Asking for Sex: Revisited

Last week, I wrote a post called Asking for Sex: What to Do When the Guy Says No. My interest in writing the post was to explore the contingencies and challenges of asserting sexual desire as a straight Black woman. What I know now is that there is much truth to that saying about hell and good intentions.

Because I respect our community of readers, I want to both take some responsibility for the lack of clarity in the post and also actively (and perhaps aggressively) respond to many of the claims (and attacks) made on and about me in light of it.

Here is the section of the post that seem to give many of you pause:

#TrueStory: chalk it up to #VenusRetrograde but last month saw exes coming out the woodworks. I had a chance to have dinner and clear the air with one that I really liked.  After a lovely dinner and good conversation (not to mention an extended drought), I asked if he’d like to accompany me back to my room.

Surprise of surprises: he declined. Exasperated (and horny) I asked “Why?” Lo and behold, he flipped the gender script and told me some version of: “I’m happy to have you back in my life. I don’t want to move too prematurely because we are rebuilding our relationship.” Riiiiight. What I wanted to know is what our “relationship” had to do with the sex that I needed to have right then and there.

 The primary criticism of my story has been about the issue of consent. My choice to question my ex’s decision read to many of you as a failure to respect the classic feminist anti-rape mantra “no means no.” Thus, one blogger whom I respect referred to my story as “rapey and presumptuous.” Moreover, some of you felt that my suspicion about his intentions and my read of his responses as a kind of patriarchal power play amounted to a bad and un-rigorous invocation of feminism. Many of our male readers felt compelled to let me know that “men are human beings with feelings, and not mindless sex fiends.” Finally, many of you felt that the post wreaked of entitlement to sex and/or partnership.

I usually move through the world with an absolute refusal to defend myself against claims that I feel are  baseless, but my feminist inspired commitment to end sexual violence has been called into question by suggestions that my actions toward my ex participate in and perpetuate rape culture. An accusation of rape necessitates a response.

Let me unequivocally state that all people of all genders have the right to say no, to withhold consent, without fear or threat of coercion. Anything short of that is rape.

I also want to revisit the narrative I told, in hopes that folks will understand the emotion I attempted (rather clumsily) to communicate in the original post.

My ex’s refusal of sex was exasperating for many reasons—this is the same man who two years ago rejected out of hand my desire to explore a relationship, because we lived long distance.  He wanted to keep the friendship – the deep emotional connection, long conversations, and access to a person with whom he could talk politics, and commiserate—sans the sex. And while I value and have good platonic friendships with men, that’s not what I’m in the market for right now.  Particularly since as I’ve written elsewhere, many of these “friendships” turn into intellectual and emotional affairs, that are predicated on me doing girlfriend duties without getting girlfriend benefits. I want and deserve more, and I am no longer willing to do this kind of prolonged emotional labor unless it has some intimate returns. And the sex I wanted that night didn’t foreclose the possibility of a relationship. 

So when he came calling last month, after a year and a half, my interests were peaked. When I saw him several weeks later, I asked why he had called. His reply: “I missed our interaction. Our friendship.”  That sounds beautiful, but could easily have meant more of the same—he wanted my emotional and intellectual investment without any intimacy investment on his part. His actions became even more telling when he arrived home a while later, and then sexted a barrage of salacious messages about his future intentions towards me. #powerplay

I recognize that women who struggle to find partners often have competing challenges – some women meet men who objectify them and want to jump into bed with them without regard to knowing them as people. Women with this experience often take great issue with my story because what they see is a man who wants substance and not merely sex. But the flip side can be equally exploitative –dudes (and that is intentionally plural) who want to use me for intellectual masturbation and who benefit from my capacity to offer deep and consistent emotional support, which they happily and thoughtlessly exploit on their way to sexual and/or full romantic connections with other partners.  And mind fucks are not what I’m interested in.

So like I said in the original post…exasperation is the word.

Now that I’ve shared more of my business than I should ever have to, I want to share a list of reflections on my story and on the general reactions to the blog.

  • Dudes be on bullshit when it comes to acknowledging the operations of (Black) male privilege.
  • Consent was never an issue in this interaction. It became a straw man in this blog conversation, used in a reactionary way by men who didn’t want to acknowledge another manifestation of male privilege, namely the fact that men do play power games with sex.
  • Consent and desire are not competing goals; the former, freely expressed, is a prerequisite for the free, healthy and legal expression of the latter.
  • Black female desire is not (inherently) predatory. But casting our desire as predatory and threatening allows others to police us into silence. Then it becomes easy to blame Black women not only for having needs in the first place but also for the failure to have them met.
  • A Black man who claims to want a relationship is inherently a more sympathetic character than a Black woman who claims to want sex, even among feminists who claim to be pro-sex.
  • Black men still feel like their needs are primary and will take up all the space (and air) in the room to protect their primacy in racial dialogue.
  • They do this without regard to how their choices affect Black women.
  • Black men didn’t create the structures that disadvantage Black women in romance and sex, but the same education and career attainments that open doors for Black men around sex and partnership, frequently foreclose options for Black women
  • These are all examples of Black male privilege.
  • No one really believes Black women when we testify about our experiences.

To get theoretical and academic for a minute:

  • Agency is not freedom. Agency is the shit we talk about in a system of limited options and choices. That means that our uses of agency are inherently limited. Enslaved folk created rich and vibrant cultures in the unreasonable conditions of unfreedom, but they never mistaked their ability to do one (agency) for their right to have the other (freedom).   
  • For some of us, trying to find partners (of whatever type, for whatever purpose) is like trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents.  Many of us go for it, actively donning our supershero costumes, with battle cries of “statistics be damned. I’ma find me a man.”  That’s agency, for sure. And for many of us it works; but for many it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t work, surely we can be honest about that, too? Surely those who make it happen or luck up, depending on your perspective, don’t have to get amnesia and start treating other sisters like we are all working with a full 100% on the dollar.   
  • Discursive constructions of freedom and material access to freedom are not the same thing, no matter what poststructuralism would have us believe. In other words, we can’t just imagine ourselves out of this shit.
  • That fact doesn’t mean we don’t get up everyday and try again to create the world anew.
  • We would rather call the desire for partnership and sex on one’s own terms entitlement, than a basic expression of human need and desire.
  • The question of whether partnership is a right and if so what kind of right is interesting theoretically. It is perhaps more telling that the people who get asked to justify their sexual and romantic desires are lacking in some sort of obvious privileges (race, gender, sex, age, ability). 

 Readers, over these years of blogging I have shared personal narratives about my dating life with this community, because intimate interactions are one of the key places that we work out our ideas about gender, sex, and power. But this shit is hard to do. It is frequently violent (the comments section is not for the faint of heart).  If we want a sustained archive of Black women talking and testifying about sex and relationships in a substantive way, we have to figure out how to make this a less violent process. I hope we can begin that work today by engaging the comments section in a thoughtful, loving, gracious, and emotionally just manner.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Crunktastic

crunkashell

73 thoughts on “Asking for Sex: Revisited

  1. Usually when I read a post that makes me say “amen,” I applaud the author, to myself, and then keep on moving to the next thing on my to-do list. Since you’ve received so much criticism, I feel compelled to let you know that I liked, and could relate to, everything that you said in your first post. Thanks for writing it, and then following up with even more insight into your personal life. In short, those of us who have walked this same mile hear you, feel you 100%. Our experiences with the men in our lives and their sex power games just so happen to be real, whether all of your readers respect that or not.

  2. I stopped reading at the academic part: you wrote about all the things you now highlight in the worst way possible. Plain and simple. You got rejected, that sucks but, that’s it. To turn it into all of the above is offensive. In this instance, this woulda worked better without your personal anecdote…especially without your use and elaboration of “exasperation.” Sorry, but in the context you use it that is the language of rape and force. “The Masters Tools Will Never Dismantle the Masters House.”

    • And the sad part is you quote Mama Lorde, as if her politics and her analysis (if she was alive today) would allow her to watch you attempt to shame and blame a black woman for having the humanity (crunktastic-I see you, grrl-keep on keepin on) to not only initially articulate something tender, but then when shamelessly criticized and vilified to write a response-with the same amount of honesty as the first.

      • Thank you for your continued words of support, both here and on the original post, and in general.

