“As a Black woman, you have to be careful because you’re at the bottom of the totem pole in society. You must make sure that you are respected in your professional and personal relationships.”
I was left speechless as I heard these words. I felt vexed as to why I was being singled out as a Black woman. I had never thought of myself as being at the bottom of a societal totem pole. I had been working with children since high school. I am intelligent. I am cultured. I am attractive and stylish. Also, I am Christian. Not just in theory. I mean that I am a parochial school, mission trip, “my virginity is awesome until/if I get married,” Christian.
However, the woman was not speaking of how I lived but how I would be perceived in society. Her comment hurt my pride. My image was important to me because I “practiced what I preached”. I didn’t sleep around. I always valued sex as love that is shared between husband and wife.
“Why was she telling me this?” I pondered and meditated on her statement for weeks. Months.
To be honest, it haunted me for years.
I had a comfortable middle-class upbringing. My father was a former decorated Combat Marine and career diesel mechanic. My mother was an early childhood specialist and business owner. We were given many opportunities. My three siblings and I enjoyed a childhood full of church services, sports, Girl and Boy Scouts, choir, ballet, family gatherings, and Nintendo battles. My father taught me how important it was to respect my body and my sexuality. His early affirmations and his affection towards me helped to establish my self-worth. I was smart. I was worthy. I knew I was talented and cherished before I even reached kindergarten. Forty years later you’d suffer in trying to find me living or thinking otherwise. Today, I love myself.
So, I’m black. I’m a virgin. And I’m happy.
Black women have been sexualized and fetishized since the days of slavery in this society. During slavery, our power was stripped away from us. Now, however, the power to shape our own identities lies in our hands.
“Sexual power is not reclaimed with promiscuous behavior,” I was taught. The power is actually in restraint, as you take back your power by selectivity, judiciousness, and abstinence. Until you are married, your body belongs to you and God. I’m of the belief that every endeavor has a spiritual implication. We don’t have the luxury of living sexually promiscuous lifestyles without incurring powerful ramifications including prurient scrutiny and disrespect. It is neither healthy nor righteous for anyone to live in a sexually promiscuous manner or to be used this way. However, black women are deeply scrutinized and dismissed for this type of behavior while others are not. To me, it appears that women of other groups are not criticized as intensely for sexual promiscuity.
And then I see the “W.A.P.” (Wet Ass Pussy) performance at the Grammys. My compassion tells me that these are two young women expressing and asserting themselves artistically, as Madonna did in the early 90s. However, my intuition tells me that it’s actually an agenda.
Ms. Lauryn Hill was all but blackballed in this same music industry over twenty years ago. Hill spoke truth to power, the type of comprehensive feminism that loved men and couldn’t live without them but also told us girls that “respect was just the minimum”. Why was a message that was pro-men and pro-women shut down, but tunes like “W.A.P.” while the Black artists willing to sing them have been pushed ever since? Could it be a mass scale act of grooming? I believe so. I’ve always thought that teaching faith-based abstinence in the Black community would eradicate many, if not all, of our persisting issues. Black men and women deserve to be taught abstinence and celibacy early. Black men and women deserve to be taught to respect their bodies as the precious temples that they are.
There is power in restraint.
There is love in restraint.