This essay is in response to an email I received from someone a little over a month ago. There is so much going on in the dialogue that I thought it best to publish my response here. This conversation spans much larger than one woman’s internal struggle because these conflicts are a huge and senseless detractor from the potential power and ethereal existence that can and should be at the disposal of women of color.
By being honest and transparent in my responses, I’m hoping to show women like her, women like me, and the women that quietly read my material that we are much more than the sum of other people’s bullshit and contempt.
My main issue is that I’m struggling terribly with trying to reconnect to my sexual side in a healthy way and generally see sex and my overwhelming desire for it in a good way and don’t know what to do about this. I have a history of sexual abuse in childhood by my cousin and rape in adulthood.
The easiest way that I can suggest for you to reconnect, or rather, willingly and purposely connect with your sexuality is by embracing it as a part of who you are and not as some type of deficiency. It is unfortunate that ‘sex’ has become the hot topic without much consideration given to those pleasurable things that exist above and beyond simple coitus.
When I think of sex, I think of all the things that happen before and after the sex. I think of the closeness of two humans, of the taste of skin and mouth, smell of sheets, cologne, or sweat. I think of the sounds, and of the laughter we will share. When I think of sex, I think of the sexy text messages that go on before and after sex. I think of the anticipation I’ll feel until that time, and until I see them again.
I think of the pleasure I will receive from witnessing how my body is capable of giving another person an experience described as joy.
Anticipation. Desire. Surrender. Tenderness. Aggression. Curiosity. Joy.
There are so many other things going on besides sex. I find no reason to be ashamed or confused about desiring the above emotions. When you break it down it becomes less simple; you are being a healthy human.
Your sexual desires are unique to you, private to you and are of your own temperament, the same as your preference for certain foods, or your other personal habits.
Here’s a secret:
You don’t need permission to want sex. Wanting isn’t having….
You don’t need to apologize for having sex. You do with your body as you please, it’s yours.
Society makes a woman’s sexuality part of the general conversation, and so you know what everyone else thinks about sex, besides yourself, because the messages are blatant and insistent. But what happens when you find out your tastes aren’t in line with the standard message? With this comes shame and a great burden, as feeling as if you are strange when in actuality you are quite typical in your needs and wants.
Sex is an amazing gift.
Sometimes gifts get stolen, but what if you were able to locate that gift once again? What if you were able to take that gift and transform it back into perfection?
Each and every time you choose to share yourself, with whomever you choose, without giving your attention to shame, or the past or the expectations of others, you are reclaiming your gift.
The gift isn’t sex, love. The gift, is the self determination required to give yourself over to another person, willingly and freely for no other reason than because you want to.
And like any gift, it is to be given at your will and in the manner in which you see fit. By allowing sexual abuse to cloud your feelings about yourself and intimacy you are allowing those soul thieves to keep what you hold so precious, your worth and your human agency.
Childhood sexual abuse is so common that I dare ask the women reading this article for a show of hands if she’s experienced it.
Do you dare…?
Victims of sexual abuse, like us, aren’t even allowed to acknowledge the abuse, so we can’t heal but are expected to behave as if nothing has happened.
The paradox lies in that no one denies that sexual abuse occurs, and even more often, people are aware of who the abuser is yet the burden of silence falls on the shoulders of the victim. Because we let it. We let them shame us into being quiet. We fear they will feel some type of way and if we disturbed things. As if they aren’t already.
The prevalence of sex abuse among family members in the Black community is disgusting and this is one of the loudest elephant in the room situations I have ever witnessed. No one talks about these people but everybody knows.
Abusers are allowed to continue contact with their victims, they are allowed to go on and further abuse others, and they are given the cloak of silence by everyone who keeps these family secrets a secret.
Protect the abuser, sacrifice the lamb.
Why is this..?
Meanwhile, the victim is further victimized because as much as she wants to scream “Rapist” she knows that no one will hear her cries though they nod their heads in acknowledgement. The victim wonders if they are the ones that are crazy.
