I was invited back to sit in the studio and discuss headlines relevant to women. This time, I was joined by Linda Sours for a discussion about anti-abortion laws in Ohio, the movie Honor Diaries, and equal pay. Watch here
Last year, I saw the Academy Award-winning movie by director Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free Black man kidnapped and sold into slavery in the mid-19th century. The movie presents the most honest, albeit heartbreaking, portrayals of American slavery that we’ve ever seen on film, and touches upon so many issues that remain relevant within Black communities. What moved me the most was the commentary on sex, sexuality and agency, particularly as relates to Black women.
As a self-identified sex-positive feminist, I’m always interested in depictions of Black female sexuality in media and literature, and McQueen’s 12 Years is provocative in its statements about sexuality during those times. As there was a time when African-American men and women didn’t own their own bodies much less their sexuality, we should be even more inspired and motivated to take ownership and thrive in the liberation of sexual agency and ownership now.
In the opening scene, a Black woman struggles to sleep positioned on a palette in the slave quarters next to Northrup, who is also awake. She reaches out to him to get his attention and takes his hand, placing it on her body. With it, she begins to rub herself. (It’s suggested that his hand has been placed on her vagina.) She stares and him and silently urges him to take over and he does, ultimately bringing her to orgasm. His expression doesn’t change much, but he appears to have a moment of understanding that he helped her in some important way.
There has been quite a bit of discussion recently about the idea of “enthusiastic consent” as it relates to engaging in sexual activity, and honestly, it’s about time. In recent years, we’ve witnessed a surge in discussions about sexual assault and debates about whether or not no really means no. Congressmen have questioned the legitimacy of “rape,” and the courts of public opinion (particularly the exchanges on social media) have yet to come to unanimous verdicts about what classifies as “rape.” There are still too many “jokes” made about rape.
And maybe it’s me, but people seem to be growing increasingly indifferent or apathetic to the very real threats and instances of sexual violence.
We do more to teach people how to avoid being raped and not enough to teach people not to rape in the first place. A big part of the problem is that we don’t discuss the importance of proactively and clearly consenting to sex. I’ve thought a bit about what it means to not simply consent to sex, but to do so enthusiastically, leaving no room for confusion for all parties involved.
arlier this month, the state of Mississippi decided to end conjugal visitation for its prisoners; the program budget and the creation of more single parents are the primary reasons. In the United States, only a few states currently allow “conjugal visits,” or visitation designed to allow privacy between spouses for the purposes of fostering intimacy, which may or may not include having sexual relations.
Twenty years ago, about one third of states allowed some form of conjugal visit. But today, only prisoners in California, New York, New Mexico, Washington, and Mississippi are afforded the privilege. Conjugal visits generally range from an hour to 48 hours, depending on the state. And prisoners are reminded that these visits are a privilege, not a constitutional right, so many people must earn them through good behavior while incarcerated.
Blacks are disproportionately incarcerated compared to White Americans, and the effects of incarceration are plenty. Families are broken, relationships are ended, jobs are lost, and lives are often irrevocably changed. African-American men make up at least 40% of all inmates, and one in 100 African-American women are in prison.
I try to keep up with most of the newer cultural trends in music, fashion, and even language. I like to remain connected with new trends because I’m raising a son in this new cultural landscape. A newer term came to my attention a few months ago, “THOT,” and after seeing how it was being used, I asked my younger folks on social media to explain.
They told me that it means “That Ho Over There.”
Imagine my surprise at the definition when I saw THOT used to describe a toddler girl! I thought of how casually we use the word “ho,” how it’s almost exclusively used to describe women/girls, and, ultimately, how we need to get rid of the word once and for all.
What Is a “Ho,” Exactly?