What a Desexy Movement Could Be

We have reached the wrapping up point of desexy. It’s been a wild few weeks of research, interviews, and writing to get here. While I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of discussions of desexualization, I wanted to thank those who have been reading for your support. This project couldn’t have happened without you.

In this final post, I want to leave you with some of the insights I’ve gained after writing for desexy on what a movement that celebrates “out-of-the-box” sexuality could look like.

  • We have more in common than we think. 

Cross-movement work serves as the foundation for social justice movements. The early homophile, sexual liberation, and gay rights movements not only supported the Civil Rights Movement but also borrowed tactical frameworks. For example, the CRM popularized the sit-in, borrowed by ACT UP in the early 1980s and most recently seen in the Black Lives Matter movement in response to police brutality against Black Americans (seen in the pictures below). This shared commonality not only exists in the ways social justice movements advocate for change. Marginalized communities often share similar struggles in terms of access and experiences. For example, trans justice and disability justice movements fight for safe and accessible physical spaces (like bathrooms, locker rooms, and housing). As I mentioned in my first post, Alex+ and I found that we both experienced desexualization because we had “non-normative” bodies. Understanding that people who hold different identities may also experience desexualization can allow for the facilitation of discussion.

Source: Civil Rights Movement Veteran

Source: Civil Rights Movement Veteran

Source: David Mixner

Source: David Mixner

Source: Mashable

  • We can create communities and social spaces where we can support one another in an affirming way.

Sharing our experiences of intimacy is already a difficult task. Adding layers of rejection based on oppressive structures makes it all the harder. People who work in social justice or live at the intersections of marginalized identities can often have a difficult time unlearning oppressive behaviors themselves.

“What we do need is discussion and acknowledgment, not as a defiance of our desires, but to perhaps understand how external forces narrow their scope. Acknowledging the prioritizing of certain bodies and identities is just the beginning, and will lead to many difficult conversations…but ultimately can only lead to more understanding, more inclusiveness, and stronger communities.” (“Dating from the Margins: Desexualizing and Cultural Abuse”)

We need to create spaces that allow us to call out people with care (rather, calling people in) to hold ourselves accountable for our actions and learned prejudices in regards to attraction, intimacy, and sexuality.

  • Reclaim, redefine, own, empower, deconstruct, reconstruct.

The spaces we build can allow us as individuals or collectively as communities to name ourselves. We can celebrate the pain, awkwardness, and rejection inherent to desexualization by leaning into that discomfort and defining sexuality on our own terms. As people who experience this form of interpersonal oppression, we can innovate ways to empower ourselves sexually in opposition to these oppressive attitudes. We can listen to disabled people in our communities talk about the rich and complex diversity of disabled sexuality, and how they overcome physical obstacles through “invention, creativity, cleaver adaptation, and brilliant accommodation” when it comes to sex” (“Desexualizing Disability”). We can be like founders of the Rose Centre for Love Sex and Disability, Tim and Natalie, and find ways to show affection for our partners in nontraditional ways:

“I used to think I was bad at sex because I can’t do it in the traditional way,” says Tim. “So I didn’t enjoy it. And I thought it was wrong that I didn’t enjoy it. It wasn’t until I had a partner, Natalie, who was willing to say, ‘OK, let’s figure out what works for the two of us’ that it started to be great.” (Dean)

We don’t have to work around our body differences; we can work with them. We can completely redefine what sex and sexuality mean to us, even if that means not experiencing sexual or romantic attraction at all. We can boldly claim that our identities are the sexiest parts of us, because would we really be us without them?

Being desexy is more than just lamenting painful experiences of rejection; it’s what you do to redefine (and relearn) your sexuality because of them.

References

“Dating from the Margins: Desexualizing and Cultural Abuse.” Gudbuy T’Jane. WordPress, 13 Oct. 2011. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.

Dean, Jamieson. “Surprise! Disabled people have sex.” The Star. Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd., 5 Oct. 2014. Web. 1 Jan. 2015.

Smith, S.E. “Desexualising Disability.” This Ain’t Livin’. S.E. Smith, 2014. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.