I’m a rape survivor and child sex abuse survivor. I understand how you feel and I assure you I’m not the only one reading this who does.
I also grew up in a pretty conservative, middle-upper middle class, predominantly white environment w/my younger brother, raised by a single mother who was abused by her dad growing up. The cycle of abuse in my family runs at least 2 or 3 generations deep but it’s one of those things nobody ever talks about.
We’re talking about this right now, and we’ll continue to talk about this because until we do nothing is ever gonna change. Victims grow up to become victimizers, even when the abuse is only as innocent as being complacent as a victim while the offspring look on and take note, these behaviors are often learned.
Powerlessness is a learned trait. You aren’t powerless unless you choose to be. You show your bravery by calling abuse out and seeing it for what it is. You are taking back your power when you do this. You took back your power when you wrote to me. You took back your power when you realized there is something wrong in Kansas.
My father left us when we were very young for his mistress and the kid he had with her. My parents were married when he cheated. I saw him sporadically for a few years after he left and then never again.
Typical Black American Dad story when he thinks the grass is greener elsewhere and he abandons his kids in exchange for other kids with a new family. I’ll be honest. This type of man is nothing more than a bitch, pardon my French.
And I’m not making a specific character attack against your father in particular, I’m speaking in general and by first hand knowledge since my birth father found solace in a plane ticket across the country while leaving my teenage mother ‘whom he loved soo much’ to fend for herself, thus leading to my adoption. In my opinion, men who leave their children to fend for themselves are the lowest form of life known to man.
These men are cowards, and they must remove themselves far from a situation so they don’t remind themselves of how little use they are, and of how much they fail as adults, as providers, as men in society. Trust me when I say that a coward runs and hides. A real man stands his ground, however rocky it may be, he doesn’t cut and run hoping to save himself by sacrificing his own offspring. Animals don’t even do that and this is should not have been your burden to bear.
I grew up with major emotional issues and was always a troubled kid. I acted out horribly as a child (anger, violent tantrums, fighting people, lots of crying) and was punished severely for it and told it was very unladylike and inappropriate.
Join the club. Hurt people aren’t allowed to express their pain, because doing so interrupts everyone else’s life. When a wheel squeaks, it’s because it needs oil, unfortunately oil costs time and money so instead we chastise a one legged man for hobbling without asking him who cut him off below the knee to begin with.
Plenty of people like to think that little Black girls wake up wild, emotional and out of control, you’re behaving in a manner in which you displayed emotional turmoil was turned back on to you. You are shamed into behavior and quietness because Black girl’s aren’t allowed to display their emotional problems because they don’t matter.
You got victimized again because instead of your behavior being evaluated and investigated, it was diffused and silenced by those who don’t want to deal with your reality.
I’m a hater of anything deemed ‘lady like’ behavior, because it denotes a restricted set of behaviors that are implied by others and used as a silencing weapon.
I never wanted to be a lady.
I’m all woman, and human, and in those places I shall have my sanity.
Why be a ‘lady’ if it requires you to shut up and remain a victim to the standards imposed by others (not females…..)? What’s more inappropriate than a neglected physically, emotionally and sexually abused child? Keep the the word lady, use it to describe small poodles, and old matronly women at the Baptist church.
Woman even sounds better to say.
This eventually caused me to stop expressing really any emotions at all other than smiles and happiness for fear of being punished for it. Didn’t get too much attention from mom growing up since she was either dead tired from working or focused almost all her attention on my brother.
When you decide to make yourself smaller so that others can have more space you do yourself and those around you a disservice.
You have the right to have, feel and express each and every emotion your life experience brings you.
This includes anger, rage, desire, frustration, want, aggression, and plenty of other emotions that humans use for survival. I find it laughable, that there are some Black women ignorant enough and comfortable enough in their own fragile insecurity to simultaneously suggest a real woman (read: worthwhile woman-one who tolerates every abuse known to man to remain an acceptable ‘lady’ for the sake of falling out of favor with those who could give a dam about her if she didn’t comply ) should repress her feelings so that she doesn’t give off the impression of being a human with the right to feel a full set of emotions.
