the consistently dehumanizing narrative of “Black people are superhuman in strength, they don’t have time for feelings, just surviving”, it’s usually dismissed. Also there are strong mislabels the Black community has on more eccentric members of the race due to being fairly conservative. If you are Black, there is a much smaller box of existence so to do anything that easily falls outside of that cramp box is considered crazy, which actually can create mental illness in and of itself because of lack of cultural support.

Having a mental illness is not romantic either. It is a constantly pushed myth that to be creative, you have to be crazy and vice versa when the reality is that while there are some similarities, it is definitely different. When you’ve full-blown lost it, you spend all that time going insane, not creating anything. I know that for personal fact when I was too self-destructive to do a single thing, creative or basic sustenance of existence. A good example of how people confuse creativity for mental illness is when people believed Nicki Minaj had Disassociative Identity Disorder because she had an alter ego named Roman. What many missed because they didn’t know the difference is that if it were true, Minaj would not be able to control Roman and when he comes out because DID is when the mind going into fragment of different people all to protect the actual person as a defense mechanism. Minaj would have difficulty remembering things because she wasn’t “home” at the time when Roman was. She wouldn’t be able to bring him up on command because he would be a personality that generally comes out when triggered, which is no fun. To actually live with such a disorder, it would actually get in the way of her career because it would be like two different minds living in the same body. Mental illness does not have an on/off switch that can be flipped for appropriate engagements at will just like you can’t be sick/well whenever you need an excuse to get out of something.

It’s important to know the difference between just being really expressive and actually suffering from a mental illness, just as it is important to debunk the “tortured artist” idea. Not knowing the difference mislabels and misdiagnoses perfectly healthy people and proliferating the “tortured artist” idea keeps people with actual issues away from getting help in fear they’ll lose their creative spark. To do that, there has to be more talks, actually honest talks, about mental illness.

In regards to race, the medical community, both physical and psychological parts, have plenty of catching up to do. Still there is strong prejudice that snakes about in the minds of practitioners, which sorely affects the treatment of their patients because the perspective of illness and treatment is mainly centered on the middle class Whiteness, which puts everyone else in the negative space. For the Black community, it has to learn that we’re as prone to mental illness as any person. It isn’t a “White man disease” nor is it a flight of imagination. It’s not a sign of rejecting Blackness to admit that you have issues. In addition, it important for the Black community to keep in mind that whatever does not fall into Western conservatism is not a mark of insanity. Being eccentric while Black does not mean insanity (nor a rejection of Blackness). There are various expressions of the Black identity, it is not a sign of mental illness to show those various expressions. Race, when discussing mental illness, is not to be ignored but to be included in how to deal with it and combat it.

Living with mental illness is difficult but it can also be difficult for the person who knows a friend or family member with a mental illness. In dealing with someone with a mental illness, the best you can do is listen. Not all mental illnesses are alike and thus need different responses. Same for the people who have them, not everyone wants to be open with what they experience. The best one can do is listen. Simply listen and try to genuinely be there for the person. Try to understand the illness, how it works and, more importantly, how the person is triggered because all the person with the illness needs is to just have someone around to help prevent or minimize their episodes. Basically, just be there for them and keep an open ear.

It is difficult to have mental illness, especially with the stigmas associated with even talking about it. With this series, we will look at mental illness from a personal perspective as well as provide resources to help those who could need it.

Alright, the very final post of the Black Witch series, The Arts! This will have plenty of resources for sex and sexuality starting with books. And check out the end! Black Witch events!

Books
wanderingwombThe Wandering Womb: A Cultural History of Outrageous Beliefs about Woman
(Lana Thompson)
Western history has had a long stand about the body of woman and how society should perceive it, which has transformed over time. This book talks about those beliefs from the beginning and, as the title states, how outrageous and perverse they are. From the theory of the uterus and hysteria to medical theory about women and how their bodies work. Lighthearted, filled with imagery and informative, this book is quite something.

Virgin Virgin: The Untouched History
(Hanne Blank)
This book is incredibly awesome. It talks about the history of virginity. Did you know that our concept on virginity is a fairly recent thing? Also, it talks about the hymen, which was not always the determinate of virginity. In addition, there are wild misconceptions about hymens (there is no such thing as “destroying” or breaking/popping a hymen) and this book talks about it in detail the social obsession with virginity, hymens, culture and how the world interacts with the existence of women and their bodies. It’s a really cool book and fantastically written, I highly recommend reading it.

body drama Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers
(Nancy Amanda Redd)
This book. This book right here? Prepares you for life. Like, life, man. Life. This is the best book I had ever under-appreciated in my liiiiiiiiiiiiiife. Oh my gods. This book is a must read for all girls, especially if you are a minority because this book has it all and most importantly…it’s not a book that’s targeted at White girls with some tokens scattered throughout the pages like the vast majority of them are. It actually reflects girls and all their problems and backgrounds. It talks about more than just puberty but the body and how it works and develop from ashy skin to hair to embarrassing questions such as weird smells and skid marks. It’s a great book to learn that as a girl, your body is normal, no matter what the tv and the magazines and the ads tell you. So many girls, especially girls who aren’t White, have such concerns about their bodies and nowhere to go because welp, most books about girls bodies are directed at White girls pretty much exclusively and go to other sources which can provide misinformation such as “Coca cola is an effective spermicide”, “bleach is useful to stop pregnancies in the morning after”, “pulling out is 100% effective” and “can’t get preggers at all through anal sex”. It is body positive, sex positive, real life positive! It helps with all the body and emotional stuff that girls (and growing women) go through that if it had a section on how to write resumes and pay taxes, all bases would be covered and have to be re-titled Book o’ Life, How to Be Alive.

theteenguyguide The Teenage Guy’s Survival Guide
(Jeremy Daldry)
This book is for the fellas. When I was growing up, I read books for both guys and girls because hey, if I wanted to learn real facts about boys, why not go to the source, right? I’ve discovered that this book is fantastic to explain bodies, puberty and girls to boys. It’s really a great book and I highly recommend it. It talks about masturbation, fantasies and relationships in a humorous, non-complicated way. Just like Body Drama, it tells guys about their bodies in an unabashed way and that it is okay to not match the depictions of masculinity in media today. It’s a great book for boys to learn about themselves, feel secure in who they are as boys and how to separate fact from fiction.

Videos!
These vids are fantastic for those who do want info now, now, now!

Chescaleigh is pretty nifty! I like her videos! She also has several that are on point with the theme of this series!

“How Slut Shaming Becomes Victim Blaming” is a great video for those who are still fuzzy on the first piece of the How Much Do You Love Me series where I talk about slut shaming and how harmful it is.

“Cat Called”, shows why it is never cool to do street harassment (yep, cat calling is one strong and definite example of street harassment. Don’t do it.)

“No Mo’ ‘No Homo’”, which is a fantastic example of why it’s really stupid to say “no homo”.

Although Laci Green can a bit iffy when it comes to discussions of race, she did make this informative video, found through Chescaleigh’s “How Slut Shaming Becomes Victim Blaming” video that does have good explanation of slut shaming and why it is bad for everyone.

And another video titled “You Can’t POP Your Cherry! (Hymen 101)” of hers that provide information on the reality of the hymen and how virginity is depicted around it.

“Our Hidden Culture” goes in depth with street harassment (such as cat calling) and rape culture

And “The Gender Box”! As explained by LinzerDinzer and Miles Jai, cramming yourself inside a gender box is not very fitting.

Sites
This is really great for those who may be impatient, a bit embarrassed to get the books (and that’s fine), lack access to the books or simply want all the information right then and there. Here are some great sites!

Condom Depot – Y’all should have seen this coming. Best safe sex product site I’ve ever come across. They have everything from condoms (with rating system, rolled out visuals, measurements and customer reviews). Ordering is discrete – it won’t say “Condom depot” anywhere on the box so it’s easy to fly under the radar – and very affordable! Also there are articles and other writings on sex health, politics and culture around the world. Even if sex makes you squeamish now, just keep this site in mind for later.