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The Student Becomes the Teacher: Creating Peer-to-Peer Inclusive Sex Ed

In my friend group of people of color, queer, trans, disabled, First-Generation people, we talk about marginalization and oppression. A lot. It’s not only part of the work we take on as activists but it’s also the reality of living as multiply marginalized young people. One of the experiences almost all of us have in common is being desexualized on the basis of these identities that we proudly hold. Because of all the questions our own friends had, my friend Lex and I decided to create an affirming sex ed program created by people who had been left out of conversations about sex ed altogether.

Source: Emmett Patterson

Source: Emmett Patterson

Not Your Average Sex Talk (NYAST) is a peer-to-peer sexual education program taught by college students for college students that uses a social justice framework to discuss issues related to sex and intimacy that are often neglected in traditional sex education settings. These issues critical to navigating safe and consensual sex include: testing, health information, power dynamics, consent, and sexual values. The NYAST model engages participants in a judgment-free zone and teaches college students how to bring tailored, peer-to-peer programming to their campus. Understanding that there is no universal, comprehensive sex ed curriculum, our program aims to: disperse sexual health information; facilitate discussions beyond heteronormative sexual intercourse; and address how homo/bi/transphobia, ableism, and racism intertwine with attraction and intimacy. Our biggest goal is to create dialogue and resources that are sex-positive, intersectional, and catered towards marginalized people. For sex ed to be truly inclusive, the movement for inclusivity and acceptance in the field cannot do so without incorporating the frameworks of multiple social movements. The 2014 National Sex Ed Conference released a statement that show the importance of creating intersectional sex education:

Solidarity Statement on Racial Justice in Sexuality Education Because we are in the field is Sexuality Education, a profession skilled at creating space for dialogue, acknowledging difficult topics, and facilitating change; Because we stand on the shoulders of many before us, some who have received recognition and others who have not; Because we live in a country founded on systems of oppression, institutionalized racism, and violence; Because we see police brutality, racial profiling, and mass incarceration as a gross misuse of power which terrorizes individuals, families, and communities; Because we know the system is not broken, it is doing exactly as it intended; Because of all this, and so much more, we also know – Because we are a part of the problem, we are also part of the solution; Because we as sexuality educators teach about love, equity, justice, relationships, communication, and safety; Because we believe in living our lives fully, with intention, agency, and freedom from fear; Because we hold power, as individuals and as organizations; Because we can, and we must; As a multicultural group, we commit to addressing and working to undo racism on personal, professional, and institutional levels within the field of sexuality education and in our diverse roles within it, in solidarity with other movements towards racial justice; Today, we commit to the formation of plans of action towards racial justice in sexuality education. (WoC Sexual Health Network)

Statements of solidarity like these can truly drive a more inclusive sex-ed movement. Making sex-ed not only inclusive and empowering for people of color but also making it LGBTQ inclusive and disability inclusive could improve the health and wellbeing of our communities. So, where does desexy come into all of this? A blog post on gudbuy t’jane summarizes why talking about desexualization is critical in social justice movements:

We want to believe our desires are our own, unshaped by the media, patriarchy, racism, ableism, transmisogyny, or other oppressive systems. This is even more challenging when one’s identity is based in ideas of activism, social justice and equality; We don’t want to feel like we’re upholding oppressive standards, or engaging in systems which sometimes violently desexualize marginalized identities. (Dating from the Margins: Desexualizing and Cultural Abuse)

Creating inclusive and sex-positive sex ed means creating a space for people to talk about these experiences of desexualization, how we process them, and how we learn to reclaim our own unique “desexiness.” Even those who are committed to social justice can perpetuate desexualization. We need to dismantle the systems that normalize desexualizing oppressions. We can only begin to do so if we sit down and intentionally lean into our discomfort to have these difficult conversations. In the conclusion of desexy, we will talk about how to reclaim these experiences and what we can learn from them. Up next, the final installment of Relearning Sexy tackles how far I’ve come but how far I have yet to go. References “Dating from the Margins: Desexualizing and Cultural Abuse.” Gudbuy T’Jane. WordPress, 13 Oct. 2011. Web. 2 Jan. 2015. WoC Sexual Health Network. “WOCSHN at National Sex Ed Conference 2014.” YouTube. Youtube, LLC, 7 Dec. 2014. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.

