One of the biggest conundrums faced by this generation of Black feminists is the challenge of articulating a pro-sex, pro-pleasure politic in the face of recalcitrant and demeaning stereotypes that objectify, dehumanize, and devalue Black women’s bodies and lives. To be “good” feminists, we always feel that we have to make sure and say it, so folks know that we get it, that we understand the magnitude of these histories of negative representation. To be fair, I understand that part of the reason for insisting on naming the rampant misogynoir (h/t to Moya Bailey) in our culture is that keeping it front and center reminds us that we need to tear this shit down, and create anew.
But can I be real with y’all? Sometimes being the one to wave the red flag is tiring as hell. I’m down for the struggle. I got serious Black Girl Freedom Dreams, like most of the sisters I know.
But sometimes you just need to twerk!
So now that I’ve done the requisite acknowledgements, I’m ready to get a little ratchet and hip you to three new songs that have me feeling optimistic about what Black girl pleasure can look like.
First, there’s the homie K. Michelle of Love and Hip Hop ATL fame:
Check this lyric: “Cuz I just wanna fuck and not fall in love/I’m over all the pain that love can bring/tonite I want sex that doesn’t mean a thing/ that don’t make me no slut/A woman has her needs”
Now despite what you may think of the actual song, two things are true: 1st, the chick has an amazing set of pipes. She can seriously blow. 2nd, these lyrics are powerful, and kind of ironic in a song that sounds like it’s going to be a love ballad.
Oh yeah, and all I’ll say about her
love interest is I guess she figured if she was gonna put out a video objectifying a dude she might as well flip the script entirely.
Anyway, this song is a statement of Black female sex positivity, and as I’ve called it elsewhere “Ratchet Feminism” that we shouldn’t overlook.
(So stop clutching your pearls.)
Second, there’s post-Destiny’s child Kelly Rowland. She’s found her niche, making sexy, grown Black girl music like “Motivation,” “Ice,” and this newest joint “Kisses Down Low.”
Some of my homegirls are mad that she has limited herself to putting out sexy songs. And that’s a legitimate critique. But I’m more interested in the unapologetic nature of the music she’s putting out, and her willingness to ask for what she needs.
Check this lyric: “I like my kisses down low/makes me arch back/when you give it to me slow/baby, just like that”
Then an autotuned masculine voice (maybe Bey from I Been On — J/K!) repeats the lyrics as if to make sure he has the instructions just right.
All Black feminists need to know how to give instructions! And you need a partner who can follow directions!
As someone who definitely likes her kisses down low, I ain’t #hatin.
Last, but Best, is the new Janelle Monae’ joint! Now y’all this is pure fiyah! It exemplifies what Renina Jarmon is talking about when she says #blackgirlsarefromthefuture.
“Is it peculiar that I twerk in the mirror?” is an existential question of the highest order in my estimation. And it’s a question you should ask while you twerk.
“Testify: The Booty don’t lie.” This line bespeaks another truth that Black girls need to tell: the radical truth that Black girl’s asses are not merely archives of pain, but active sites of pleasure. Because of the ways Black girl booty has been treated at least since the days of Sarah Baartman, we’ve engaged in a collective, respectable kind of denial about these other truths that Black girl ass can tell. But here’s the point: they tell the truths that are true for us, to us, when we twerk in the front of the mirror, by ourselves or with other Black girls.
What I love is that while we can acknowledge that the mirrors (and hands and policies) of others have been quite brutal to us, we can also tell a different story about what the mirrors in our own lives say to us. But my mirrors are not only stationary pieces of decor. I also have human mirrors, in the form of other Brown girls who reflect my truths back to me, often when my own view has been distorted.
Sometimes that distorted view keeps me from reveling in Black girl joy. But I’m so glad that Janelle Monae’ won’t be denied!
And for those of you who are mad that I would put Kelly and K. Michelle in the same stratosphere as a talent like Janelle Monae’, I say simply to quote my homegirl Kaila Story, “there is no singularity of Black girl truths.”
And quoting my damn self: “there is no justice without pleasure.”
So enjoy, Crunk Family!
And feel free to weigh in:
Do you think we need a pleasure politics in Black feminism?
Are these songs examples of what feminist Black female pleasure might look like?