Bedsider – This site is fantastic for learning about different types of birth controls without the scary or inaccurate sex ed. lessons! It comes with insightful videos, interactive guides and even a guide on which birth control to choose from abstinence to IUDs. This is a great site, even for the squeamish and easily squicked out about sex and bodies.

Rape Is Not Your Fault – This is for those who have endured sexual assault and rape, both guys and girls. Remember, no matter what happened, it is not your fault. You didn’t lead them on, it wasn’t what you wore, nothing that you said, you are not at fault at your own demise. It is the rapist fault because they are the rapist, they attacked you, not the other way around, end of story. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying and blaming the wrong person, you, and not the person who committed an act of rape. It does not matter if you know the person, if you trusted them or how close you were to them, they had no right whatsoever to dupe you and then persuade you that you’re the criminal of your own crime when really it was them all along. They are the criminal and they should suffer the repercussions because of it and there is no excuse in the book that should save them from it. Again, it is not your fault. The site is meant to serve Baltimore City but can be used by anyone affected by rape and sexual assault. There is also an “Escape” and “Clear History” bar if you are triggered.

And that’s the finish of How Much Do You Love Me series! Normal posting resumes next week! (I promise, I have everything ready and all) And here are two events where you can hang out with me, Black Witch:

Black Witch Meet and Greet (April 14; Baltimore, MD):Let’s hang out and meet each other! This is the Black Witch Meet and Greet, where you can meet me, fellow readers and have fun. Located at the Washington Monument, (if it rains, we’ll be at the Central Library) this event is open to any and everyone. I’ll also be bringing my BW merch, especially the marimos (they’re so popular!) so if anyone wants to buy but duck the shipping, this is the best way to go. The meet and greet will be on April 14th starting at 1 PM EST and going to 4 PM. Be there! If this one is really successful, there will most likely be a monthly BW meet and greet.

Ka-ra-o-ke! Music Time With Black Witch! (May 5; Baltimore, MD): I love singing and I especially love karaoke! So let’s do some karaoke together! We will gather at Rainbow Music Studio on 2126 Maryland 2 and have a room to sing the night away! Rooms prices are $35/hour for up to six people and increases by $10 when up to six more people show up (Ex: $45/hour for 12, $55/hour for 18, so on and so forth) so depending on how many people come, the price could be really small ($5.83 per person if up to six, $3.75 per person for up to twelve, so on and so forth) or bigger than that so although I will keep everyone updated, be sure to bring at least $15.

This post is part of the How Much Do You Love Me? series. Normal posting resumes in April.

Ah, the Nice Guy. This myopic douchebag believes that women should automatically give them sex because they’re sooooooo nice and kiiiiiiiiiind and def. not like other guys. They harass women on the street, have very difficult cognitive skills that borderline “absolute idiot” when it comes to understanding phrases like “No, stop talking to me and leave me alone,” and they believe any woman that is outside their house or visible on the internet is fair game, regardless whether she is busy, tired or plain not social. Women aren’t people to them, just a trophy to win and get sex from.

Here’s the thing about the Nice Guy. He’s not that nice. If anything, he attempts to be manipulative and when the manipulation fails, goes full on salty douchebag. Here’s a great video by the1janitor about why being a Nice Guy, isn’t really being a nice guy.

Wasn’t that vid all informative and fun? This dude hits the nail right on the head. See, women, given that we are people, like to be treated as people, not as damsels in distress or as if we’re open pickings simply because we exist. That’s why I made fun of that dude several Ask Black Witches ago because that’s exactly what he was doing and I, like any other girl, do not appreciate that. No girl or woman appreciates some random person walking up to them going, “You wanna start a relationship [with me, a total stranger]?” It’s creepy as hell, rude and any guy who does that fully deserves to get their every emotion obliterated because they don’t know how to talk to people. Look, if a girl walked up to a dude and acted just as desperate, I have a strong feeling that she would be treated as, well, desperate. Guys shouldn’t be excluded from such treatment because society told them that they are to be the actors and the women to be the acted upon. Nope, act like a jerk, get treated like a jerk, it’s that simple.

Now, if anyone is confused about how girls (and guys) should be chatted up, try the “like a human” route. Y’know, say hi, start small talk, learn to read and acknowledge the girl (or guy) not wanting to talk if it occurs. All you need are regular social skills you should have learned in grade school.

If you’re reading this and still feeling that, “Hey, women should learn how to be more receptive”, congrats, you are the human embodiment of rape culture, your “Proud to be a Douche” trophy will be in the mail with one (1) free coupon to the nearest castration and assisted suicide clinic. Thank you for your unwanted participation.

What is rape culture, everyone? It’s everywhere, from the Nice Guy syndrome to street harassment, to slut shaming to domestic violence to rape itself. It’s the fancy little ball of wtf that makes life pretty hard to live, especially if you’re a girl. It’s the societal assumption that of both genders, women, regardless of whether they’re grown or little girls, are supposed to be acted upon at all times. That, regardless what happens, they should be the victim and it will always be their fault because the onus is supposed to be on the woman to protect her modesty and chastity, especially if they are a minority. And that brings us to this side bit about guys calling women “females”.

See, the term “female” instead of “woman” is degrading. Simple as that. It steals away the human identity because we’re not scientific specimens, we’re people (if I sound like a broken record with this whole “women are people” thing, you won’t believe how many people are not actively aware of this fact). If we can’t even have the basic decency of being regarded as a person, just don’t talk to us. Rudimentary gender description should only be reserved for forms and to describe a group of people where age is not accounted for situation, never in informal talk or chatter. Either you were talking to a girl or a woman, not simply a female so choose one. Demetria of Ask Demetria was very on point when she said that when guys say “female” instead of “woman or girl”, it simply is another word for “b*tch”. So if any guy wants to be successful with women, take it out your vocabulary. It just tags you with “I’m probably a wife beater and/or rapist, please be rude to me.” This is also ditto with “shorty” and “ma”. Use of “Queen” means you’re the Afriboo edition of the degrading douchebag with a side of Nice Guy. Please avoid it.

On that note, I wanna bring up rape. If you think a rapist is a creepy guy in the bushes, hate to say it but you’re wrong. Almost 80% of rapes are done by guys that the girl* knew, which is part of why the number of reported rapes are so low. The “creepy guy in the bushes” is about 9%. (Lying about rape is about 2-4%.) Rape, as defined by the FBI, is “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim,” which basically mean if there isn’t consenting, it. Is. Rape. End of story. Forcing the girl to have sex? Rape. Is she sleep and wants to stay that way but you don’t? Rape. Is she drunk beyond comprehension? Rape. She says no or something along those lines and you won’t listen? Rape. Rape is rape. Between straight couples, gay couples, guy forcing himself on girl, girl forcing himself on guy, so on and so forth, it doesn’t matter, rape is rape. If the dude refuses to acknowledge non-consent in any way, shape or form, it rape/sexual assault.

I’m sure some folks don’t know how rape and sexual assault are different so here’s a basic cheat sheet:

  • if it is unwelcomed touching in an inappropriate area such as breasts or derriere or crotch, it’s sexual assault
  • if it is unwelcomed touching anywhere else on the body or making inappropriate sexual comments, it’s sexual harassment (which is what street harassment falls under, we’ll be talking about that later)
  • if it is forced sex (oral, vaginal or anal), it’s rape.

And there you go, your cheat sheet for life, now you can talk to people without risking interaction with the healthcare system, judicial system or mace. Still confused? Read and read again. Don’t wait for a “no” but aim for an enthusiastic “yes”. A rapist isn’t the creepy dude in the shadows but the guy who decided to not understand dissent.