      • I know who I cited. The post’s use of frustration and “exasperation”, need for an explanation and a commenters use of “negotiating” begs for Lorde. As a black woman who’s been raped more than once and who’s familiar with power plays and all of the above (since the personal is political) I found the way her post was written to be inflammatory and, yes, offensive. I’m single and love sex and appreciate the myriad conflicts this scenario then involves, but don’t frame it as “I came onto and and he said no, what gives?!” To then explain this “exasperation” adds more offense. In no way am i saying black feminists are running around breaking down a mans will — in short, to crunktastic, im saying “do better” when it comes to these very real issues. Dont couch it in a man saying No, couch it in a woman saying “Yes!” !

  3. BRAVO! Your courage, femininity, critical thought & humanity SHINE through your post (as usual)!

    As a performance artist/writer/fledgling blogger whose work is dedicated to amplifying the voice/experiences of the contemporary working-class woman of color, I especially felt your conclusion:

    “…I have shared personal narratives about my dating life with this community, because intimate interactions are one of the key places that we work out our ideas about gender, sex, and power. But this shit is hard to do. It is frequently violent (the comments section is not for the faint of heart). If we want a sustained archive of Black women talking and testifying about sex and relationships in a substantive way, we have to figure out how to make this a less violent process.” Amen, sis…..A-MEN!

    I’ll be sharing this poignant post with my ‘Sista Circle’ & checking for more….Word up.

    BTW, you can peep some video of my group’s performances at ladiesringshout.wordpress.com…..Peace.

  4. thank you for your posts on this topic!

    reading your posts and skimming through the comments, it seems like they all point to our being in the middle of some kind of transition – a place where women are recognizing and asserting an authority (not power) to be fully happy, satisfied – for real free. a place where men, as a result, have to deal with issues, primarily emotional, that they’ve gotten a societal pass on, permission to ignore, compartmentalize, etc.

    my sense is that all the anger, disappointment, need to accuse one another of something or the other, such as rape-like behavior, etc. – all of this comes from an unfamiliarity with this new place we’re in. we’re not used to the inevitable declines that come from invitations to whatever – date, sex, etc. men aren’t used to receiving invitations in areas in which they usually do the inviting. so, now they are confronted with times when they don’t want sex and in a culture that they’ve bought into that says they do/should, what do they do with feelings and/or choices that say otherwise? they don’t know how to communicate that well any more than we know how to accept and process a “no” when it took all of our energy to decide we could ask for something without negative labels and then actually ask. with all of that work, we ought to be rewarded with what we desire, right? ;-) all of this discomfort without thoughtful and even prayerful conversation can lead to quickly drawn conclusions, accusations, etc. that can be harmful and unproductive toward the end that we all seek (i hope) – progress.

    i say all of this to say – this is great! it’s all good stuff! this looks and sounds like progress. we just need to keep talking – here, with each other, and in safe spaces like counseling/therapy to work through all of these issues that bubble up as we move through life seeking true freedom, fulfillment and mutuality (not equality).

    • “any more than we know how to accept and process a “no” when it took all of our energy to decide we could ask for something”

      thank you for this

      as a person who creates polyamorous relationships, i’ve spent the better part of the last decade working on how to hear “no”

      and, reading the original post, i forgot that – forgot that it was *work* and not even a bit easy

  5. This post is vulnerable y fearless, just how I like them!!!

    The primary criticism of my story has been about the issue of consent. My choice to question my ex’s decision read to many of you as a failure to respect the classic feminist anti-rape mantra “no means no.” Thus, one blogger whom I respect referred to my story as “rapey and presumptuous.” Moreover, some of you felt that my suspicion about his intentions and my read of his responses as a kind of patriarchal power play amounted to a bad and un-rigorous invocation of feminism. Many of our male readers felt compelled to let me know that “men are human beings with feelings, and not mindless sex fiends.” Finally, many of you felt that the post wreaked of entitlement to sex and/or partnership.
    ===========
    The issue to me doesn’t appear to be consent, the issue appears to be whether or not other readers felt that you had a RIGHT to ask him the questions.

    Black feminists ask questions. Full stop. Asking questions pivots on issues of power because it implies that the person asking is entitled to an answer. And given your historical interactions with this man you were entitled to clarity. Shit clarity wasn’t gonna come walking across the damn table on it’s own.

    You were negotiating.

    In society/culture primarily designed by and for men, women’s sexual desire perplexes people, and Black women’s sexual desire tends to be publicly rendered non existent within the cartography stereotypes about Black women’s sexuality; the mammie ; the maid; the lady; the hoochie.

    And, let me be real clear about this gina. I think it is brave to get out in front of thousands of people and discusses the ways in which you struggle to reconcile your personal politics with your dating life. Transformation begins at home/within.

    And in terms of thinking through the spirit with which people leave comments on this post, I think it was either Moya or Kismet who said to me that “it is easier to criticize than it is to affirm.” It is.

    ~R

    • “Black feminists ask questions. Full stop. Asking questions pivots on issues of power because it implies that the person asking is entitled to an answer. And given your historical interactions with this man you were entitled to clarity. Shit clarity wasn’t gonna come walking across the damn table on it’s own.”

      Thanks, Renina! This is exactly it!

      • I mean think about when we were little. If we asked our mommas a question in the wrong tone, we may have been told to “stop talking back” and/or have gotten popped in the mouth.

        Asking questions reminds the other person that they are dealing with is a human being, not a lamp.

        Asking questions challenges folks. That is why I end my blog posts with them. On the other hand, I also know that many folks don’t like being challenged. #ohWellgina. So a person may not like being challenged, but they sure as shit don’t mind YOU emotionally investing in them.

        In 2012 Black girls deserve #Lovebears who are ready to invest emotionally, if that is in fact what Black girls are looking for. #boom.

      • Renina,
        Does that mean I get to cross-examine the next women I know well who turns me down for sex, as to her reasons? Or is that a right/privilege that only goes in one direction?

      • Exactly. You couch it in the realm of consent, crunktastic, you warrant these responses.

      • Why do you keep couching the interaction of two people in terms of patriarchy and male privilege? To my mind, you’re defaulty applying sinister motive to his “no” simply because you’re mad and rejected.

        The only conclusion I can come to with your insistence to make a human interaction political is this:

        *If he didn’t have his male privilege, he would have either automatically wanted to have sex, or had sex despite his reservations.*

        See how quickly your theory breaks down? Sometimes the personal is *only* personal. What you’re arguing for is that you think you should have *all* of the privilege (and you can defend it on past oppression of your gender, but there really is no valid defense).

        I also think it’s interesting that you state men say no to “regain” power. That implies that women have the power in sexual relations, not men.

        You got turned down for sex from your preferred prospect. Hurray, you have the same choices men do: build a thick skin and wait until the next prospect (while continuing to exercise your agency by initiating), or lower your standards.

  6. Thanks for re-starting this conversation, sis. Considering the reaction to the first post and the conversation around this, it’s clear that the space to talk about desire, agency, trust, and vulnerability in a safe space is more necessary than ever. And, as always, I got your back. <3

  7. There are various issues with the original story and the full version. There are valid points in what you are trying to communicate that really have less to do with patriarchy and privilege and more to do with individuals desirability. Sex is often a negotiation of sorts. For instance, there are subsets of both men and women who are in high demand (options). It’s not entirely possible to separate the need for satisfaction from the social complications. As the pursuer, rejection can happen for a number of reasons. It’s the risk the pursuer takes. People want things both ways. Women should be able to express their need for sex but their success depends on that person’s desirability (sexual or social). With the additional info you gave on this particular example…yes, maybe he was exerting some power play. The pursuers are expressing the need and the pursued will express what they expect in return (explicitly or through passive aggressive BS). These same dynamics occur between same sex partners as well. Your options are not limited by male privilege or agency far less than desirability. The gender roles can be restrictive bc the traditional view of pursuer is the male. Desirability and venue changes that all. On either side of the gender…those with limited options increase their options via technology and so forth. Entitlement is real…but those that bring up consent are morons. Your entitlement has nothing to do with consent and that really should be left out of the conversation. Men/Women will use sex as a tool while fulfilling a need and both have a right to do so without having to digging the trenches deeper of the genderwarz.