What You’re Actually Saying When You Say, “I’m Not Attracted to Trans People”

“I’m just not attracted to trans people.”

I’m sure that almost every trans person has heard this in some way, shape, or form in their lives. Whether it was directed at them or not, whether it was explicitly said or merely implied, the discomfort of seeing trans people and their bodies as sexual and desirable runs rampant in our culture.

Source: After Ellen

Source: After Ellen

Albeit in a different way, trans people also experience sexualized desexualization, such as I discussed in this post about the desexualization and hyper sexualization of women of color. “Chasers” are people who exoticize (mostly) trans women and seek them out for sex in a fetishizing way. Recently, the new hit show Transparent crafted an entire episode around the aspect of “chasers.” In their article in The Guardian, author Avery Edison touches on this trope of the exoticized trans woman: “Transgender women are often fetishized: explicitly in ‘she-male’ porn…sensationalist headlines about a celebrity having a ‘sex change.’ We’re cast as mysterious and exotic, repellant but seductive. There are people who find transwomen irresistible, and others who see us as just another illicit conquest” (Edison).

Source: Trans Men on Grindr

Source: Trans Men on Grindr

Trans men and trans masculine people also experience this on gay dating apps like Scruff and Grindr. David Levesley’s article discusses the complexities of being a trans man on queer men’s dating apps. A Grindr user named ‘Transartist’ discloses that they have been harassed on the app and has even been told that they didn’t “belong” on the app (Levesley). Transartist’s experience also includes having to provide potential hookups with a basic “Trans 101″ before meeting up (Levesley). Trans artist says, “I’ve gotten really sick of fielding basic ‘trans 101’ questions that could be answered by spending 30 seconds on Google. I just block ignorant guys now” (qtd. in Levesley).

The frustration that Transartist expresses reflects the reality for some in the trans community when it comes to sex, dating, romance, intimacy, and other “four letter words.” In addition to being fetishized, trans people and their bodies are consistently looked upon as undesirable. This unwillingness to see trans bodies as desirable is rooted in the fear of the unknown and the larger cultural hatred of gender nonconformity.

Those who have cisgender “passing privilege” may be able to choose when they disclose to a potential romantic or sexual partner. As part of The Stranger‘s Queer Anthology edition, author Tobi Hill-Meyer wrote “How to Have Sex with a Trans Person,” and truly illuminated the frustration with the “big disclosure” that almost every trans person has to go through:

I love moments in which being trans just doesn’t matter. It can happen in porn, with a familiar partner, or just with someone who I know is a good ally. I don’t have to stop to say, “Wait, there’s something about me you should know,” as tension rises for a dramatic reveal. I don’t feel like there’s some toxic cloud hanging over me that requires us to sit down and have a serious conversation. I can feel like any other person. In the throes of passion, I don’t want to have to ask a potentially mood-killing question like “Are you afraid of seeing me completely naked?” (Hill-Meyer).

Those who do not have this privilege, those who are actively read as trans, can face disastrous outcomes, including violence and death from potential or current partners. The desexualization of trans people serves to dehumanize trans people. Dehumanization allows for the perpetuation of violence against trans people. The perpetuation of violence against trans people allows for the culture to not value trans lives. When the culture does not value trans lives, the phrase “I’m just not attracted to trans people” stops being a “personal preference;” instead, it reflects larger themes of inequality and the value taken away from trans people.

Part 3 of Relearning Sexy is up next. 

References

Edison, Avery. “I’m trans and on Tinder, but I am not a fetish for your sexual bucket list.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 2014. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.

Hill-Meyer, Tobi. “How to Have Sex with a Trans Person.” The Stranger. Index Newspapers, LLC, 2014. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.

Levesley, David. “Grindr’s Trans Dating Problem.” The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Company, LLC, 2014. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.