Now, I’m sure I will have the random guy or girl (mainly guy) reader that goes, “But-but-but, women are aloof creatures that mean one thing but do another? How am I supposed to know when they say ‘yes’, it means ‘yes’ and when they say ‘no’ they’re not just playing ‘hard to get’? Women are so crazy, they make no sense.” Firstly, please turn off the tv, drop all your men magazine subscriptions and listen up: Women are no more complicated people than men are. Humans are, by extension, complicated creatures. If we weren’t, psychology wouldn’t exist, self-help writers would be starving in the street and advertisement would choose smarter methods to convince you to get their product rather than go down the “get the girl/all the girls” route that so strongly populates our media. Yes, you’re gonna come across some random girl who internalized the misogyny of mainstream modern culture, just like I come across guys who internalized patriarchal, hyper-masculine ideas of mainstream modern culture. They are generally nutters, poorly deluded, insecure (both genders) and – as you could probably guess – not worth bothering about with. If you think women are crazy, you’re probably the nutter I described above.

On street harassment: don’t do it. Street harassment is basically making inappropriate or sexist remarks or actions to women, using abusive language when women rebuff your random encounter. Most women hate street harassment because it is exactly that, harassment. Telling a woman to smile is harassment (if you don’t tell guys to smile, then yes, it can be seen as sexist probably because it is because like men, women have hard days and aren’t bobbing bubbles of sunshine), trying to get a woman’s number exactly .05 seconds after acknowledging her existence is harassment (and creepy), assuming that a woman needed your opinion on how short her skirt is/big her legs are/small her bust is/tight her shirt is/etc and loudly voicing that opinion is harassment. If you want to get to know a woman, try talking to her like a human being using normal social skills, it’s probably your best method. And if you’re miffed that girls put up a defense the second you talk to them, probably because you’re not the first guy to harass them and secondly, that society believe that women should be on their guard from future harassment or suffer being slut-shamed and deal with endless victim blaming because, welp, they didn’t protect their virginal ways enough.

If someone just checked their calendar throughout all this, yes, it is still 2013 but it feels so 1813, don’t it? We can call someone on the other side of the earth as if they lived in the next house over, complete with HD visuals and our phones can double as tvs, music players, cameras, calculators, PDAs, datebooks, computers and more but we still have to have this “Treat women like people because they are” discussion that folks didn’t understand back when they thought that hysteria meant the uterus was floating throughout the body and that blowing tobacco smoke up your derriere could alleviate stomach pain and save near drowning victims (I’m not making this up, check out #9). Yep. What strides in time we have made.

So, don’t be a Nice Guy. Be yourself – Oh, and the Friendzone! Let us talk about the Friendzone!

Okay, the friendzone is what the “Nice Guy” believes is the worst thing that could happen to them: to only be considered a friend and nothing more. Not a guy to screw or even a potential boyfriend, just a normal friend. Oh, the horror. All their niceness and pleasantness, wasted! I mean, if there’s no booty to be gotten, what else could possibly be there for the Nice Guy? All that is left is this girl who should now be derided as a tease and perplexing cunt who lead him on. How dare she not thank him for his kindness without removal of the panties? How mean. It’s like she saw the dude as a normal guy who had no ulterior motives they’d use conniving and manipulative methods for such as “be nicer than nice”.

The Nice Guy is only nice because they feel their only other method to get what they want lives out in a popular Sublime song: “If it wasn’t for date rape, I’d never get laid.” Using the more passive method of just pretending to be a decent human being, when it doesn’t bear the fruits of labor they prefer, here comes the whining of the friendzone because apparently being a friend to someone is a terrible thing. On the other end of all this, the girl is being “f*ckzoned”, meaning the Nice Guy doesn’t see her worth as a person or who she is, just as a walking Fleshlight. This girl could be really cool and smart but if she’s not dropping her skirt, there’s not much worth to her in the eyes of the Nice Guy. That most truly is coldhearted and degrading thinking because the girl is not seen as a whole person anymore but a sex aid, she’s objectified.

So, what if all the guy wanted was casual sex? He can’t just up and approach women on the street because that’s street harassment. Can’t be overwhelmingly nice when he’s actually not because that’s trickery. Can’t ignore dissent and rejections of sex because that’s rape. What is a guy to do? Oh woe, how difficult it is to not be the gender that doesn’t have to be on the receiving end of all this crap.

How about…having better perspectives on sex, sexuality, gender and a little bit of restraint? Women are expected to restrain themselves and their desires to the point of developing neurosis over it so it’s not like guys can’t do the same. Yeah, society won’t really give guys a hand on containing their sexual desires via oppressive laws, gender ideas and cultural backlash that can even result in death but eh, it can be done, nonetheless. Look on the bright side, dudes! No one is threatening to slit your whore throat if you decide to abstain from sex! (If that last sentence didn’t make sense, now you know how girls feel just a little bit.) Instead, just develop more sex positive ideas and interact with people who believe the same and you may get to have a better sex life. If you’re going “Omg, look at that slut over there, why does her shirt have a cowboy on it? She just wants guys to look at her boobs and then get offended when they do,” girls start to mentally strike you off their “May want to bone” list because you just slid yourself at least 200 years back in time. Misogyny is not attractive and yes, it is really hard to find women to sleep with when you keep spouting hateful ideas about them and using subversive tactics that get discovered.

So, don’t be the Nice Guy, just be yourself. Seriously! If a girl digs you, she’ll let you know. If she don’t, she’ll let you know. If she can’t, just move on without delay.

Alright, this is the second to last post of this month’s series! Next week is “The Arts” version for the How Much Do You Love Me? series! That mean:

  • books!
  • videos!
  • sites!

For everyone to use! So many that I couldn’t list them all here! And thank you everyone for bearing with the chronic late postings for this month, how embarrassing!

Oh, and there are Black Witch Meet and Greet events! Check them out here for all the details

* I know some random dude is gonna say, “Guys get raped, too” and y’all are right, but you’re only about 3% of the pie (yes, keeping in mind that rape is under-reported for both genders). As you read, switch to the appropriate gender in your head.

This piece is written by Angelica Temoche for the BW series “How Much Do You Love Me?” Normal postings resume in April.

I have found enthusiastic consent to be a litmus test of whether or not I’m going to have a great time in bed. Bad sex is definitely one of the most off putting, self-esteem damaging things that can happen in your day to day life. I have found that doing a quick personal inventory can steer you away from a lot of potentially negative sexual encounters and leave you with no regrets.

Comfort and Trust
This is paramount to having great sex. Sex is super anxiety-inducing; you are putting yourself in a physically and emotionally vulnerable position. Even if you enjoy those feelings of vulnerability it’s important to choose a partner that you trust won’t take advantage of you exposing your weak spots.

A big part of comfort is having self-confidence. If you’re not comfortable with yourself, you’re definitely going to experience discomfort with someone else. Get comfortable with your body, experiment, find out what you what you like and what you don’t. Know enough about yourself to know how to make sex good for you, regardless of the experience and skills of your partner(s).

Mental and Physical Attraction
Knowing what you are attracted to is a big part of finding what you need to get off. I don’t know about you, but I can’t really get enthusiastic about sex with a person I don’t find hot. Of course this can manifest in a lot of different ways. Physical attraction is the most obvious one, looking across the room and seeing the hottie with the rockin’ body. Visuals are usually the go-to for how we state our preferences, “I want someone with this eye color, this hair type, this height, etc.,” but other attributes can inform our attraction too. Smell is a big one for me, taste too, the taste of their mouth or their skin; strength, the way a person moves can also make up a person’s attractiveness to you.

However, on a completely different aspect I often find myself attracted to the way people think more than the way they look. I have definitely had a lot of sexual encounters that were extremely satisfying despite me not having a physical attraction to the person involved just because I was so enamored with their values or thought process. (This is more about whether I find a person interesting, rather than whether I think they are smart. A person who is really smart, but is a dull homebody with few interests isn’t going to wet my panties.) This type of encounter definitely takes more time though, especially if you are not a particularly open or candid speaker. If you are more interested in this type of attractiveness in a sexual partner you’ll have more luck among a group of people with the same niche interest or in the same subculture, rather than going to a local bar or club. For kinky people, sometimes being attracted to a person for their physical or mental attributes isn’t necessary. Sometimes all that is required is an appreciation of their dominance or submission; this goes to show how looking for partners within a more limited community can go in your favor. All types of attraction are legitimate and factor into whether or not you want to have sex with that person.