  8. And here we see a strange and twisted sort of privilege being played out. It goes like this: Black women are perpetually disenfranchised – by white men, by white women, by black men. This is a given. So let us use white patriarchy tools to justify putting the smackdown on black men in particular, because he’s an easy target. No one will hear his cries. So we go in harder than an erection, in every way shape and form: If he wants to sex you up, he’s f**ked up; if he does not want to sex you up, he’s still f**ked up. If he speaks truth, he’s f**ked up; if he tells lies, he’s f**ked up; if he submits, he’s f**ked up. If he doesn’t submit, he’s f**ked up. Can we see how f**ked up this is? See, the black man is an easy target – because no one will defend him against this madness.

    As for that man with the d**k, could it be that he is gay, and just wants to be your friend, but fears telling you he’s gay?

    Sister, you were not clumsy in the first article. You were clear as a bell. You wanted the d**k on your own terms, and his thoughts about it be damned. If we subtract all the academic language and put it in basic terms, it would go like this:

    I wanted the d**k and didn’t feel like listening to whatever bull-isht he had to say. Yet, I did listen, so with my listening, I paid for that d**k and deserved to have it. That he didn’t give it to me is what’s so f**cked up about black men. Because you see, they have ALL the control over us black women! We all are just squirrels trying to get nuts in their world! We are forever powerless before them.

    What I find so offensive in this stance is there are no shades of gray. And I understand that you don’t have to have shades of gray, if you don’t want any. But Life is lived fully in those shades of gray. Not all black men are even affected in the same way by patriarchy! So why force them all into one “black man patriarchy” box? It’s that academic ish box that some sisters force themselves into, and it is beyond me. Is it possible that some aspects of a black woman’s life will NOT fit under any of the academic feminist labels?

    In my opinion, the way some sisters practice feminism is so self defeating and smacks of disempowerment. I do declare that some of us black feminists are disempowering black women right this minute! Personally, I could never say that black men – or even white men – have all power over me. Because the truth is that they don’t. If that were true, then there would have been no Harriet Tubman. If she thought white men had all the power, even in slavery times, she never could have done half of what she did! If the power of my mind is in my hands, then I have control. If I think for myself, and am able to check myself when I’m wrong, then I have control. Anything less is child’s play. Every hardship that I encounter is merely an obstacle that I must overcome. Racism. Patriarchy. Self hatred. Misogny. Misandry. Obstacles do not have control over me.

    Now Sister, can you admit that this “thing” is just a messed up stance that you might want to reconsider? Rethink? Is it possible that you just went in on an academic level of basic black man bashing fun? You might pride yourself on not backing down, but it’s hard to learn and progress when you refuse to humble yourself. Even feminism as practiced by us sisters is not perfect. And if we are interested in moving the movement forward for the betterment and empowerment of black women, then we have to be willing to self check. Now, that takes some cojones.

    There’s a young feminist sister who I appreciate alot http://www.msafropolitan.com/

    Of course ALL of this is my opinion, to take or leave as you see fit.

  9. Having read both posts, I can say that there is some more clarity on why you feel the way you do-but I still strongly disagree that this is entangled in macro issues. Or at least as deeply entangled as you are arguing. There are few things that jump out at me about this conversation (in no particular order):

    1) I am a little puzzled by the reference to the original critique as “violence”. I understand that you are being very vulnerable here, and it hurts when people react so strongly to something that is so intensely personal. But I think that comes with the territory-you are a blogger in a space that has a comments section, so I presume the idea is that there will be dialogue rather than monologue. What that means, of course, is that people are going to talk back. They may not always agree, and may strongly disagree, in fact, but I assume that’s part of the benefit of a two-way conversation, that sometimes our ideas will get challenged, sometimes vehemently, and if we are intellectually honest, we will welcome that process as an opportunity for us to grow. Even if at the end of the day we disagree. Also, being an academic, I presume you understand the oftimes vigorous nature of the debate in the ideas marketplace. No, not all critique is valid nor is it all predicated on the pursuit of high falutin’ intellectual ideals, sometimes it is just mean-spirited and petty, but the reverse is also true. Sometimes our bristling at critiques of our argument has more to do with bruised egos than principled arguments. I am not judging you, but none of us are immune to these reactions, so as human beings and as scholars I think we are best served if we are constantly asking ourselves which side of the fence are we falling on today?

    2) Although I understand and agree with the notion that individual relationships are impacted by the broader social milieu in which they take place, they are not exclusively constructed by these higher-level forces. They are also constructed by the idiosyncracies of the two singular people, and any analysis that glosses over aspects of that reality is weakened. Or extrapolates from the individual to the macro level. So, while given your further explanation, it sounds like homebody *might* very well be engaged in a “power play” or manipulative behavior of sorts-the bottom line is that even if it is true that fact cannot be used to make broad statements about the rest of the male world. His issues may have nothing to do with patriarchy or sexism (because let’s face it, there are plenty of women who act similarly–getting “boyfriend benefits” for themselves from men and withholding sex). And even if they are motivated by those things how can it be argued that this explains what any other man is thinking when he turns down freely offered sex? At least in any intellectually solid way.

    3) It might be useful to think about Occam’s razor here: sometimes the explanation which is simplest, and makes the fewest assumptions, is in fact the best one. And I’m truly not trying to be mean here, because I know this is probably not the easiest conversation to have publicly, but we have all been rejected at some point in our lives, and it simply does not feel good. Sometimes there is a rhyme and reason to the denial, sometimes there is not. Or not any that we can see. Bottom line, the answer to your original question is the same. Regardless of his reasons for turning down your request, he is not obligated to have sex with you, nor is anyone else. He is also not obligated to explain his reasoning, though you felt justified in asking (and I’m not making a judgment call either way). You can ask, but you will not always receive. That is simply life. What do you do when a man says no? Simple, like people who have been getting rejected since time began, you have a few options: 1) continue to pursue, maybe change your tactics in the hopes that eventually he will engage your desire, 2) accept the no, stand up, wipe the dust off your shoulders and keep it moving. That is all.

    • i think sista’s right about the simplest explanation. it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there in a blog like this, but you’re too focused on power, and it comes across as machiavellian.

      i think part of the problem is you’re trying to generalize from this one particular instance and say it’s always about power, and that’s probably where a lot of people are getting thrown off.

      but even here, isn’t it possible this guy really wanted to hold off for whatever reason, then started thinking about it and let his fantasies get the better of him? granted, it could be about power, but it doesn’t have to be.

      sista’s right: “You can ask, but you will not always receive. That is simply life.”

  10. Renina,
    What you’re talking about boils down to the pain/agony of realizing you’ve been Friend Zoned. That’s it. The vast majority of boys and young men get friend zoned all the time, and many women experience it as well.

    It’s not some sort of affront to your humanity that that guy was unwilling you “give you what you ***needed***” (!!!)

    Somehow I doubt you’d be so sympathetic to a man insisting that his “need” for sex should mean anything whatsoever to any women, especially not any women he’s not even in a relationship with at the moment.

    • @SA,

      Somehow I doubt you’d be so sympathetic to a man insisting that his “need” for sex should mean anything whatsoever to any women, especially not any women he’s not even in a relationship with at the moment.
      ==============
      I have a few responses. If we have different assumptions we will come to different conclusions, so let me clarify a couple of mine.

      As a Black feminist I do not make the assumption that monogamous relationships are the only kind of legitimate “relationships”. I assume that human relationships may involve sexual or non sexual intimacy.

      It appears as though you have made the assumption that I do not think or perhaps Black feminists don’t think that it is appropriate a person to ask “why no sex” when two people (these people may be straight OR LGBTQ identified) who have a intimate history.

      I do believe that both men and women have a right to ask why, in fact it happened to me last year.

      Peep.

      I had been seeing someone hot and heavy and then he (Mr. P) fell back. I waited a bit then met someone else; I was swept off my feet. #movedon

      Mr. P hadn’t heard from me as I was busy as shit, and I got the plethora of text messages and calls, so when time permitted I made time to met up with him to tell him in person that I liked him, that I had waited a bit, that he was no longer around and that I was no longer available. I liked him enough and respected him enough to meet up, not that phone shit because I don’t like it and I don’t want anyone doing that to me. AND, our negro social circles are so small so you always run into people and I try and keep it cordial even if it didn’t work out.

      It was certainly reasonable in both Crunktastic’s situation and in Mr. P’s situation for both of them to ask “Yo, are you down” and if no “why” because they were dealing with people with which they had previous history.

      In my mind the question was legitimate given our history, and his PAST INVESTMENT in me.

      If, in your mind it isn’t okay to ask why, I would like to hear a rationale for that.

