Nicki Minaj crouched suggestively on the cover of her 2014 “Anaconda” single. The outrage commenced. Olivia Pope juggles multiple romances, including one with a married politician, on the ABC show Scandal. The community raises a collective eyebrow. The title character of BET’s Being Mary Jane pleasures herself. The roar of criticism grows louder. But one of the three women mentioned above is an entertainer and the other two are fictional. Do their actions signal that all Black women need to reconsider how they approach their sexuality?
The stereotype of the African-American woman as a Jezebel figure—fast and sexually provocative—has existed since the age of slavery. And it isn’t just in mainstream America that this common misconception persists. Within our own communities, we expect our women to be chaste (at least in public) to prove to the world that we are not innately promiscuous. But a better response to the racism and sexism of the “loose” stereotype is for Black women to claim our sexuality, not deny it.
A study on date rape published in the Journal of Black Psychology in 1995 revealed that African-American women are more vulnerable to sexual assault but less likely than other women to be believed when it does occur. The certitude that we are sexually unrestrained can be heard in discussions about Black marriage rates and single mothers, and in the language of “fast-tail girl,” “ho” and “THOT” (that ho over there). And it influences how people process Beyoncé’s odes to sex on her eponymous visual album. Is it a grown woman’s celebration of good marital loving or a scandalous recording that sets us back?
Read more in the July 2015 issue of EBONY Magazine.