Playing Safe
O.K. we all know to wear condoms, or at least I hope you do, if not, here it is:

WEAR CONDOMS!

Also, learn your acceptable levels of risk:

Safest: Don’t touch anyone’s bare genitals, don’t kiss anyone
Next Safest: Wrap everything! Condoms are your best friends! Dental dams, toys in condoms, hands in doctor’s gloves when touching bare genitals/inserting into orifices.*
Risky: Do what you do, sometimes sh*t happens in the heat of the moment. If this is where you are at, have another forms of birth control (hormones or implant), know where to get a Plan B pill, and be prepared to get tested regularly for STDs.

Now lets talk other kinds of safety.

Mental and Emotional Safety
Sex involves emotional and physical intimacy (that’s one of the things that makes it so great), so during sex you are more open to getting emotionally or physically hurt. Sex also has a tendency to bring up subconscious trust, abandonment, and intimacy issues without warning. Getting triggered during sex happens to the best of us. For this reason, it’s a great idea to have a safe way out, thus safewords! Some people have fun making up new safewords for every occasion, some people use the same ones each time. For regular sex, mine used to be “stop,” if you’re not interested in having a conversation about safewords and you are playing with a vanilla person, “no” and “stop” might be all you need. However, a strongly stated, “When I say ‘stop’ you will stop,” never went amiss for more hardheaded people. For kinky people, the stock set of safewords are “yellow” and “red”. Yellow means “slow down, that particular action or sensation isn’t working for me, move onto something else”, or “back off” if you’ve just upped the intensity. Red means a full stop, something has gone wrong and we can’t continue. Sometimes after a red you can talk it over to evaluate what happened and attempt the scene again, but it’s just as valid to not attempt the scene again and walk away. I rather like those safewords, even for non-sexual situations; and the conversation is even shorter, “Red and Yellow, o.k.?” And an enthusiastic nod or yes is is the go ahead. For more extreme situations where your partner can’t see your face or you can’t speak, make sure to have an agreed upon set of hand signals.

Learn to use your safewords. Yes, having them is a step in the right direction, but if you aren’t comfortable saying them, they are no use to you. If you need to, practice using them. Set an arbitrary boundary and have your partner push or break it, then bring the safeword out. Your partner will stop immediately, you’ve learned to protect yourself, and you’ve built trust together. Remember that safewords are for both partners, so practice both ways.

Actual Danger
In your sexual travels, people may ask you to engage in acts that are life or mental heath threatening. Some people can accept the level of risk involved in these acts. I don’t like being put in the position to hold someone’s life in my hands. For you, maybe the the act isn’t life-threatening, it just totally turns you off, squicks you out. In these instances, sometimes it’s nice to offer someone a simulation of that act. Dialing it back a few notches, verbally painting a picture of what they want done to them, rather than actually doing the risky act can satisfy both partners. Of course it’s always o.k. to say a definitive “no”, just be aware that if your partner is particularly attached to this act, they might seek it elsewhere. It’s important that sexual flexibility is there for both partners, so maybe you can each have a list of things that are, “hot to think about, but not necessarily to do.” Of course the thing that makes this simulation work is the idea that it’s hot to serve or please your partner, if you are not enthusiastic about that, don’t consent to simulating an act that scares or squicks you.

Communication: Asking for what you want
Know what you want. Ask for it. Fortune favors the bold. Know what you don’t want. Make your hard boundaries known before a sexual encounter. If you don’t have the ability to ask for what you want sexually, you probably shouldn’t be having sex. When I am sexually submissive, I get extremely quiet to the point where I can’t really make full sentences, so to me it’s very important to make my desires and limits known before a sexual encounter, and make sure that my partner will not deviate from a planned scene or try to negotiate for more during the scene. Just being in subspace (a kind of high on being treated submissively) can often make me willing to give an automatic yes, rather than actually thinking about it. This is where it’s important, if you are topping a person, to make them fully present when you are asking them something important. (If you don’t get quiet during sex, good on you. Your partner will know what feels good to you and what doesn’t from what you say and the sounds you make. Both ways are fine, but being vocal makes it much easier on your partner.) Make a joke, change the music, give them something to get out of their head if you need them to make a real decision. Likewise, don’t ask them important, consent-giving questions when they are coming down from a scene in aftercare. Be aware when you are getting automatic consent, rather than enthusiastic consent. You always have the ability to stop things and safeword out if you need to.

Inhibitions can be good
Don’t drink and screw. Inhibitions keep us from doing things we are going to feel bad about later. So if you want to escape future guilt, avoid having sex while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Just wait it out until the effects have passed. Make it a personal principle to say “no” when under the influence. Likewise, don’t screw drunk people, they are going to be uncoordinated and off their game. You deserve the best sex a partner can give you so wait until they are sober. If you can’t have sex unless you are on something, you should see a doctor. In a scenario where you are sober, and your inhibitions are in the way of you having great sex, make sure they are personal misgivings rather than cultural or social ones. Thinking, “I shouldn’t do this, my roommate might think I’m a slut tomorrow when she sees me in the same clothes” isn’t really a valid reason not to have sex while thinking, ”I’m not going to have respect for myself tomorrow if I do this” is a valid one.

Relax and Have Fun
Ok, so have you gone through the checklist?

  • Am I comfortable with this person/these people? Can I trust them?
  • Am attracted to the person/people involved?
  • Am I safe? Can I accept the level of risk involved? Have I taken actions/ precautions to make this safer? What is my safeword?
  • Have I made it clear what I want and don’t want? Do I know what my partner wants?
  • Am I sober?
  • All good? Let’s have sex!

If you know the answers to these questions, it’s way easier to make a good decision about having sex. When you feel good about that decision you can relax, have fun, and enjoy your orgasm. You can also use this a guideline to evaluate past encounters and learn how to make future ones more enthusiastically consensual.

Have Fun and Happy Screwing,

-Angelica

Angelica Temoche is a well rounded artist, graphic designer and printmaker that strongly believes in being sex-positive and promoting self love. Check out her website Spiralred.com

* Note from the Editor: As Angelica and I found out, some people have heard of using plastic cling wrap (Such as Saran Wrap) to serve as a dental dams but this is really outdated information that could cause more harm than good. It can prevent passage of herpes simplex but not other STDs and it’s only for non-microwavable cling wrap. Here’s a really good explaination of where the idea came from and why you shouldn’t do it today. What’s a good alternative to getting dental dams? Here’s this handy guide on how to make one out of a male condom. – BW

Twyla couldn’t make it and I didn’t want to fill the series with my writing so here’s a video from Jay Smooth where he interviews Elizabeth Mendez Berry, who wrote the Vibe article “Love Hurts” about relationship violence and uses  the incident Chris & Rhianna as an example.

This post starts off the new Black Witch series, “How Much Do You Love Me?” Normal posting resumes in April.

How culture see sex and sexuality, it is in such weird forms. It is everywhere but taboo, there are so many harmful myths within realities, misconceptions and stuff that’s just plain wrong or creepy. Sex and sexuality comes in different forms so let’s start with the basics and bust a few myths along the way, shall we?

The different forms of sexuality/orientation:

Heterosexuality: Pretty simple – it means that you’re attracted to the opposite sex. So if you’re a guy, you like girls. If you’re a girl, you like guys.

Homosexuality: Also simple – it means that you’re attracted to the same sex. So, if you’re a guy, you like guys. If you’re a girl, you like girls.

Bisexuality: Quite Simple – Attraction to both genders. Regardless of whether you are a guy or a girl, you like both guys and girls.

Now here comes the lesser known sexualities/orientations!

Demisexuality – A person, regardless of gender, does not experience a sexual attraction to anyone unless a strong emotional connection is formed.

Pansexuality – Attracted to all genders identities and both sexes. They reject the gender binary.

Asexuality – No sexual attraction to anyone. Doesn’t mean they don’t have the ability to have sex, just no desire to.