Not Quite Bedfellows: Separate Beds for Gay Male Couples in the Media

Source: Motherhood The Truth

Source: Motherhood The Truth

For the eight years of the show’s run, real-life couple and co-stars of I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, never once shared a bed while the cameras were rolling. The epidemic of separate beds, even for married couples, permeated television in the early days of television broadcasting. When I first heard of the “separate beds epidemic,” I remember laughing. But I slowly realized that popular media still continues to  desexualize queer couples portrayed on television and in the cinema by not allowing them to be as unapologetically sexual as they allow heterosexual pairings.

Source: Starcasm

Keeping with representation in sitcoms, one of the most famous desexualized gay couples on television is the duo of Cameron and Mitchell in the critically-acclaimed hit, Modern Family. During a HuffPost Live interview on gay men’s media representation, Madison Moore, staff writer at Thought Catalog, sounded off on Modern Family‘s representation of Cam and Mitch, saying, “TV always wants to show the safest version of a gay male couple” (Zepps). Zach Strafford, editor of BOYS: An Anthology, agreed when they said, “A lot of fat gay men in the media are used as punchlines. Cam…is very desexualized. You don’t really see them kiss or he and his partner being sexual” (Zepps). Moore jumps back in, detailing the differences in representation based on the couple’s sexual orientation, mentioning that sitcoms featuring heterosexual couples shows them being affectionate towards each other that just does not happen for gay couples (Zepps).

Historically, the beginnings of desexualization occurred in the wake of the 1980s AIDS epidemic. Prior to the outbreak, the sexual liberation movement proved to be an anti-assimilationist, unapologetic push for queer sexual freedom and expression. However, when the epidemic ravaged queer communities, the process of desexualization of the gay man began. According to M.V. Lee Badgett’s book, Money, Myths, and Change: The Economic Lives of Lesbians and Gay Men, as government officials forced bathhouses to close, they limited the sexual freedom that gay men fought for (Badgett 113). This desexualization of the queer sexual economy may be one root for the desexualization of queer sex in the media today.

Source: Out.com

However, more mainstream productions are slowly beginning to portray gay men as sexual people, not just as comedic punchlines or committing queerbaitingHow to Get Away with Murder made a splash in its pilot by opening with a not so subtle gay sex scene featuring one of the central characters, Connor. In an interview with EOnline’s Kirstin Dos Santos, creator of Murder, Peter Norwalk, shared his vision for the character of Connor:

I knew I wanted to push the envelope, especially with the gay sex…And to me, writing the gay characterization and writing some real gay sex into a network show is to right the wrong of all of the straight sex that you see on TV. Because I didn’t see that growing up, and I feel like the more people get used to two men kissing, the less weird it will be for people. I just feel like it’s a lack of vision that you don’t see it on TV. (Dos Santos)

LGBTQ representation in the media at large has miles and miles to go. Change is slowly occurring but only when LGBTQ people are in the room and at the writer’s table, creating whole, unapologetically queer characters that challenge the current dominant mainstream narratives. Allowing queer male couples to be explicitly sexual, complex, and sometimes messy begins the broadening of this representation of queer people at large.

Next time on desexy, Thomas+ shares his experiences of desexualization as a “feminine gay man.”

References

Badgett, M.V. Lee. Money, Myths, and Change: The Economic Lives of Lesbians and Gay Men. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. Ebook.

Dos Santos, Kristin. “Why There Will Be Plenty of Gay Sex on How to Get Away with Murder.” EOnline. NBCUniversal, 2014. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.

Zepps, Josh. “Gay Men Sound Off on the ‘Desexualized’ Gay Couple in ‘Modern Family.'” HuffPost Live. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 2014. Web. 3 Jan. 2015.