      ~R

      • I had a long reply typed out, then I lost it to the Internetz G_dz. Here’s the summary:

        - You’re right, and I’m switching my position to agree with you that it is okay for you to ask why, in a non-badgering way, given that you know him well.

        - However, I really doubt the reverse gender version of this story would have flown well at all with the crowd here. I wish I didn’t believe that, but I do.

        - Back to your original article, you’re falling into the trap of the “Apex Fallacy”. That means that you’re representing the options of the top men and being representative of the options of most men. The best looking, suavest, most swagged-out guys can pick and choose, so that’s Just The Way It Is for Men. No, the overwhelming majority of guys are working their butss off for the slightest bit of play, just like you have been doing for a these recent months (according to what you said).

      • Thanks for the dialogue.

        Our receptivity towards a man telling a similar story in this space would have everything to do with the extent to which he had identified, named, and interrogated male privilege and power, the potential for coercion and threat. But as Renina’s comment indicated, the legitimacy of a man’s why wouldn’t necessarily be rejected out of hand.

        RE: apex fallacy — that assumes that the guys I date meet these parameters. And in fact, they usually don’t. I recognize that men have struggles around dating, but I also know that the guy that inspired this post let me know he had been dating and had plenty of options for sex, which is why he felt he could take his time pursuing a relationship with me. And while he is very educated and accomplished, I wouldn’t say he’s swagged out or suave (not really my type.)

  11. Smart, thoughtful, and powerfully vulnerable Crunktastic. Thanks for this – more than anything else what I feel most inspired by is your willingness to speak your experience and not to relent to others’ misappropriation of it. That is crunk feminism in practice.

    What stands out to me after reading this second post, is that this scenario was not about entitlement or about consent, at the core. Those are factors in all negotiations about sex, certainly. But having heard your details about the relationship with this particular guy it seems that the situation was really about, to my mind, the questions of honesty, agency and power and how they are negotiated. And like Renina said, about asking questions. Solidarity, friend.

    • I continue to shake my head at those who are purposefully overlooking your repeated clarifications of the context behind your relationship in reference (i.e. Scipio) so that they can continue to try to portray you as a hypocrite. Why is he so vested in tearing you down to the point where he is ignoring reality to try to do so? To anyone else reading, I think that is part of what counts as “violence” IMO. Gina did expose herself in a HUGE way, only to receive numerous attacks on her personality, character, and have sustained attempts to insult her dignity, regardless of anything that she said during and after the original post to clarify it. Disagreement is one thing. Repeated and enduring insults regardless of how much she elaborates on her meaning is another thing entirely.

      I will admit, I was a little taken aback when I read the original post and didn’t really know how to take it. But the additional comments by Gina really did clarify a hell of a lot regarding her intentions and with those comments, I completely understand where she is coming from. But it seems a lot of people still don’t want to understand, and seem to have an investment in ensuring that they take her out of context so that they can insult her in both overt and passive-aggressive manners. That’s why I think it’s really important and helpful that you wrote this additional post to clarify the behaviors and intentions behind the attacks you received.. daylight is the best disinfectant after all.

      I didn’t comment on the original post but I would also like to take the time for putting yourself out there and let you know that there is another person who emphatically agrees and supports your sentiment and your position.

      • But it seems a lot of people still don’t want to understand, and seem to have an investment in ensuring that they take her out of context so that they can insult her in both overt and passive-aggressive manners.
        =========
        Courtney, YAS! You remind me of something that I use to say to people on my blog when we were getting into having a debate when it was clear that we had different assumptions. The question is “What is your personal investment in your line of thinking?” Thank you for reminding me of that. I will dust it off and start using it again.

    • I meant to post my comment as a general response, not specifically addressed to you, eesnap. No confusion meant, I’m just dumb :-)

  12. One other interesting critique i have of this stance is what I call the gay litmus test. It works very well with determining male/female dynamics. If both the characters in your anecdote were gay men/women…would patriarchy, agency, and the other issues mention still apply? Is that scenario plausible or better ye commonplace? If so, then you are probably inserting agenda-based issues into an debate that is really about maturity and reasonable partners. Patriarchy exists. It has little impact on the rejection of women’s sexual advances. It can affect what we find desirable but the negotiations begin and end in attraction, desires, and needs.

  13. I saw the much of the conversation of the first post, and I didn’t see anything that was outright disrespectful. Some people just plain disagreed with your interpretation of this guy (who, in my opinion, is sending mixed signals. But later for that.)

    I haven’t been following the blog long enough to see everything you’ve written, but from the stuff I have seen – especially your first ten bullet points in this article – I don’t agree with your understanding of BLACK Feminism. Many of your statements are adversarial toward Black Men and separatist. And as a Black male who love Sistas and considers myself a Feminist, Womanist, etc, some of the things you say push me away. I don’t have an advanced grasp of Black Feminism, I really only acknowledge the origins (Combahee River Collective http://circuitous.org/scraps/combahee.html) but I do know that one of it’s main goals is to unify with Black Men.

    This guy sounds like many of the women whom I have had to discontinue. They want a piece of you – either your conversation, your affection/attention – but they dont want all of you. Believe me when I say that this happens to all of us, female and male. The only real difference is that this guy threw a wrench in it when he wanted your attention, not your sex. That is not the traditional view of how men approach women. But for all intents and purposes, he might as well have just asked you to smash because he is saying that he wants a piece of you (in this case, your company) but not all of you. IMO, this issue is unisex, and you dont need to deal with him or anyone else like him unless you both want the same thing. There is nothing wrong with just wanting sex or just wanting a platonic friend. The problem is when two people want two different things, but they hang with each other anyway.

    Anyway, I like how you write. Your pen game is impressive. And even though I dont always agree with everything you write, I will continue reading your posts. I have already learned some, and I bet I will learn more to come. But try not to go so hard on the Brothas as a collective. If you see something, call it out, but dont turn it into a blanket generalization of black male privilege unless it truly is. Remember, I am you.

    Peace to all the Crunk Feminist Collective writers.

  14. It wasn’t “rapey,” that’s absurd. Sometimes there’s no deep reason, maybe he just isn’t into you anymore and was trying not to hurt your feelings. Both men and women say no for that reason.

  15. Why can’t this simply be a matter of dude not being physically attracted to you and unable (unwilling) to tell you that, he feeds you some bs line to keep you in the friend zone? Maybe that can be simplified as patriarchy, black male privilege, male power play, but people are put in friend zones every day, regardless of sex or gender identification.

    As for the sexting 30 minutes after his rejection- maybe he felt bad. Maybe he is attracted to you & wants you to know that, even though he’s not able to give you more. Or maybe he’s just a tool stringing you along, which is an act that’s not gender -specific.

    You wanted a relationship on your terms but when he expressed his terms, you were /are dismissive. A woman says no and she’s exercising agency. A man says no and it’s a power play. Don’t use the blanket of feminism to recover from the chill of his rejection.

    You had a power play too- listen to homie until you could get in his pants. Yours didn’t work and now you’ve been victimized by black male privilege. C’mon.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing & opening your life to us. This topic has sparked interesting dialogue.

  16. This was all really fascinating. With your further elaboration, I can see the source of your frustration much more clearly, and I can understnd why you would resent black men of your own status for having more options than you do. This is both natural and understandable.

    But I have to agrew with Jontae Grace here:
    This guy sounds like many of the women whom I have had to discontinue. They want a piece of you – either your conversation, your affection/attention – but they dont want all of you. Believe me when I say that this happens to all of us, female and male. The only real difference is that this guy threw a wrench in it when he wanted your attention, not your sex. That is not the traditional view of how men approach women. But for all intents and purposes, he might as well have just asked you to smash because he is saying that he wants a piece of you (in this case, your company) but not all of you. IMO, this issue is unisex, and you dont need to deal with him or anyone else like him unless you both want the same thing. There is nothing wrong with just wanting sex or just wanting a platonic friend. The problem is when two people want two different things, but they hang with each other anyway.

    You may not want to engage the ex on his terms – you want the intimacy and the sex, as well as the friendship – but this isn’t really germane. What you did was portray this as a patriarchal passion play, a drama that ended up with you alone.

    Again, it has to be said, and can’t be said any more loudly: We are not owed a companion, sex, or even friends. We acquire those through earning them, getting lucky, or by default – but we’re not owed anything at all.

    This guy wanted to interact with you on his terms; you want to interact with him on your terms. Seeing as he wants less than you do in some ways (you want sex, he does not), you’re in the weaker position.