Now in case someone goes, “You forgot sapiosexual!” I’m gonna talk about this right now. For those that don’t know, Sapiosexual is supposed to mean “Sexual attraction to those who are intelligent” and is not a valid sexuality/orientation. Feeling emo? Don’t because here is why:

A) Intelligence is a bit subjective. What one person could see someone as smart, somebody else could see as a dunce. Intellegence is more than knowing how to recite Pi. For example, Neil Tyson-Degrasse is really smart…when it comes to astrophysics. When he made the remark he did about the Mayans and how invalid their wheel of the year was and that they were wiped out because the Western world was going New Agey and hijacking their wheel of the year, he didn’t appear so smart. If you need to know the weight of Mercury and the statistical probability of it sling shooting the Earth into Jupiter, he’s your guy. Ask him about culture issues or sit him in front of beakers and say, “Alright, Mr. Scientist, explain and prove this random illness that’s been popping up,” he probably wouldn’t know what to do because although he is indeed a scientist and considered an intellectual, that’s not his field. Does it mean he’s a Grade-A idiot? Not really. He just has weaknesses, like everyone else, which shows that “smart” is in the eye of the beholder.

B) It’s human nature to want to pick someone fairly not stupid…comparatively. Want someone who you feel is intelligent? Woo, that just means human nature is at work. Remember, intelligence is subjective. No one really wants the dimwit who sits in a tree eating paint chips and drinking glue all day…except for the guy or gal who is wooed by the “intellect” of this dimwit and their opinion on, say, how the music industry should stop picking presidents and that the government should never ration salt because it would cause a worldwide riot. The dingbat finds the dimwit smart by their own standards even though the rest of the world sees the two as pretty dumb both equally and individually. It’s a trait that people like, has nothing to do sexuality. It’s no different if someone likes a person who is good at music or very athletic, it’s a preferable trait, not an orientation.

In short, to claim being sapiosexual is pseudo-intellectual in and of itself.

Now that we have these out of the way, here’s the issues that the perception of the sexualities can bring

Heterosexuality: Problems with this sexuality: how strongly it is enforced. In movies, shows, everywhere, heterosexuality is heavily enforced as the norm to the point that any consideration otherwise can be met with violence, even death. And continually viewing the world through the scope of staunch heterosexuality creates stigma, terrible gender policing and possibly death (Don’t believe me? Ask the family of Matthew Sheppard and Marco McMillian). It’s considered the norm and the only norm, which is the main problematic part.

Homosexuality: Problems with this sexuality: How heterosexuality views it. Homosexuality, has been seen as a preference (in opposed to being considered natural, like heterosexuality), still considered a mental disorder in some places in the world or recently relieved of such status (United States just took it off the books in 1974/entirely in 1986), or a curse somehow. Also, it is mistakenly accused in those who do not participate in stereotypical gender roles in dress and/or personality.

Bisexuality: Problems with this sexuality: How heterosexuality views it and homosexuality is unnecessarily confused by it. Seen as a kink, accusation of “being greedy/confused/not sure if straight or gay”, seen as a kink (I figure it bears repeating twice).

Demisexuality: Problem with this sexuality: commonly confused for asexual, considered gray-asexuality despite being its own orientation. Depicted as being “chaste”, which is a behavior instead of a valid orientation.

Pansexuality: Problems with this sexuality: Despised by heterosexuality. Confused for bisexuality and thus catches all the problems bisexuality does.

Asexual: Problems with this sexuality: Confused for celibacy or abstinence, which are behaviors not a natural orientation

Now, you probably have noticed by now that the various orientations are depicted by their relationship with heterosexuality and strained through Western culture, which is fairly Christian so you could imagine the problems that can cook up.

This brings us to gender roles, gender policing and culture. This we could talk about alllllll day but still some folks could still be left in the dust so we’re gonna be example heavy. For that we’re gonna be bringing out some pretty useful folks: Janelle Monae and Nicki Minaj.

Alrightie, let’s roll onto the roles. Before we start with the examples, let’s explain.

Gender roles are what mainstream society determines as how one should act if they are a boy or a girl. So if you’re a boy, you’re supposed to be rough and tumble, aggressive, opinionated and dominant. If you’re a girl, you’re sweet and passive, emotional but not opinionated. So if you’re a girl that is rough and tumble, aggressive, opinionated and dominant or a boy that is very sweet and emotional, gender policing will be on the horizon and quickly, you bet. Gender policing is a cultural reaction that can appear in macro (society) or micro (individual) forms. The macro form could be a billboard selling whatever that depicts a dominant woman as a cold-heated harpy (because, remember, we’re supposed to be maternal), a show that codes a sporty woman as ugly and unlovable, or a joke that accuses a guy of being gay because he’s not that into football. It varies further when race gets involved.

Aha yes, homophobic-styled gender policing. Because one is not adhering to their “gender norms” (put in quotes because, in case you haven’t gleaned, gender roles are taught), the assumption is that they must be gay! I mean, it’s because, hey if a guy acts like a girl (for shame!), he must like guys because deep down, this gay dude wants to be a girl and if a girl is too aggressive like a man, she must like girls because hey, that’s what men do since everyone is naturally heterosexual and that’s that. And homosexuality can be discovered through how the person dresses, acts and think. So if you know a guy that knows how to pair colors or a girl that is killer in rugby, they must be gay and that’s that because men are suppose to be men and women are supposed to be women. And if you’re a straight ally, people will definitely wonder or accuse you as a closet gay because hey, no straight person in their right (and homophobic) mind would ever care about gay rights…unless they are one.

Yah, that’s logic-bending bullsh*t.

The problem is, people have been killed over this kind of thinking. If there was a guy that had a flower charm hanging from their phone, people would go, “WE HAVE A GAY HERE! GET THE BLEACH AND FIRE!” because oh noes! Flowers are feminine! And to be feminine while male is gay! Which is somehow a threat to society and no man in his right mind would step a level beneath him and become feminine and still consider himself straight! What these folks didn’t consider: A) Men are people, some pretend to be cardboard cut outs of masculinity and others don’t let their gender hinder them B) that flower charm could have a story behind it, such as it may remind him of his mother who passed on because that was her favorite flower and C) gender is applied and how one expresses gender does not mean anything on their sexuality. So, because of this really bigoted form of gender policing, people wind up dying simply because they didn’t not want to adhere to their gender role because of how limiting it is. Or deal with a lifetime of gender policing that can create a myriad of problems for the person being policed.

And one more piece of vocab: Slut shaming: “Slut-shaming, also known as slut-bashing, is the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings. Furthermore, it’s ‘about the implication that if a woman has sex that traditional society disapproves of, she should feel guilty and inferior’ (Alon Levy, Slut Shaming). It is damaging not only to the girls and women targeted, but to women in general and society as a whole. It should be noted that slut-shaming can occur even if the term slut’ itself is not used.”

Onward with the examples!

Alrightie then. Here you have Nicki Minaj, she is a Black, female, rapper who is also noted for how she dresses, which is usually in a sexy manner and occasionally dabbles in alternative fashion. (She’s once worn lolita, Demonias, and 6% DokiDoki). One thing that pushed her success in hip hop, a sausage fest grade male-dominated genre, is her ability to assume masculinity such as being brash, loud, putting bass in her tone and being dominant.

And here we have Janelle Monae, she is Black, female, a singer who is also noted for how she dresses, usually in black and white, suits and a pompadour. Wearing a suit, a clothing style that has been coded as masculine for centuries, and being the head of Wondaland Arts Society, she exudes what would be considered masculine because she doesn’t really require the assistance of guys. If anything, the men of Wonderland are moreso the supporting beams in comparison because they don’t have to be around for Janelle Monae to have any relevancy.

Okie dokie, we have our folks, Monae and Minaj. They’re both Black women in the music branch of the entertainment industry and to get to where they are and achieve noteworthiness, they had to assume “masculine” traits. This is not to say that feminine traits won’t get you anywhere in the biz if you’re a chick (because that’s not true) but that masculinity is considered the norm and femininity is a subset. And here comes the gender policing because you better believe they both catch it but in different ways and for different reasons.