Disabled, Dehumanized and Desexualized

Source: The Huffington Post

Source: The Huffington Post

“Nobody makes a public announcement that they don’t find the woman in the wheelchair to be sexy. There aren’t any articles in Cosmo saying, ‘Men who use crutches have zero sex appeal.’ It is one of those unspoken and often unconscious things making it impossible to prove or disprove, yet disabled people are clear that it is part of their reality.” (Jen)

The current myths perpetuated by the dominant, ableist culture, which further the erasure of disabled people’s potential to be sexual, allows for the denial of “sexual abuse and violence committed against disabled people” (“Desexualising Disability”). S.E. Smith, writer for This Ain’t Livin’, asserts that if disabled people supposedly “have no sexuality,” they couldn’t possibly be assaulted or abused (“Desexualising Disability”). In this regard, desexualization further contributes to the silence surrounding sexual assault of disabled people and lack of awareness of this issue’s severity. Desexualizing disabled people also contributes to the myth that “disabled people can’t and don’t form close relationships with other people,” allowing for disabled people in romantic partnerships in an institution to be separated (“Desexualising Disability”).

Source: Undressing Disability

Myths that reinforce the desexualization of disabled people do not stand alone in negatively impacting the sexual health and wellbeing of this community. Educators, health professionals, and other adults in adolescents with disabilities’ lives may either “deprive them of sexual education or provide them with inadequate information that doesn’t address their specific risk factors” (“Discussing Disabled Sexuality Is a Radical Act“). Among queer and/or trans teens, the lack of information about sexual identity and gender identity can contribute to feelings of isolation, an increase in depression risk and other mental health conditions (“Discussing Disabled Sexuality Is a Radical Act”). Additionally, by not providing specific information of the biological mechanics behind the spread of sexually transmitted infections and the behaviors that cause pregnancy, disabled teens may not be able to identify early warnings signs of either STIs or pregnancy (“Discussing Disabled Sexuality Is a Radical Act”).

The root of disabled desexualization lies in the desire to dehumanize disabled people in order to make a clear distinction between able-bodied and disabled people (“Desexualizing Disability”). “If we can be rendered sexless, neutered, inert, and nonthreatening, it can be made clear that here lies yet another difference between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ another reminder that we are not quite fully human,” writes Smith (“Desexualizing Disability”). I’ve also discussed this dehumanization process in past posts. Social identities cannot stand alone, so being a disabled person also can include oppression from the result of intersecting identities of race, class, and gender, just to name a few. One blogger discusses that when people desexualize them, they don’t only do so as a result of their disability; this desexualization also occurs because they are a disabled woman:

“Even if the attention comes in the form of compliments…it is still behavior based on me being a sexual object not a woman. Desexualized and denied personhood. Sexualized and denied personhood” (Jen).

Desexualizing people with disabilities is not only an interpersonal attack on self-worth, agency, and autonomy; it also impacts the safety and wellbeing of those already living in a world where disabled people are inherently undervalued and dehumanized. In one of the concluding posts of this blog, I will discuss what disability-positive sex education can entail and share stories about the current movement fighting for inclusive sex education.

Next time on desexy, find out why queer couples on TV still sleep in separate beds.

References

Jen. “Newsflash: I’m Female!” People Aren’t Broken: Disability from the Inside Out. Blogger, 2011. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.

Smith, S.E. “Desexualising Disability.” This Ain’t Livin’. S.E. Smith, 2014. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.

Smith, S.E. “Discussing Disabled Sexuality Is a Radical Act.” RH Reality Check. RH Reality Check, 2014. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.

Not Your Delicate Flower: Expectations of Asian Women’s Sexual Submissiveness

Author’s Note: Because I am white and do not identify as a person of color (POC), the majority of this post will consist of excerpts from POC writers supplemented by my connections between them.

Ms. Rowling, I know you’re just the latest participant in a long tradition of turning Asian women into a tragic fetish.
Madame Butterfly. Japanese woman falls in love with a white soldier, is abandoned, kills herself.
Miss Saigon. Vietnamese woman falls in love with a white soldier, is abandoned, kills herself.
Memoirs Of A Geisha. Lucy Liu in leather. Schoolgirl porn.
So let me cry over boys more than I speak.
Let me fulfill your diversity quota.
Just one more brown girl mourning her white hero.

Rachel Rostrad’s spoken word poem, “To JK Rowling, from Cho Chang” ignited after its premiere in 2013. The selection I’ve focused on here relates to a point in my last post, that the history of white colonization contributes to the sexualized desexualization of people of color. This colonialist perspective allows us to take a look at how sexualized stereotypes of submission specifically affect Asian women.