    Except to paint yourself as in one more way a victim of patriarchy, I don’t see this as a constructive way to approach this particular issue.

    There’s more to this issue than meets the eye, that’s for sure, and you’ve brought a lot to it, especially seeing as it’s more or less your life, right now.

    But I think you’re crossing signals.

  17. PS–

    This particular social imbalance is a sympton of a greater malaise. It may be unfair for black women, but it won’t be solved by trying to address Black Male Privilege on this level.

    The problem as it emerges is structural, and is a result of racism and a vast range of social forces often working in conflict with each other, some complementary and some contradictory, often both at the same time. Many of these forces are the fault of nobody in particular, of everybody, or are inescapable.

    It’s possible to be a victim of an injustice (of any type) and yet for there to have been no crime.

    Some argue that this is a condition of being alive.

  18. Let me say first of all that do I admire your strength and honesty; however unfortunately what we are seeing within modern African American women, is a denial in the lack of emotion, feeling, and care normally granted towards them by men. White women expect it in most case, but we are demeaning ourselves by not also doing so. Thus; we are inversing that same Patriarchal privilege of ‘Expecting sex’ from men; as they have uncomfortably done so of us over the years. The privilege of sexual encounters should always be mutual. Commenting also on the previous post this year anointing so called, ‘Birthday Sex’; I am apt to believe that we as Single Black women are being brainwashed yet again by Patriarchy into believing that reversing Male Patriarchal sexual violence, implies some sort of relationship structural power. It does not. And remembering from the prev. post, the honesty of the poster; as she stated how deflated she was after the ‘empty’ Birthday Sex. Atleast there was her honesty.

    Denoting that this person was a friend and hurt your feelings would have been essential with your article. A d’mn near stranger doing that, whom I had been attracted to..would have hurt mine. Although; I would live, and probably wouldn’t think past the week on it..it would have still hurt. I think that the conversation of empowering Single Black women by only addressing our physical needs, should be clarified. If only for the reason that there are still many takers in the ‘slut walk’ arena (white male and other), willing to more than justify contemptive formations of our sexuality. e.g. ..Second Wave Feminism. Agreed..we all need more candidness w/in sexuality. But, we also need to avoid the pitfall of doing the same thing that males have done to us in the past, as a recourse. We are much better than that, and for that matter…anyone should be. If you want to have sex..do it, without guilt. But make it neutral, consensual, & w/feeling. Who cares if u love him..just make sure that it’s something where you two are never purposely objectifying one another. For; there are too many out there more than willing to jump on that ignorant, but guilded bandwagon of lost causes.

  19. “We would rather call the desire for partnership and sex on one’s own terms entitlement, than a basic expression of human need and desire.

    The question of whether partnership is a right and if so what kind of right is interesting theoretically. It is perhaps more telling that the people who get asked to justify their sexual and romantic desires are lacking in some sort of obvious privileges (race, gender, sex, age, ability).”

    except that you asked your friend to justify his sexual desires. and i’ve had to call out men in my life who weren’t too happy when i wouldn’t meet their “needs” by explaining to them that they are never entitled to sex from me or anyone for that matter. (i’m a woman.) as in having to explain that, hey, even though it’s been a really long time since you’ve had X and you’d quite enjoy experiencing that, it’s not OK for you to say things like “ugh, this is torture” or in other ways act “exasperated” when i don’t want to do X because it implies that i’m doing something wrong by you by not offering up my body to fulfill your “needs.” which *is* coercive. i agree that since the dude in question was giving you mixed signals that at some point clarification needed to happen, but i’ll echo other sentiments that the scenario as you presented it in the first post did raise alarm bells because the asking of that “why?” can so easily read as “this needs justification and thus isn’t so legitimate on its own.” it’s a very delicate thing and thank you for giving further context.

    now gender history means that, if the genders were reversed in my situation, the man probably wouldn’t feel as coerced by me saying something like that–though that degree doesn’t matter to me so i would not perpetrate such a thing. but in your scenario, i also think your analysis has been missing critical engagement with the hypersexualized gender role of black men as imposed by white capitalist patriarchy. you joke about your lack of luck in finding a brother who will say yes to sex, but how does this expectation that you should have “access” to sex from a black man (honestly, that’s a phrase that turns my stomach when we’re talking about another person’s body) participate in the maintenance of oppressive social expectations for black men? or, as described in one of your other posts, what about the unwillingness to provide friendship (the giving of care, advice, intellectual challenge, etc.) if he isn’t willing to have sex with you? here i’ll assert the fact that no person is entitled to your friendship, but it’s not your lack of interest in that kind of relationship that bothered me – it’s your description of providing overtures of friendship as labor, something with an exchange value that should reap you benefits beyond itself (and clearly you resent when it doesn’t). i’m starting to think of bell hooks’ essay on penis passion…

    i also haven’t seen you articulate exactly what power a man can derive from not having sex with a woman when she wants it. yes, it’s a vulnerable position you’re in when you put your desires out there, made more vulnerable by the racialized sexism that makes (educated) black hetero women’s dating pools smaller. i’m of the school where each person “calls the shots” on sex because it doesn’t happen unless each person enthusiastically consents, and as a woman of color my refusal for sex at any time has never felt powerful in the way other people say it should because i know that rape/sexual assault is all too common, so i guess i’m not used to power based on refusal in intimacy and am thus failing in my thought experiment for what power men could gain…

    finally, it seems that you’re implying that, functionally, one man’s “genuine” no vs. another man’s calculated no is no different on the macro level because both are limiting black women’s “access” to the sex they desire. i think this conversation has had all sides feeling like someone’s missing the point because the premise you’re pinning your thoughts on is so controversial (not that you shouldn’t feel that way just b/c it’s unpopular). lots of people don’t see a desire or a longing as a Need That Must Be Filled even if we recognize that the erotic can be a source of power. and it’s hard to swallow language that uses sex, which necessarily involves freely consenting individuals who never ever have to consent to you, in the same way we could use food, education, or health care. and if you’re entitled to partnership or sex, that requires someone else’s consent – and how can we “require” that even in theory?

    though to complicate my own misgivings, even adults can’t get access to most of our uncontroversial needs without other people consenting to play their part in our interdependent economy. and in the back of my mind i’ve been thinking about disability – how on a macro level we would say that people in need of certain care should have access to it but that on a micro level no one individual is obligated to provide that. so i guess i’ll end by saying that, though i clearly don’t agree with every idea you’ve had, thanks for the dialogue.

    • So the conversation I’m interested in having is around effective ways to express straight Black female desire in affirmative, sex-positive ways, and thinking about what kind of world (and relationships with men) we need to have to have the reasonable expectation that those needs can be met on a regular basis, without getting into all this philosophizing about whether we have the right to have our needs met. Black women have the right to partners, pleasure, sex, and love. The fact that I need to say that and justify that is decidely frustrating. And it is further evidence of macro-level structures with microlevel impact. I am not interested in continuing to focus on (center) Black men’s needs to the point that we police away any way to talk about Black women’s needs and desires; I’m not interested in perpetuating the farce of these conversations that Black women’s expressions of desire participate in some kind of systematic (or pervasively individual) exploitation and impeding of Black men and their rights. And if we can’t do that in the comments section, then I won’t participate.

      Now:

      Surely you don’t think that my desire to have sex with Black men constitutes the same kind of societal hypersexualizing of them historically done and currently perpetuated by white women? I agree that the racial dimensions of heterosexuality are complicated, but I don’t agree that my expression of desire for sex with Black men itself constitutes hypersexualizing.

      I have written in multiple places on this blog about the ways that being a dark-skinned, plus-sized woman often means brothers culturally and historically read me as “sisterly” or “friendly” and not sexy. All of that stuff is wrapped up in societal constructions of Black female bodies and sexualities as well, and when Black men and women come together all of us are negotiating these historically imposed sexual narratives about our bodies and the ways they co-construct our notions of desire.

      RE: Emotional Labor
      Yes, I think it is important to name the copious amounts of emotional labor that Black women are expected to do in relationships. It is a critical part of a Black feminist discourse about the material realities of Black women’s lives and the continued expectations of care work we are asked to do (particularly for Black men) because they are in our families or are our friends. The point is that Black women should absolutely be more intentional about recognizing the kinds of labor that we are freely expected to give and make some choices about who we want to give that labor to and on what terms. That doesn’t foreclose a conversation about the pleasure of the labor and the things we get from it, but it does acknowledge that we are not everybody’s mammies. We have needs, too.