Minaj encounters gender policing through slut shaming, homophobic accusations (because remember, only straight people play their proper roles) annnnnnd if you ever wanted to know for fact that rape culture exist, you don’t have to look any further than how Nicki Minaj gets treated. Because of how she dresses and acts, commonly Minaj is derisively slut shamed. I think at this point people have called her everything from whore to ho to whatever derogatory word is there for women who are open sexually. That or guys assume that her clothing and actions are non-verbal forms of consent to treat her as a objectified thing instead of a whole human (Example: Regis Philbin). To be sexually assertive and aggressive is supposed to be a “guy” thing and because no one slut shames male rappers for acting the exact same way or at a more increased level because let’s face it, Kanye West and other well known rappers are probably the picture definition of “yo-yo knickers”.

Since she’s Black, that definitely complicates the problem because she does not get the same slut shaming that Lady Gaga and Katy Perry does. Oh no, Minaj catches worse because of her race. She’s not simply a “whore”, she’s supposed to be a low down, dirty, little welfare sucker of a skank. Yay, racism. That stuff can bend logic better than a telekinetic can bend silverware. Nicki Minaj is subjected to the Jezebel stereotype, with a side of Sapphire. The Jezebel stereotype is the assumption that she – like other Black women – just gooooooootta have it. Sex is all they think about, sex is all they want. Binkin’ like bunnies is all they want, just like the Black male counterpart, they’re like animals. This is because Western society’s perception of love, sex and beauty is based on White, Christian, heteronormative and preferably male ideals. So much commentary is made on Minaj’s body and what it is supposed to do for other, not herself. She’s been compared to Sarah Baartman, The Hottentot Venus, by Afriboos because she’s showing her body off and with multicolored straight hair at that. Male – and even some female – rappers who attempt to diss her go straight for the body first and her skills second because it’s a much easier target to call Minaj a ho – regardless how hypocritical that charge is for the average mainstream rapper – and to slut shame her for not being “proper”. Because she is Black, female and likes her body enough to show it off, that’s enough to make society to foam at the mouth and police her gender. I mean, she’s supposed to be a girl, she has to be demure and genteel but instead she’s all dominant and emasculating. That’s where the side of Sapphire comes in. Not only is her persona is aggressive, it’s aggressive to men and in a patriarchal society, that’s a no no.

Being aggressive while female is supposedly threatening because gender roles dictate that only men are supposed to be aggressive, if women were aggressive, that’s an unnatural problem according to the role. The Sapphire is the Black woman who is ever mean with her wagging finger and sharp tongue. She is not nice and will not simply cooperate with man, oh no. Loud, rude and uncouth is the description of the Sapphire.

And how about that homophobic styled gender policing? Because Minaj is acting in a “masculine” manner, folks made the assumption that she is actually bi or gay because she made masculine references about women and through the play of language to establish an air of dominance, folks assumed “O hai, she must be gay because she’s making the same references that a guy would.” Also the assumption follows in the vein of the Lesbian trope which fetishizes lesbianism as something from a normal orientation to a sexual fetish for men because of the patriarchal “Hey, heterosexuality is the staple, right? Women exist because we exist, why would they actually be in relationship with each other? It doesn’t involve us, that doesn’t make sense.” And in hip hop, which is pretty notorious for being misogynistic to the point it’s quite clear they don’t see women as people but as things to show off to the point they faded out their own female emcees, it’s not that surprising they would expect such out of Minaj because of how sexualized her image is and even if it weren’t, they’d figure a way to somehow. Notice if any guy rapper were accused of this level of homosexuality, it would be as if calling him weak or feminine – an insult, in other words. Guy rappers are expected to sell using their wit, women rappers are supposed to sell using their body.

Now, for Janelle Monae!

Monae encounters gender policing through slut shaming (but a different variation!) and forced homosexual coding. Now, I know some folks are going, “But no one is calling her a slut for her clothes! She’s all covered up and ain’t flashing everyone! She’s so proper and refined!” And thar ya go, le slut shaming train has pulled into the station. This takes away Monae’s right to wear whatever she wants and even making assumptions about her over it. Because she’s wearing a suit, people are surprised that she curses, wears revealing undies (her pants split on stage, sexist uproar happened) or pretty much acknowledges that her body is her own. Either people are telling her to show skin to sell more records – remember, guy musicians aren’t usually told, “Alright, we need a spike in sales, strip down and here’s a boa, get creative” or anything of that nature – or to never break from the prim and proper look because if so, people will change faster than the speed of light.

Thankfully, she weakens the Black woman stereotype of the Mammy, Sapphire or Jezebel but she could fall prey to the “Black Women are strong” stereotype which makes people believe the erroneous fact that she is made of stone and forever stoic in opposed to a person who, just like everyone else, has good days, bad days, great days and craptacular days. Because she’s, welp, a person. That stereotype is something from a mixture of racism and sexism because already Black people are not really seen as people in modern day media but as moving caricatures of various stereotypes thus Black women would be seen in a misogynistic and racist way that is supposed to only benefit mainstream (read: White) culture. One of those stereotypes is the “Strong, Resilient Black Woman”. Don’t think it resonates today? Ever heard of the “I’m a strong Black woman that don’t need no man” meme? Yah, there’s your racism wrapped within sexism in sentence form that diminishes Black women who hold their own to be made of steel and bossy because remember, we live in a heteronormative, patriarchal society so a woman being independent? How…masculine. But hey, Black women are used to holding their own without a man because they’re so strong [read: this is a really racist statement]. So Monae does weaken and cut through the main three stereotypes but society still will attempt to press a stereotype on her image because we do NOT live in a post-racial society and never did.

Since Monae usually wears suits and a pompadour and that’s codified as “masculine” and “male”, she has to deal with people going, “SHE GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!” because she wears a suit. Orientation apparently can be defined by a piece of clothing. Everyone, please know that this is a really, really REALLY STUPID way to determine someone’s sexuality. If you think women wearing suits somehow flags them as gay, you’re probably the paint chip eating dimwit I described earlier in this piece. Clothes don’t define gender. A guy could wear a skirt, doesn’t mean he’s straight or gay, he’s just a guy who is wearing a skirt. A girl wearing a pair of pants does not mean she’s straight or gay, she’s just wearing a pair of pants. It’s just clothes but to everyone else, it is something to read into and scrutinize. This is gender policing because if she wore a skirt, fussing would not ensue because she would be a woman following her “normal” gender role and they’d just would slut shame her based on how short her knee-length (or longer) skirts are instead.

Basically Monae gets hit with “Put on a skirt!” and Minaj gets hit with “Put on some pants!” Can’t catch a break nowhere.

This is how gender roles, gender policing and slut shaming can be complex issues for women because of sex and sexuality is used. It should be reminded that not acting out gender roles does not equal “gay”, gender roles are made up and enforced by society and culture as not all cultures and societies believe the same about what men and women should do and how they should act.

And my! This is a lot of info I’m sure so we’ll stop here and I’ll follow up with “No More Mr. Nice Guy” but the next column will be written by Twyla Cummings.

This post was written by Winona Caesar for this month’s series “Comin Straight Outta Your Monolith”. Normal Black Witch postings resume in April.

The recent controversy of The Hunger Games(2012) casting of black characters in roles of sympathy and importance, reminds everyone how much representations of African Americans have been questioned due to narrow outlooks from select audience members/readers. (Here is the original article about Hunger Games controversy) These questions have prevented positive representations of African Americans. Yes, African Americans have been seen in small numbers, as a token characters. However, most have not been a lead character in big box-office successes that crosses all demographics. When they do break out, it is considered a fluke or better yet, expected, as in the case of Will Smith. Overall, Hollywood and popular media see no lasting potential to provide powerful roles to actors that are considered threatening. And this threatening behavior is mostly fabricated through various stereotypes projected on a whole group of people. Nowadays, African American actors are usually relegated to “Black Films” that star all black casts. These films are profitable as in the case of Tyler Perry films, but usually do not have vast crossover appeal and are relegated to the comedy and drama genre. On top of that, they are pushed into independent productions.