Both South Asian and East Asian women are stereotyped as sexually submissive. However, there is a difference in how this submissiveness is stereotyped. South Asian women are seen as “prudish,” perhaps because of the Western stereotype that paints women who dress modestly as victims oppressed by Islam who need “saved” (“Call-outs and Commentary: ‘To JK Rowling From Cho Chang'”). According to this Tumblr thread discussing “To JK Rowling, from Cho Chang,” one user remarks upon the contradicting sexual stereotypes of South and East Asian women.

This is the sense I get about South Asian women, that we are exotified in this bizarre hyper desexualized context, the kind of bodies you wouldn’t mind looking at but generally don’t want to touch. [B]ecause of the appropriation of yoga, the kama sutra, even the exposed midriff when wearing a sari, South Asian women deal with an interesting, contradicting sexual stereotypes: always a virgin but expected to be kinky, hyper flexible. And like the stereotypes for East Asian women,  entertainers, performers, and dancers have been fetishized: think any kathak performance in any “Mughal” inspired Hindi film ever; think what it meant for Umrao Jaan; think beautiful, submissive, talented, but virgin, but must be untouched. (“Call-outs and Commentary: ‘To JK Rowling From Cho Chang'”)

Source: Poster Palace

Source: Poster Palace

Meanwhile, East Asian women experience hypersexualized expectations to be delicate and completely sexually submissive.  According to Angry Women of Color United, the sexualized stereotypes of East Asian women are the result of white colonization and imperialism: “White sexual imperialism, through rape and war, created the hyper-sexualized stereotype of Asian women…[which] in turn fostered the over-prevalence of Asian women in pornography, the mail-order bride phenomenon, the Asian fetish syndrome, and worst of all, sexual violence against Asian women” (Angry Women of Color United).

Often times, desexualization in this context is only discussed using a passive voice. “This group is desexualized.” But desexualization is not a one-sided issue. It’s a positional relationship. I think it is critically important to address the impact of not only the history of European/white colonialism on perpetuating this stereotype of East Asian women but also the impact of the modern white male gaze. It is important to ask, “Who is doing the desexualizing/hypersexualizing?” and “Why are they doing it?”

Goal Auzeen Saedi’s article mentions a 2011 research study by Bitna Kim that interviewed non-Asian men about their views on Asian women as romantic or sexual partners. Kim found that almost all of the interviewees “started with a sentence that negates Asian women as submissive, but, nevertheless, they all mentioned, in one way or another, that Asian women are submissive: ‘Women serve the men; they do things for him that the Western culture has long forgotten'” (qtd. in Saedi). Another participant said that he believed Asian women are attracted to white men because they “symbolize power and dominance” (Saedi). With beliefs like these predominant among the non-Asian men in Kim’s study, the root of where these sexual stereotypes come from is more easily traceable.

Next on desexy, I interview Ami+ about her experiences of desexualization as a biracial Japanese American.

 + Named has been changed.

References

Angry Women of Color United. Tumblr, Inc., 2014. Web. 3 Jan. 2015.

“Call-outs and Commentary: ‘To JK Rowling From Cho Chang.’” Angry Asian Girls United. Tumblr, Inc., 2013. Web. 1 Jan. 2015.

Saedi, Goal Auzeen. “What Is Exotic Beauty? Part II: The Case of the Asian Fetish.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, 2011. Web. 3 Jan. 2015.

Damned Either Way: Women of Color and Sexualized Desexualization

Author’s Note: Because I am white and do not identify as a person of color (POC), the majority of this post will consist of excerpts from POC writers supplemented by my connections between them.

“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

This old phrase perfectly sums up this posts’s topic: sexualized desexualization. Now, I know that you’re thinking. How can someone be sexualized and desexualized?

Sexualized desexualization means that people have been desexualized by stripping away all forms of desirability but “they also have been sexualized in that all of their worth and value in society is based on their desirability” (Tory). Phrased another way, this means that women of color, for example, are inherently seen as desexualized people and, thus, worthless. But when they are valued, it is only because of their desirability as sexual objects. This contributes to what is called hypersexualization.

