[I wrote this a while ago (June 1st), and it appeared in the tags before but I finally decided to submit it here!]
Alright. So I’ve been thinking about things lately. Most about being black and being asexual in a white society.
Excuse my looking at some of this from an art history perspective, considering how I’m stronger in that then… I don’t know… “regular history.”
More under the cut because this is quite long!
Society is confusing. There have been times where expressing sexuality and not expressing sexuality have come into play.
White society during the 18th/19th century, within the Americas and Canada, there was a push for repressing ones’ sexuality. One had to be rigid. There had to be a control of the body, and expressing sexuality was a sign of a body being out of control. Even children had to adopt this way of thinking about the body. Being in utter control was the ideal. This was not the same for POC bodies, however.
While white people suppressed their sexuality, they pushed that fear of their own sexualities onto brown and black bodies. Take these three paintings for example:
Portrait d’une negresse (1800) by Marie Benoist
Portrait of a Negro Slave (1786) by Francois Malepart de Beaucort and
The Abduction of Daniel Boone’s Daughter by the Indians (1853) by Charles Wilmar
The first two, the paintings of black slaves, are undoubtly sexualized portraits of black bodies. Both women bare one breast. Also, they have no names, as in this time period, names to people not considered to be human mattered not. The paintings of the three indigenous men and Daniel Boone’s daughter, also have this sexual nature, albeit in a different way. The men have quite a red hue to their bodies (one can’t tell very well due to the quality of the picture), which was used to symbolize an untamed passion for the sexual. They have captured a white girl, Daniel Boone’s Daughter Jemima (a symbol of virginity and goodness and purity and innocence) and are on the run. The sexuality of Indigenous men is paired with danger and the fear of being “uncivilized.” Paintings such as these were used as an outlet for repressed white people to throw their sexuality onto those they considered lesser.
As we move forward in time, there is still this element of brown and black bodies being sexualized. A lot of it stems from the media, but that still comes from that conscious thought of “POC bodies being inherently sexual and dangerous.”
For me, as a black woman, there are certain stereotypes perpetuated by white society that come up as troubling. You have the “Jezebel” who is incredibly sexual and men (particularly white men) lust after her. For the most part, society paints all black women as such. Even if we are not sexual, we are seen as being so by virtue of being black. There is this notion that black women SHOULD be sexual. That they have that “jungle fever” and what have you.
There is also that stereotype of being a “strong independent black woman who doesn’t need a man.” Of course, this also stems from how heterosexist society is, but it is still a troubling stereotype from a racial perspective. It makes black women out to be “those who are unable to love” or “unable to experience love.” Under this stereotype, black women who are with a SO are somehow not considered strong or independent. It’s become a nasty stereotype (usually accompanied by being ~sassy~) that, when used in the media, hurts black women instead of empowering them to be strong people.
So… what does that mean for me, being an asexual black woman?
Society already has assumptions about being asexual. It is seen as being “no sex ever!” and “I’m not in a relationship” and other things.
By virtue of being black, I am already considered hypersexual by white society. That I am sexually attractive and I am sexually attracted to many people and act on those attractions regularly. By being an asexual who is not sexually attracted to anyone and is celibate, I can be seen as either combatting that racist stereotype or simply repressing my “true sexuality” because of that racist stereotype.
At the same time, being asexual and celibate and black can be seen as going along with the “strong, independent black woman” stereotype that is backed by racist notions when used by the media.
So either way, my asexuality, to go along with white society’s notions for a second, is either being complicit or revolting against those notions. I, for one, think that most people will see it as the former.
But anyway. Sorry if this is a bit of a mess. I needed to get these thoughts out!