The portrayals of African Americans have been lacking truth since the beginning of film. Although film is a fictional medium, the distinction between fiction and reality is often blurred. The representations of African Americans in the early years of film were of white men in black face, in mostly degrading situations. The pinnacle of this negative portrayal was in epic three hour film, The Birth of a Nation (1915). Directed by D. W. Griffith the film blighted African American identity for years afterward. Even with some positive images from various directors including Oscar Michaeux, Hollywood still relegated the few African American actors and actresses to maids, musical numbers, and comedic foils.  Blackface (or Yellowface, Brownface, etc) is still practiced today, although there are various explanations on why the actor had to. The obvious one that pops into my mind is the parody film Tropic Thunder (2008). I was not offended that Robert Downey Jr. did that, because it was actually addressing something that Hollywood does on a regular basis, which is cast white actors as characters who are white “with a tan” such as in The Last Airbender  (2010) and The Hunger Games (2012). Spike Lee tried to point this attraction to minstrel shows in his satirical film, Bamboozled (2000). The film addresses a modern day minstrel show with black actors in blackface, and the militant actions that occurred after it became successful. Like most Spike Lee films, the box office numbers was extremely low. Maybe that’s saying something, but it is not anything new.

Moreover, Blaxploitation started as a positive filmic movement of black empowerment in the early 1970s that quickly became corrupted when Hollywood found that there could be profits made. According to Susan Hayward from the book Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts, Blaxploitation films were “Hollywood films during 1971-6 that sought to capitalize on the initial success of Shaft and Superfly. These films starring Black actors—but produced by whites and mostly directed by whites—deliberately targeted Black audiences” (Hayward 52). As the studios pumped out numerous films during the five years, they basically ran the movement into the ground, maybe consciously trying to discredit African American films. Even today with breakout African American actors who can crossover, they usually have to leave something behind. So many times the characters are de-sexualized. As in the case of Whoopi Goldberg, her talent is comedy, that even when she is in a relationship with a character, she normally would not be seen in any sexualized way.

On top of just being an African American, or better yet, Black, skin color and black coding plays a huge role within film, and within the African American community. The lighter the skin color dictates the roles that are given, and those of fairer skin are able to be more welcoming to the audience. However, there are times when the rule is broken, and stereotypes crosses over any character type. Skin color doesn’t even need to be involved as in the case of the Michael Bay directed Transformers (2007). “Black” coding as a culture practice, can also spread to voice acting. Having an African American actor voice the character and give him exaggerated hip-hop speak plays into the codes and signals of ‘what is black’ in society. It goes into what is White (good, pure etc) to what is Black (bad, dirty) and when I am accused of being “White” why should I take offense? Is that a good thing? This is the same with film as the coding of films dictate what people’s perception will be. Because “Blackness” is coded with all sorts of negatives.

Right now, I am writing my thesis on Tyler Perry’s representation of African American women within his use of comedy in four of his films. “Blackness” is complicated, as different perspectives changes the meanings.

Some suggested reading:

Tom, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films by Donald Bogle
Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film by Ed Guerrero

This post is part of the BW series “Comin’ Straight Outta Your Monolith”. Normal BW postings resume in April.

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across a post on Madame Noire that talked about “Black Privilege”. Granted the post was very tongue-in-cheek, it simply was to look at Black stereotypes in a happy, positive way. Such as getting athletic scholarship (nothing too wrong with that buuut I prefer my race to have more braniacs and less pole vaulting) or getting the pass to fly off the handle.

The one entry that bugged me though was number 4: “We wish a [insert expletive here] would, but they don’t”. It reads:

“Decades of Cops and other shows that perpetuate violent stereotypes associated with blackness have instilled a level of fear into a good amount of people in society. And despite the fact that over 90 percent of crime is intra-racial, that fear makes others hesitant to jump into conflict with a sista (or a brotha).”

Yep. That violent stereotype that makes other races “back off us” is responsible for a dead 17 year old right now. I don’t think it’s privilege when the only thing it graces you with is an early grave. At least White privilege allows you to murder a harmless 17 year old and even the police will cover for you despite all the condemning evidence and still folks will say you’re innocent…despite stalking and gunning down someone with a pack of skittles and some iced tea for a weapon.

Thing is, stereotypes can be taken in jest but as far as Black stereotypes goes, we don’t really have much to celebrate. Not everyone likes to feel like they’re in the one race depicted to be evil incarnate. And when that belief is applied, it can be fatal.

Violence is one of the biggest stereotypes that our race has and can create a bevy of reactions. It can create a fear response from other races where they assume we’re going to pop off at any given moment so they steer out the way of us and get concerned when we start to get into their hobbies or fandoms (ask Weeaboo Stories). It also can create suspicion that we are likely to turn violent at any given moment and that in itself can create a fight response in the other race.

As many of you are aware, Trayvon Martin was killed in February when he was returning home from the store bearing only skittles and iced tea when he was tracked and gunned down by George Zimmerman because of the stereotypical assumption that Trayvon was up to no good and would be likely to fight if confronted so he opted to hunt Trayvon and shoot him as he, Trayvon, plead for his life. Still Zimmerman walks free. Though I personally believe if Zimmerman does not get arrested, he’s pretty much a dead man walking, I think that this shows how terrible “harmless” stereotypes are. Post-racial America? Yeah, right.

So this column is going to be mega short. Instead, please sign this petition to have psychopath Zimmerman behind bars because justice must be served and it’s beyond time for this to change. A teenager was killed for simply Walking while Black because of these stereotypes.

This is tiring and this has to stop.

If you have Twitter and would like to give Trayvon Martin’s mother some condolences, here is her twitter. (Thanks Ms. Lilypads)

And oh, look, a dox on Zimmerman (Thanks internets)

Soooo, I couldn’t wrangle a column out of the guest writer for this week so that mean you all shall watch videos.

Here is Terrence Brown (Janelle Monae’s keyboardist) in his side project All Cows Eat Grass. The song is “We All Win” and I find it cute in a derpy/kitten.gif kinda way. And the project name reminds me of my high school and middle school music classes. Aniwae –

The next performer is Nikki Lynette. She’s really cool to talk to and with great personality. I do hope she’ll be at the Afro-Punk Festival someday.

One of my favorites is “Live and Let Die” (Beware, sound lag)

Annnnnnd cuz this column was ever so late, impromtu Black Witch Ustream chat at 10:30 PM EST tonight! Where I shall derp like I have never derped before!

This post is written by Amanda Tea for the BW “Comin’ Straight Outta Your Monolith” series. Normal BW posts resume in April.

If there is one thing that I’m proud of, it’s having found music and fashion that I really enjoy and that really sparks my interest and my creativity. I wouldn’t change anything about who I am or who I’ve become. Being a part of the gothic/alternative and lolita sub-cultures (however you want to label it) has made a huge impact on my life, it is my life. I guess I can start this article off writing a bit about myself and my background. My name is Amanda, I’m an only child and grew up on the north side of Chicago. I went to a catholic grade-school and was constantly teased and made fun of. People always ask why so I’ll tell you. It was for all sorts of reasons: for having big glasses, being too skinny, having big hair etc. So maybe it just made things easier for me because when I started being teased or called weird for looking goth/punk it never fazed me, it didn’t even hurt my feelings because I was really proud to be that way. I was around thirteen or fourteen when I actually started mingling with others who were part of the punk community in Chicago. I didn’t get out much but a few friends of mine took me out to an open mic night once in awhile. The internet wasn’t as…accessible for me as it is now obviously but I remember thinking to myself, why don’t I see other Black kids here? There was no way for me to know if there were other Blacks in the area that were punk or goth unless I actually saw them in person. I was kind of in a plastic bubble, there definitely weren’t any at school and when I got into high-school my freshman and sophomore year were spent at a catholic all girl high-school (enough said Here is a pretty old picture of me as a freshman.. just so you have proof! Pink hair whooo.