      RE: Power, Calculated noes

      Sometimes what men want is the power to control the interaction, and they will do whatever they can to maintain that power. We would ultimately do well to recognize that we are not all exercising our rights to say yes and no on an equal playing field. We understand this when we talk about race; why not gender?

      • Not sure there’s a set standard. For me it is both asking for what I need and want (which I find difficult to do) and then, feeling like there is a reasonable expectation, place, space, and/or person in whom, I can find access to those things (without hurting, exploiting, or otherwise disadvantaging the person or conversely without being made to feel as though my needs and desires are inappropriate, imposing, inconvenient, predatory, unworthy of being fulfilled, secondary or tertiary, etc.)

      • This statement furthers the notion that, simply put, you didn’t like said interaction with said fella and you intellectualized the HELL out of it rather than kept it moving. Not that what you say doesn’t ring true or interesting but the context — which was unclear before and now explained to the point of ridiculous — is taking away from them.

      • Linda,

        You want a battle, a fight, engagement, acknowledgement. I see you. But beyond that, I have nothing to say to you. Peace.

      • Odd, I don’t “want” a thing from someone I do not know. There is a comments section that inherently calls for response.

      • “Black women have the right to partners, pleasure, sex, and love. The fact that I need to say that and justify that is decidely frustrating.”

        No you do not have the right to any of that. To say you have the right to those things means that anyone who would deny you those things (i.e., when you request one of those things from that person and they decline) is in the wrong. You have the right to desire them and to pursue them without trampling on other people’s legal moral and ethical rights, sure. And if you find someone willing to share them with you, that’s awesome. But you do not have the right to any of that.

        The problem here is that these are all really IMPORTANT, maybe even VITAL elements of being a functional adult human being. There can be a tendency to therefore place this stuff in the box of things that are a human right, like freedom, oxygen, etc. But they’re not a whole lot different than money, unfortunately – something that is also vital to function prorly in most of the world’s societies, but which is generally not a right in and of itself, at least not in abundcance.

      • I have the right to it, but I don’t have the right to compel others to meet it. Like I have the right to safety, but I don’t have the right to compel others to protect me (they just can’t endanger me). In the same way, I have the right to sex, but I don’t have the right to compel others to give it to me.

        Part of this is about our conceptions of rights.

        But as I am not a philosopher, I don’t come to these discussions in the abstract. It’s a very materially rooted question for me. I look at the kinds of things that structures of power limit for Black folk, poor folk, queer folk, etc; conversely, I look at what structures of power facilitate for the privileged. The privileged (white, straight, middle class, able-bodied, cis-gendered, etc) have the right to pursue love and partnership and sex in conditions of their own choosing and making, with the reasonable expectation that they can find what they are looking for in safe and non-exploitative ways.

        I think all people should have that right, Black women, specifically included.

      • perhaps, then, effective expression begins with whatever needs to happen within each one of us to be comfortable, to be ok with asking for whatever we need &/or want to have a fulfilling life. for me, only when i’m okay with what i’m doing can i handle well other people’s responses to it without all the heavy feelings.

        so before i ask, especially if it’s an area in which i’m not used to asking, i sit down w/ myself to determine where i am with it all and how i can best respond to their possible responses. like counting the cost before i make a purchase. of course, we can never always anticipate all of what another person will do or say, but what this provides for me is a sense of being prepared which boosts my confidence & sense of security.

        then i also have to know undoubtedly within myself that whether they say yes OR no, their response is about them, not me. so, if i cannot approach my ask in this way, i’m not ready to ask & should not ask yet. the best thing for me to do is to wait until i’m ready to engage at this level of living. (of course waiting means actively doing so, working on whatever to become ready.)

        when i am truly ready i have a clearer assessment of whether there is “reasonable access” to what i’m seeking AND i can be ok with a decline of access, even if it is reasonable. i also know & understand that being ok w/ all of this can be excruciatingly difficult when i’ve been existing in spaces of what is or seems like perpetual denial of fundamental goodness in living.

      • Okay, I think we may be focusing on two sides of the same coin of Rights. You’re focusing on the right to be able to receive something, which is true. You do have the right to receive love and sex. But that was never at issue here. Because you would have glady received him that night.

        It’s a canard to mention your right as a Black woman to sex and love, because he didn’t harm that right when he declined you. Saying no to a request for sex is not a violation of your rights.

      • I didn’t say, nor do I believe, he violated my rights. He freely exercised his.

        My right to receive love and sex is THE thing at issue here. Lol. That’s what the post was about.

        I’m asking larger questions about what it looks like to have access to the things we (Black women–straight in this case) need and want, provided those things are not predatory or exploitative.

      • i think that’s a great and important conversation to have, though making the central question of your original post “What should we do when men flip the script and tell us no?” didn’t really capture it. and though i gather that, to you, i don’t seem concerned with material realities enough, my balking at the idea that my sexual desires should be understood as “needs” i have a “right” to have fulfilled on the regular comes from the fact that *in practice* that logic equates to there better be SOMEONE i like giving it to me how i want it when i want it on a “regular” basis (as defined by whom?) and *in reality* there is no one obligated to do that for me, no one. so because on a day-to-day, material level, i know that i am not entitled to have any of the particular men i want for love or sex to give me those experiences because they do not owe me their hearts nor their bodies – though i see myself as a worthy partner – i reject the abstract construction that i have a *right* to access some theoretical partner’s heart and/or body. *whose* heart, *whose* body? you have made it clear that you are taking this as a given and i respect that you do not wish to engage me on it, but i wanted to clarify my thoughts for the purpose of contributing to the larger discussion on this thread, beyond our specific engagement with each other.

        i don’t think my critiques about your “access” framework and your glib perpetuation of the black-men-are-constantly-”on”-sexually meme takes the conversation to the point where educated black women in their 30s who are seeking sex outside of steady relationships have no language to talk about the frustration, loneliness, and inequality of desires being unfulfilled. in fact i’m hoping to challenge us all to have this conversation in a way that does not participate in problematic concepts and tropes. i’ve seen that from other commenters, actually, so clearly it’s possible.

        i too think “that Black women should absolutely be more intentional about recognizing the kinds of labor that we are freely expected to give and make some choices about who we want to give that labor to and on what terms” – absolutely. waaay too much mammying is expected to happen in too many situations and we all should be empowered to set our own boundaries. but if you’re only interested in extending overtures of friendship to black men you’re attracted to if there’s a sex pay-off, and you don’t communicate that to the brothers in question, and they happen to not do you, there’s no injustice. they did not take from you without giving because it’s unreasonable and objectifying to *expect* deepening friendship to result in sex for you. not expect as in hope for, but expect as in feel cheated when it doesn’t happen cuz clearly it was “supposed” to according to some tired story lines and the brothers-constantly-want-sex meme. but again, perhaps our divergence here stems from our different beliefs on the issue from paragraph one.

        what do i think are “effective ways to express straight Black female desire in affirmative, sex-positive ways”? the way you communicated with that mixed-signals-giving ex of yours is a great example. and i’m for a striving towards an articulation that is true testimony to emotions and other manifestations caused by these “dream(s) deferred” in black women’s lives but that does not slip into capitalist conceptions of sex as a quantifiable, commodifiable good that fills a demand but rather honors that, no matter what it means or doesn’t mean to individuals, it necessarily involves a person-to-person spark and sense of safety.

        “what kind of world (and relationships with men) we need to have to have the reasonable expectation that those needs can be met on a regular basis?” sigh. we’re so far off from that.

      • Maybe it would be useful to distinguish between Rights and rights. Rights with a capital “R” is part of that large philosophical conversation about notions like civil rights, human rights, that gets into questions about what the state has to support, protect, allow, etc. I think that’s an important question, but again it is philosophical in ways that I’m not interested in engaging.

        When I say “right”–little “r”–I literally mean that I think we have the right to be loved, to have intimate and sexual lives. As one CF pointed out to me, having the kinds of relationships we want pivots on believing that we deserve to be treated well, loved on our terms, engaged humanely, etc. In other words, at the point that we begin to set standards for how our relationships ought to go, we are communicating particular things about what we believe are the right ways to treat us, and what we feel we have the right to receive.

