This is the second part in an ongoing series. #theCONSENTconvo is a public conversation campaign on consent. EBONY.com has teamed up with international award winning journalist and host of The Spin, Esther Armah to bring you these on air and online conversations with Black women and men. They share how they learned about consent. In this second week, we hear from queer and bi Black women. And for the first time, the fellas join the conversation. #theCONSENTconvo is an “emotional justice” project created by Esther Armah.
“I’m a queer woman. I was socialized to be a heterosexual woman. Early sexual experiences with boys were not fully my own. That’s not to say there wasn’t pleasure, there was – but I do remember feeling like I was following a script,” Lynnee Denise shares how consent was taught to her as a queer Black woman on #theCONSENTconvo on this week’s The Spin, a weekly all women of color podcast.
Denise is a DJ scholar, activist and a Visiting Lecturer at California State University’s Pan African Studies Department and its Chicano Studies Department. She is part of the October line up of Black women and men of color talking consent as part of #theCONSENTconvo, a global public conversation campaign designed to unlearn, reframe and reimagine consent. It’s an emotional justice project that airs on the podcast The Spin.
Lynnee explains: “I remember having curiosity about other bodies, especially other cis girl gendered bodies, and wanting to learn more about my own body through the bodies of other women.”
Denise was joined by Imani Uzuri, a vocalist, composer and cultural worker, who performed at this year’s Black Girls Rock. Imani self-identifies as a Black Bi woman. One point I raised with both women was about our consent politics: the yes means yes and no means no mantra. It matters. And we are focused very much of ensuring that a no is understood as a no, but what informs our yes? Is it desire or fear? What about shame or hurt? What about trauma?
Uzuri spoke about early experiences of abuse shaping her relationship to consent and her body.
Uzuri said: “For me, my early abuse scenarios, my religion, which taught me no sex outside of marriage, informed my yes. As a young adult I had all these things swirling in my mind. Curiosity, desire, exploration, wanting to be close to people informed my yes. As I’ve got older, I’ve thought about the why of my yes – sometimes our yes is not for the healthiest of choices too. This is about me unpacking why I say my yes too.”
This week the fellas join the conversation. Consent is an issue taking front and center stage due to revelations that presidential nominee Donald Trump allegedly groped women without their consent. According to his accusers, Trump grabbed their private parts and/or kissed them – all of which he was heard bragging about on tape. Trump’s revelations means it is particularly timely to explore how masculinity shapes our understanding and notions of consent.
I spoke with writer and activist Darnell Moore. Moore is Senior Editor and Correspondent of Mic News, Co-Managing Editor of The Movement and Co-Founder of The Feminist Wire. And Darnell pointed out we must be aware that there are multiple masculinities: toxic is one of them, but it is not the only one.
I was also joined by award winning filmmaker, writer, activist, producer and lecturer Byron Hurt. Both men explore masculinity in their work. I asked both men about how they learned about consent, from whom, how that learning shaped their relationship to their bodies, to power, to sex, men and women. Both acknowledged that coming up as Black boys, they had never heard the word consent.
Moore said: “I never heard that term growing up. No one used that term with me. I never had a conversation about mutual agreement, I was never taught that when you’re engaging someone intimately you have to get their agreement. I was a child who was sexually active at a very young age. I was not asked permission to engage. I had to come to understand that.”
Hurt said: “I don’t recall learning that women had the right to control their own bodies. For me, sexual relationships were all based on relying on sexual cues. It wasn’t until I got involved with a program that I began to understand the power dynamics in sexual relationships.”
We live in a society that rightly advocates for creating a sex-positive environment. #theCONSENTconvo is a public conversation campaign in pursuit of a consent-positive environment.
Listen to the full conversation with Lynnee Denise and Imani Uzuri here:
Listen to the full conversation with Darnell Moore and Byron Hurt here:
Follow Esther Armah on Twitter: @estherarmah.
Subscribe to TheSpin1 on iTUNES. If you missed the launch convo with Joan Morgan and Asha Bandele, you will find it here.