 I really hated the catholic all girl school and ended up being transferred into a public high-school for my last two years. This opened up my world a lot more. It was like going from a fish in a pond to a fish in the ocean. I still was the only Black female who dressed the way I did but there were a lot of Hispanics there that were into metal, goth, punk, etc. there and I hadn’t really seen a whole lot of them either at that point.. There were also quite a few Black males at the school who were not the, um, how shall we say, baggy jeans and baggie shirt type.

Jumping back to the time of when I was a kid, I recall every summer I was put into camps and programs with other inner-city kids. My mom worked a lot and there was no one I could stay with so I went to these places during the summer. Only other Black kids were in these programs didn’t speak proper English, none of them appeared to be into any other types of music besides rap or hip-hop and I could not understand why. Of course, I stuck out like a sore thumb and was picked on to no end. People actually made me feel like a bad person because I could never make a friend or someone who I could relate to there. I’ve even been yelled at before because I didn’t know everything there was to know about Tupac. Somehow, I was a betrayal to my own race because of that. I still get pissed off at people thinking just because I’m Black that somehow gives me the job of being a walking encyclopedia about other Black music artists. If I run into their music and like it then great but otherwise, sorry, I don’t give a s***.

One word to put the blame on things is exposure, I was exposed to a lot of different things growing up as I feel everyone else should be, but it was never only all about rap/r&b and hip hop. I guess I have my hippie mom and her friends to thank but I was also just very curious about other types of music out there. I don’t see how other Black kids could be any different than how I was. I’m not going to deny though that in grade-school, I listened to the same things all the other kids listened to, it was practically spoon fed to us but it’s part of growing up to branch out and make your own choices. I would not be who I am also if it wasn’t for the people around me sharing knowledge and different ideas. I picked up a Lush cassette (a shoe-gazing band) when I was 10 years old at a library book sale completely by accident but fell in love with it. I kind of wish that schools gave kids a library of music so that maybe they can find something they wouldn’t normally find, but I guess today there is the internet, and all of these things I’m talking about don’t seem to be as big of a deal once I got online. I found more Blacks that were just like me and that helped me to not feel as alone. Once I found that there were lots of Black Goths, punks, etc., out there over time I also noticed them more in the media. I even saw a Black goth on a court television show and on Tyra, a Black dominatrix. All of a sudden, we were really getting out there it seemed. I think as time progresses, different races and the sub-cultures will be more infused. As long as kids are being exposed to different things no matter what neighborhoods or schools they’re in they’ll still be able to find a certain style music or activity they like.

I can’t speak for other races and how they perceive Blacks who are into alternative sub-culture, but I can talk about how some of them have made me feel. Most make me feel like they haven’t seen Blacks in the sub-culture at all before or when they do see us we’re doing it wrong or doing it the wrong way or something. Three years ago I was at a gothic event I normally frequent and a lady who I was somewhat acquainted with said to me, “You know, I’m really glad to see Black people are finally embracing the goth scene”. What she said was meant to be nice, I think she was honestly happy to see more Blacks but I also had to ask myself, what have we been hiding for the past 20 years then? Probably not, maybe Black goths were just more private or maybe felt like they would be bothered d if they showed themselves at the events/concerts etc, maybe there were others that weren’t “glad” to see us. This topic probably opens up discussion for a different article that can’t be written by myself, lol, but obviously racism is no joke and the scene is known to have a lot of white supremacists in it.

My first time walking into a place like that not knowing anyone or having any friends there was kind of scary. I do have to admit that dressing a certain way and really trying to getting involved with the scene, socializing with people is something that I’m really not up for at times, plus I never know if someone has something against me because I’m Black and embracing the goth-scene. Maybe that sounds ridiculous but to this day I’m actually not much of a social butterfly and feel a bit ostracized when I go out. I usually won’t talk to anyone unless they’ve come up to me first.

 I could understand why there would be a lot of people out there who could be “hiding” or wouldn’t want to dress like a goth in public to avoid the heat and attention they’ll get. People are so rude sometimes they come up to you and ask really stupid questions, call you a devil-worshiper and all the above. It’s really sad that you can’t be yourself more often. Me becoming fascinated with elegant gothic lolita & the Victorian-fashion style is especially what made a huge impact on my life. I know it is surprising to think that a style of clothing can make all this difference but when I look back to when I first became interested in the fashion and then now it caused a chain reaction to start and has been quite a journey for me. 2003-2004 was when it all started. I was an obsessed J-rock fanatic at the time so I saw the lolita fashion and other gothic styles on Mana, Kana and a few other Japanese rockstars. I eventually got my hands on a Gothic & Lolita Bible after visiting a Japanese mall looking for cds. When I first started wearing Lolita, which took a long time for me to come up with the money for any kind of wardrobe, it wasn’t till after I got out of high-school and had a job that I started buying the clothing. I really wanted to wear it, I mean, there were tons of pretty things I wanted to wear I just didn’t have the money for it.

When I went to my first lolita meetup I definitely felt rejected. I remember one girl telling me not to get into it as a warning. Later, another girl told me to stop wearing it all together, that I looked bad and I could never be a Lolita. Plus my natural hair has been in a mohawk for many years now, it’s much easier for me to take care of since my hair texture is extremely coarse, frizzy and poofy, plus I like it regardless of when I wear Lolita. I also have the option of wearing wigs when I want to, to switch things up. I couldn’t help feeling like the reason why I was attacked was because I was black and didn’t have enough money. I’m sure if I was the same person just white and born with silky hair I would not be dealing with the same problems. One thing about Lolita that did surprise me thought was the number of other Black girls who were in the community and wearing the fashion. It was almost as if Lolita was more inviting to other races then the goth and punk scenes were. I find it funny how we are obviously spending tons of money at these stores and places here in the states, but yet they refuse to use Blacks as models. It took Hot Topic years before they featured any blacks on their website and I’m sure there are other places who we could dig up that still haven’t.

Around spring 2008 I met a photographer at my job and he really liked my synthetic dreadlocked hair and asked to do a photoshoot, by that time I had been making synthetic dreadlocks for myself and other people for a couple of years. I had always wanted to take more photos being an artist myself so of course I was happy to volunteer and be a model. My shaved head and my dreadlocks were supposed to be the main focus but I decided to wear my favorite dress at the time and that’s how the red dress series of photos were created. I remember the photographer bringing a copy of Gothic Beauty to my job and said he had picked it up for inspiration. He said “we should try to put you in this magazine” of course I thought he was joking and didn’t think he was serious. The magazine like others had never featured any African Americans in any of their spreads. I bought the magazine a lot for the articles and stuff and I did think it was a bit sad that none of us were never in it or on the cover etc.  

I posted some photos we had taken with the red dress to my deviantart page and I got comments like this: “I don’t think I’ve seen many Black people in outfits like that… Looks good!” It made me a bit upset that a black person dressing this way was so shocking to people. It kept bothering me more and more as I looked at photo collections people have made of goths or the Victorian look and never saw any people of color. People had apparently not seen many Black goths before. After I had been modeling for over a year or two and was looking for a new job I decided to send Gothic Beauty magazine a letter stating how I felt it was important more Blacks be featured in their publication because obviously people weren’t seeing us and with their magazine being the most popular, it was the one place I could think of! I was shocked and didn’t expect them to respond but I guess they felt I was right. So they asked if they could feature some of my photos. I wasn’t happy about the photos they featured ‘cause I thought I looked terrible in them but I was glad to get the message across and that yes, I’m black and this is how I like to dress and this is what I do. I think that on its own was important. That was three years ago and as I get online more and more often today I’m really happy to be seeing a lot of guys and girls showing all of the alt communities that we’re here we’ve been here and not going anywhere. I think the goal we have is not only for Blacks but for other dark skinned races as well to be considered as much a part of these scenes as Caucasians are. Maybe we still have a bit of ways to go but we’re a huge step closer.

Amanda

(Visit Amanda and see her works on her website, Amandatea.com)

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