The hypersexualization of women of color is rooted in colonialist discourse. Shantyana C. Lledin’s post, “I’m Not Your Spicy Latina,” describes this progression of events by saying, “Colonizing land usually also meant colonizing the women inhabiting that land. They were described as uncivilized, hypersexualized, sexually inferior, and savage” (Lledin). In the context of the United States, this colonialist influence in the history of Black hypersexualization roots itself in this country’s history of slavery:

Slavery existed as a sexual economy, and that black bodies have always been…erotic–kind of illicit erotic commodities in an economy that is built upon our labor. And one of the ways in which black communities try to deal with that is through kind of this culture of dissemblance or scholars discuss it…disidentifying with sexuality…in order to protect their selves from that kind of symbolic and actual threat that…being hypersexual posed. (Chideya)

The existence of hypersexualized desexualization causes women of color to be constantly aware of how they are being perceived and how they are expressing their sexuality. Chideya touches on this hyperawareness when they discuss how Black communities misidentify from sexuality in order to protect themselves from being perceived as a threat. In a personal interview with Shawn+, who identifies as a queer, transmasucline, second-generation Cuban immigrant, they brought up how hyper sexualization impacted them. “I was socialized as a Hispanic female and there is tons of sexualization to ‘live up to,’” Shawn said. “The bodies of women of color have a long history of being highly objectified and sexualized, so when I began exploring my gender identity, I received much backlash” (Anonymous).

Sexualized desexualization also creates a layer of invisibility. Women of color are not only subject to the hypersexualized gaze of, primarily, white men but are also impacted by the invisibility of desexualization. Zoya Haroon’s article, “Growing Up Brown: Desexualized and Hyper-sexualized,” critically examines the white male gaze:

You’re not beautiful, you’re not desirable, but at the same time you’re somehow overly sexual.You don’t have any power over your body—it does what it likes. Sexuality does not originate from your body, but the possibility of strange men’s sexuality is constantly in your mind, policing what you wear and how you perceive yourself. (Haroon)

White people commonly perceive people of color as the “other” in a predominantly white space. Particularly in dating, women of color are desexualized and made invisible, according to Chaya Babus’ article, “Walking the Tightrope: Good Indian Girls, Race, and Bad Sexuality”:

Women of color were mostly unseen as partner options. And if we landed in the purview somehow, it was, at best, to be mentioned as perhaps pretty and then quickly dismissed (you know, the “Wow, you’re pretty for an Indian girl” line) or, at worst, to be ridiculed for our ugliness. I undoubtedly stood out in this context – ashy knees in the winter, unruly mane of thick, black hair in a sea of pale midriffs and near-ubiquitous gold or platinum highlights – but I was also invisible. And that external gaze is powerful: the invisibility desexualized me. (Babu)

Rather than, “Damned if you do, damned it you don’t,” think about sexualized desexualization as, “Sexualized if you’re seen, desexualized if you’re not.”

Up next, a look at desexualized sexualization and submission of South Asian and East Asian women.

+ Name has been changed.

References

Anonymous. Personal Interview. 11 Nov. 2015.

Babu, Chaya. “Walking the Tightrope: Good Indian Girls, Race, and Bad Sexuality.” The Feminist Wire. The Feminist Wire, 2013. Web. 1 Jan. 2015.

Chideya, Farai. “Sex Stereotypes of African Americans Have Long History.” NPR. NPR, 2007. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.

Haroon, Zoya. “Growing Up Brown: Desexualized and Hyper-sexualized.” Feminspire. Feminspire Media Network, LLC, 2013. Web. 1 Jan. 2015.

Lledin, Shantyana C. “I’m Not Your Spicy Latina.” The Feminist Wire. The Feminist Wire, 2012. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.

Tory. “Let’s Talk About Sexualized Desexualization.” You Have the Right to Remain Right Here with Me. Tumblr, Inc., 2014. Web. 1 Jan. 2015.