        That is really the way in which I’m using “right” here. I’m saying that in a world that constantly tells Black women that we are pathological, angry, threatening, and unworthy of love, it is a radical stance to decide that our needs do matter, to assert that those needs should be recognized in our intimate interactions with people, and at the macro-level of my analysis, to think about the ways that structures of power impede the process of Black women being seen as fully human people with needs and desires.

        The state-sanctioned regulation of our sexual and romantic choices is deeply embedded in the history of what it means to be a Black woman in this country (a woman in general, but you get my point.) So others questioned my use of a structural analysis, but in some ways, we can’t get at why the articulation of Black women’s needs and desires are so difficult unless we point to this larger structural history and the ways it is perpetuated today. And that is where a discourse about big R Rights might need to take place. But I mean, Black women’s bodies have been used to secure white people’s big R right to life, liberty, and happiness (and property.)

        And now when Black women begin to articulate that in fact, we do have the right to full and abundant lives, and that includes opportunities for intimacy on our own terms, then folks want to start talking about big R rights. And that conversation, while engaged in earnest, still begs this question about what the impetus is for asking the questions. I don’t think white folks have to ask themselves this question on the day to day (do I have the right to be happy, to have a partner, to be loved, to have sex, etc). It reminds me of the feminist scholarship of Anne Ducille who talks about how in academia, the moment that Black people began to think about having subjectivity, white literary theory declared “the death of the subject.” Lol.

        So to be honest, I don’t know all the intricacies of the big R question. It’s not the kind of work I do. But I do know that part of valuing myself is recognizing that no matter how many times I get told no around the things I want in my intimate life (and I’ve been told no many times, mind you), I still have value. I recognize that even as I walk through the world that tells me daily in every conceivable way that being dark-skinned, natural haired, and plus-sized, not to mention outspoken, all make me sexually undesirable, I am still desirable. I recognize that even if I never have the kind of romantic partnership I want, or the kind of intimate life I want, that as a human being I still have a right to those things. I know that language makes people uncomfortable, but in some ways, I believe the discomfort for some folks (not necessarily you) is about the fact that one of our coping mechanisms to deal with the tough nature of finding the love and sex we want (as Black women) has been to tell ourselves that we aren’t owed anything, we don’t deserve anything, and we aren’t entitled to anything.

        And my own definition of self-love precludes those kinds of conclusions.

        And that is why I don’t feel compelled to justify the reasons why I don’t want to have emotional or intellectual affairs, or as another CF calls them, platonic boyfriends. And also why I know that that choice in no way exploits Black men or misleads them or engages in problematic concepts of what they “owe me,” etc. I could spend all day trying to articulate what an intellectual affair or platonic bf looks like and why it is so very different than “deepening friendship” that “just didn’t result in sex,” but I suspect that if you find yourself in one of these relationships, you’ll get it. Otherwise, be glad it isn’t your struggle.

      • crunktastic, this is just to say that i found your last reply so stirring – clearly you’re a talented writer.

        and i want to keep fighting for an end to the prison-industrial complex, chronic undereducation, media injustice, the damaging construction that black men and women should not pay attention to our emotional and mental health, problematic notions that hierarchy, competition, and project of dominance are natural and healthy, and all those many factors that are making it so much harder for black women’s lives to look like how they want. and i know you are, too.

      • Crunktastic writes:
        “So the conversation I’m interested in having is around effective ways to express straight Black female desire in affirmative, sex-positive ways, and thinking about what kind of world (and relationships with men) we need to have to have the reasonable expectation that those needs can be met on a regular basis, without getting into all this philosophizing about whether we have the right to have our needs met.”

        The answer is that you will likely have to live with less sex if your partner has a lower libido than you. The two of you may reach a happy middle-ground, but that is going to revolve around you “sexing up” your lover or other forms of mediation that involve your lover having sex more often even when he is not in the mood.

        How often were you willing to do this in your 20′s for men when their libido was higher than yours? There are some people who are empathetic and will have sex even when they don’t want to, and there are people who are selfish and will not.

        I am male. In a committed relationship, if I started maneuvering towards sex (caressing or what-not) and she said no, it was socially permissable to ask why. The social expectation was *not* for me to persist if her answer was not satisfactory. If she said something like “I don’t know, I’m just not in the mood” in an elevated or frustrated voice, then to persist was considered rude.

        However, I have had women persist in continuing to rub, fondle, caress in the hopes of initiating a coupling even after saying no. It seems to me that after many years of having the cream of the crop to pick from (and women’s situation in youth that of being scrutinizing which offers to sift through to pick the best lover, and never having to initiate) that women who have aged out of that bracket are essentially “falling from grace”.

        The higher you are, the farther you fall. Women in regards to sex who age into a bracket where they can and will be told no, are like a white male CEO on top of the world being put into prison for fraud. They have fallen from much greater heights.

        I am sure many women take it as a very huge insult to have their sexual capital (so to speak) having evaporated or reduced.

        They might even connect it to some grand scheme like patriarchy or male privilege. But, in fact they are just getting old and can’t turn heads like they used to.

  20. The fact that you were willing to flesh out this experience and present it for others to be able to work through feelings or experiences that they may not have a name for is to be lauded. You are always willing to “sit in the fire” because of your commitment to women, particularly black women, being able to have and express complexity in their romantic desires and relationships. That is powerful and I am thankful for your honesty and vulnerability.
    As a person with more context, I do not understand why this was ever a question of consent rather than a question of power and the dynamics of maintaining an active sex life as a grown woman. You did not coerce him to do anything, you did not deceive him, and you had no power over him to take sex from him. In short, he was not in fear he was in control and he knew it.
    As a person who has been coerced, deceived, and overpowered regarding sex with black men, asking someone to accompany you to your room when you are in the passenger seat is significantly different than a black male I went out with who had to “get something from his house” in the middle of our date, who was my ride home, who insisted that I come inside (making me feel like I was being extra for not wanting to), then proceeded to try to get me to have sex with him on our first fucking date. I did call after persuading him to take me home (by lying and saying I had an early morning but couldn’t wait to get back together) to inform him that what he did was attempted rape and to never contact me ever again. That was rapey and predatory, the narrative presented in the original post in most definitely not.
    Please let us not confuse “asking for what we want” with deceiving and demanding and taking. Intimacy is complicated. It is complicated with power and patriarchy and shame, and if we cannot present our experiences truthfully for honest and respectful dialogue then what are we doing here.
    Thanks crunktastic for doing what very few, myself included, are willing to do and that is push these conversations forward.

    • “Please let us not confuse “asking for what we want” with deceiving and demanding and taking. Intimacy is complicated. It is complicated with power and patriarchy and shame, and if we cannot present our experiences truthfully for honest and respectful dialogue then what are we doing here.” <<<< CHURCH!!!!

      Thank you so much, CF, for your continued love, support, courage, and dialogue around these issues. Thank you for sharing your story. And thank you for being willing to sit in the fire with me today.

      • It sounds as if what you wanted was the opposite of intimacy. This is one of the many reasons men hire prostitutes. Sex when, where, and how you want it with whomever is by no means a right

  21. For goodness sake people, whats all this longgggg talk for? She was horny, she had had sex with him before(seeing as he’s her ex), she asked him for sex, he said no, she asked why, he said ………
    why is this an issue? lol. I believe for the idea of rape to even come into the picture(honestly, the mere thought that this word made it way here, has me in stitches) the man must have felt a certain sense of fear, helplessness and danger for his well being. trust me as a man if he felt any of these things she would have been giving us a different story, that he was able to say no to her, imho, speaks to the level of ease and trust they have in each other, i know some men who wouldn’t dare say no to a female even if they were bone tired for fear of their macho image being tarnished.
    i can also understand her being EXASPERATED,obviously she thought this were headed in a particular direction(her room) but he didn’t think the same, and to top it all off she was horny.
    Some people r just so darn prickly, it just makes everything & every1 around them tense and uncomfortable.
    Cruncktastic keep doing you sista, peace.

    • For goodness sake people, whats all this longgggg talk for? She was horny, she had had sex with him before(seeing as he’s her ex), she asked him for sex, he said no, she asked why, he said ………
      why is this an issue?

      It’s not an issue. Or at least shouldn’t be one. That’s why people are confused why Crunkashell painted it (and apparently is still painting it) like it was an issue.

      Having said that, though, I think there are valid complaints in her posts.