I find is sad, for Black women to promote a type of acceptable behavior without having the wherewithal to recognize that the ideal is only a shallow shell of existence. When was the last time you allowed yourself to feel? What did you feel?
Do you scream? In passion…or in rage? Break something..or writing an email with exactly how you feel to the person who needs to know, and then delete it. Go out during a storm, and hurl your feelings into the thunder. I’ve done all of this plus more. Emotions should not be bottled up, if you believe in God, remember that Jesus expressed anger, hurt, and frustration so why can’t you..
I had a string of abusive relationships in my early twenties, and a few with some really sweet guys in my late twenties, even though they still had some issues. I also had a handful of one night stands that I stupidly thought would turn into relationships, otherwise they never would have happened.
Abusive relationships aren’t so uncommon. The amount of people who are damaged is staggering when you put observation, behavior along with actual statistics. The good thing is that you recognize abuse and left these situations. Life is about trial and error, you’ve got to play to win, almost like Lotto.
I had a string of abusive relationships and I can’t say that I can separate the abuse from the person from the good part of who they were to me.
Things happen, bad romances included, did you get a tshirt, at least? You need experience to learn the signs of abusers, now that you have that you are even stronger than you were before. Plus you can help others avoid your mistakes.
One night stands are complicated.
Sometimes I use them to burn off aggression and sexual steam; they serve a purpose and a convenience. Sometimes that one night stand will be with an old lover, does that count as a one night stand also? What I’m saying is that humans are wired to be with other humans, and normally folks are able to repress those base urges, and sometimes they aren’t.
Your motivation may have been misplaced at the time (or not), we make poor decisions when we are hurting, and as long as you are okay physically then all that’s left is for you to forgive yourself, if you haven’t already.
Don’t hold yourself hostage to past behavior, without that, then how else would you have arrived beyond it? We all have skeletons, it’s just some of us aren’t willing to admit the graveyard exists.
I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was 19 and have been diagnosed as having complex PTSD, clinical depression, and anxiety. I also used to be a cutter and was hospitalized for a few months after a suicide attempt in my late twenties.
Oh, so if we can get adjoining rooms we’ll be best friends for life!! If you don’t laugh at the insanity you will surely die from it.
I’m glad that you got help, therapy is a great way to work through emotional problems and to learn new coping skills. I wish I was given the option of therapy and medication early on in life, as I too, am a cutter.
You used past tense, and I did not, so there it is.
Cutting is a way to alleviate anxiety and a distraction to me, I first began at the age of 12, at about the time of my sexual abuse, I’m sure the two occurrences correlate.
Cutting and self harm are common and easily hidden activities that kids learn to use to diffuse unwanted emotions. My cutting is also attached to an eating disorder, both of which are raging these last several years.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and anxiety. You’ve been through a war, and survived hostile territory, like other prisoners of war.
I’ve spent my time in the psych ward (I actually quite like it there…its a very peaceful place) after a suicide attempt, and have had my bouts of depression, mania or suicidal thoughts that resulted in several overnight evaluations.
I’m not ashamed and you are so brave for sharing this with me.
Mental health and positive coping is something that isn’t spoken about in the Black community. People can’t possibly think the alcohol and drug use is a simple pass time without considering how many people are using easily obtainable vices to survive the mental anguish they feel just by living their lives.
I would love to get meds, or therapy or anything else, but I can’t afford to be crazy with no health insurance. I’ve tried the ‘free’ clinics but I’m sure I’d be in prison from losing my cool during the application process before I would ever get to a doctor.
We aren’t damaged people, we’ve been altered by people, either way, getting help when you need it is what you are supposed to do and I commend you.
Never feel ashamed for tending to your wounds, even if others think they are invisible. I tell people about my little ‘isms’ so that they know they aren’t alone, and now I’m not alone because you came forward.
You are so kick ass……..and you don’t even know it.
*to be continued*
**Due to the sensitive nature of this conversation I ask that the audience be considerate of the feelings of others while we discuss these matters. I’ll suffer no fools here. **