      In particular, I do think black women and highly educated/gainfully employed women often have more difficulty finding partners in our culture, and there is absolutely racism and sexism at play there. And I think men (myself included) ought to be introspective about that and work on ourselves as best we can.

      Also, it sounds like this guy in particular was sending out extremely mixed signals to the point of screwing with her, which is something that is not okay for anyone to do to another person, IMO, regardless of the genders involved.

      If Crunkashell had kept the topics to those two things, I doubt there would be much controversy. But especially in the first post she said a lot of things that seemed to suggest that she felt she was being wronged in individual cases by guys not having sex with her. And that understandably set off alarm bells from people who care about sexual consent.

      It’s also worth noting that the parallels to Nice Guy(tm) discourse are almost comical in their perfection, with Crunkashell saying a lot of things that are almost exact mirror images of what the quintessential Nice Guy(tm) would say. And I think that also set off a lot of alarm bells, as Nice Guy(tm) is one of those “things” that really seems to set a lot of feminists off.

  22. This is my first time commenting on a blog, but I simply had to when you broke it down right hea’,

    “But the flip side can be equally exploitative –dudes (and that is intentionally plural) who want to use me for intellectual masturbation and who benefit from my capacity to offer deep and consistent emotional support, which they happily and thoughtlessly exploit on their way to sexual and/or full romantic connections with other partners. And mind fucks are not what I’m interested in.”
    For years, I’ve been wondering what in the world happened at the end of senior year in college. For years! This is exactly the type of ‘ish that a lot of my Black female friends from all over the world (even international Black women didn’t get dated on that free-loving campus!) have gone through on our supposedly “liberal” college campus. “Intellectual mastrubation and who benefit from my capacity to offer deep and CONSISTENT EMOTIONAL support”, that is what I was doing for him and sometimes it was both ways; however, when I approached this young, gifted Black man for more….I was disappointed in his response. A friend of mine who know of him through her boyfriend being from the same town of Gary, Indiana told me, “well, he really hasn’t dated Black girls.” Believe me, I was hurt that we couldn’t connect even further and move beyond fucking of the mind. But it’s cool. I know to watch out for the offering partial fucks that are usually only mind fucks. I need both mind and heart stimulated. And since I’m on this earth now, that would include physical loving of my Black body (in a totally non-objective way, mind you).

    Thanks for revisiting your post, crunktastic. It’s much appreciated by this sista today.

  23. this is like my 2nd or 3rd read of your writes. i continue to be inspired and to follow thru in my honesty’s as well.

    simply i want to say, thank you and i as a genderfluid female bodied persons of black decent, loves nothing more than to talk relationships, love, sex, romance, and most importantly growth and communication (of course among many other topics). open honest forums i believe we all seek…we too should seek more respectful ways to share in these spaces. and yes, as a fellow blogger, it can be quite difficult to share such personal things. but i see/read/acknowledge here that you’re doing well in keeping to what YOU believe in.

    peace to you.

  24. I wanted to comment to tell you thank you. As a young black woman in my early twenties, I often find my relationship and sexual choices questioned by those around me. As a result, I find myself constantly having to validate my actions and opinions. This piece reminded me to remember to always value my own truth.

    • @Amani

      Honey! You are one of the reasons why we do this work. I am sooooo glad you left a message.

      Warmly,
      Renina

  25. When I first became a professional blogger –many years ago for a newspaper (remember those) who thought this whole internet thing might really catch on– I knew I had a voice that wasn’t one-size-fits-all and my personal mantra was Don’t Complain. Don’t Explain. There are thousands of them and only one of you. Say your peace unapologetically and let the pieces fall where they may. Someone on the internet will always be angry.

    Easier said than done, especially when the word “rapey” (objectionable even as a word since it cutesyfies something that can never, ever be cute) is tossed about.

    Explaining yourself, justifying something that needs no justification which sometimes requires exposing parts of your Self readers have no right to see, is a gracious bordering on foolish act of bravery and self-sacrifice, especially because we both know the lightbulbs that didn’t go off over the critics’ heads the first time are more than likely going to remain dark the second or third or fourth time you try to plug them in.

    I’m new to your blog, but I feel you as a fellow blogger whose personal life can become fodder for the sake of a higher good, and am indignant, frustrated and disappointed on your behalf.

    Keep doing what you’re doing (and if there’s some to be had, I hope you get it.)

  26. Pingback: “no.” – ok for men too? « sexNspirit

  27. “HE wanted to keep the friendship – the deep emotional connection, long conversations, and access to a person with whom he could talk politics, and commiserate—sans the sex. And while I value and have good platonic friendships with WOMEN, that’s not what I’m in the market for right now. Particularly since as I’ve written elsewhere, many of these “friendships” turn into intellectual and emotional affairs, that are predicated on me doing BOYFRIEND duties without getting BOYFRIEND benefits. I want and deserve more, and I am no longer willing to do this kind of prolonged emotional labor unless it has some intimate returns.”

    There. A few antonyms and this blog post is exactly the tripe that countless “nice guys” spout about their relationships with women who don’t want to have sex with them.

    Dude didn’t want sex. That’s not an expression of the patriarchy, that’s a lack of sexual interest. In itself your frustration is fine, because it getting rejected feels straight up lousy and hurts for a while, but when you start complaining about doing “girlfriend duties” without any “girlfriend benefits,” how are you even the slightest bit different from someone saying “I don’t get why she won’t f**k me, I did everything right”?

    • Again, find someone ELSE to have sex with. Also, if your not happy giving emotional support and not getting sex then stop giving it. Bring it back in. Re-set your boundaries. People always take more from you if your careless with boundaries.

      If you want sex without, then its probably better to go for someone who doesn’t have an emotional bond or whatever with you. Is probably why he’s said no. If he’s sending you texts later on saying ‘on another day’ then its up to you whether your going to go with it, your boundaries.

      Blah

  28. Ok, so I realize that a) I’m late to the party, as it were, and b) you’re probably sick of this by now, but I felt I should add a possibility that seems to have been overlooked, based on my personal experience: a medical issue for his decline.

    While I clearly can’t speak for the guy in this instance, I know that, as far as my physicians can determine, around age 30 my pituitary simply said “Screw it, I’m gonna kick back and do just enough to scrape by”. Nothing dramatic like a tumor or anything, just a sort of “winding-down” of gonadotropin production that left me with the testosterone levels of a man more than three times my age. Had it not been for my loving, supportive, and forward-thinking wife, I’d probably have ignored it, overcompensated, etc. rather than just getting a blood test, but even still it took months for me to get up the nerve to even go to the doctor about it (compounded by the fear that they’d give me the old “lose weight and exercise more” brush-off). I’m now mostly back to normal via pharmaceutical intervention, but it took several attempts at different treatments. Obviously, this is only one of many possible medical complications, ranging from brain tumors to just accidentally getting whacked in the balls earlier in the day.

    Even the most forward-thinking guy can be extremely embarrassed about this sort of thing, especially with someone they like and are trying to impress, and that goes even more for medical issues affecting, shall we say, ‘performance’ and ‘completion’. Even disclosing these medical issues (if they’re even diagnosed) can be mortifying. Add on the social expectation that any man who isn’t up for sex 110% of the time is somehow a failure, and most guys will do or say anything to avoid a situation which could bring a problem to light. Even with the most supportive partner in the world, thanks to social conditioning, it’s hard not to feel like a failure as a man in those circumstances.

    Anyhow, like I said, I’m not saying this *is* the case, only that it may possibly be the case. I also feel compelled to post it as a sort of general PSA for folks of all genders, as reminder that changes in libido can be medical as well as psychological and a blood test or two won’t hurt.

  29. Crunktastic, I have great respect for you … a respect that I first felt when I read original post about you asking your ex for sex and getting turned down. You are obviously a woman of intellect, integrity and boldness and humanity to make yourself so very vulnerable on a open forum like internet. It takes a lot of courage and character to open up to others about such intimate details of your life. thank your for this openness and for the honest discussion it has made possible.
    I come from a South Asian Muslim background. It is not only in American culture, but in most parts of the world that sex is about male power. Most South Asian women, both muslim and nonmuslim, have experienced sex as a power play where a woman is put in a one-down position in matters of sex. Most muslim women I know, and not just those who come from a South Asian background but also those who come from African American, Arab, Turkish and Iranian, have experienced that sex with men is often about disempowering women. It is a sad manifestation of the misogyny that patriarchal cultures breed – and unfortunately most of this world is still patriachal.

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