“The Booty Don’t Lie”: Kelly, K. Michelle, & Janelle Monae’ Sing Black Girl Freedom

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?

For more on Black Feminist Pleasure Politics, check out this latest work from Joan Morgan, yours truly, and the Pleasure Ninjas.

crunktastic

14 thoughts on ““The Booty Don’t Lie”: Kelly, K. Michelle, & Janelle Monae’ Sing Black Girl Freedom

  1. “The Booty Don’t Lie” is very right. I get so weary when others try to define me and try to take my sensuality/sexual pulse. It is as if their opinion is the definitive answer on how I should act. Baby, preach that!

  2. I heard the term “Fuckable Feminist” as coined by Emcee Shirlette Ammons on Mark Anthony Neal’s “Left of Black.” I fell in LOVE with the term and her explanation of it! The song is called “Sexy Cerebellum” and addresses this idea that we feminist sometimes want to be fucked silly because you just need to twerk! “Squeezably lovable/fuckable feminist.” Brilliant concept. http://shirletteammonsmusic.bandcamp.com/track/sexy-cerebellum-feat-ellington-felton

  3. I love that the lyric “is it peculiar that I twerk in the mirror” is combined with Janelle Monaé’s visual androgyny (I think she references this in the line about being accepted by someone else’s god “in my black and white”, but maybe not). She presents a pleasure politics that isn’t visually gender coded, yet no less pleasurable and powerful, just as an inclusive Black feminist pleasure politics should be.
    Also, her rap at the end? As a YouTube commenter put it, it is “chilling”.

  4. Everything about that Janelle Monae rap gives me life. I love the Kelly song as well, but it seems like her sex songs are the only ones that get any play. And thank you for introducing me to I just wanna. I love how all of these songs demonstrate that we can take pleasure in our bodies and be feminist and empowered by that. Would it be wrong of me to say that the p***y is political (I’m not sure if this is the sort of environment where I can say that. I’m new here, so forgive me if I overstep)?

    We absolutely need a pleasure politics in Black feminism. I get tired of listening to my young feminist peers as they attribute gender issues in Black communities to video girls and the like. There is nothing wrong with a woman’s sexual body – but there is everything wrong with stripping women of their agency when they own their sexual bodies and needs. The fact that I have and enjoy sex (or enjoy wearing a short skirt or lowcut shirt) is not the reason for gender ideologies that were already in place long before I was even born.

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  6. Dear Crunk Feminist Sisters:

    I appreciate this article! My feminist values have recently been challenged by Robin Thicke’s video and song, “Blurred Lines”. Honestly, at first I found it catchy & sexy, but then realized I was jamming to lyrics asking a woman to “let [him] be the one that [she] brings that ass up to”. In all honestly, watching the video, I was turned on by RT and my attention was diverted away from the nude women being called “bitch” and referred to as animals. Because a man is saying all these things to a women, is the agency lost in these images? That said, I found RT the object of desire. In other words, this asian american feminist finds the man fuckable! Thus, how could pleasure politics not only address honest, raw expressions of sexuality & invitations to pleasure, but also address the fine line between desire & degradation as it intersects with the way my views about sex/sexuality was shaped by growing up in a filipino family where sex was never discussed. Essentially, I’m having an identity crisis here – while I reject the video’s objectification of women, I also feel liberated by all the crooning…truth!

    Peace.

  7. Thank you for this article. It’s really a great moment for Black women. The fact that the conversation about Black feminism is taking steady strides towards include/developing a pleasure politics, is phenomenal. I am a huge fan of the new Janelle Monae’s song and video. Her rap at the end reminded me of Lauryn Hill; I hope she continues to take her musical cues from Hill & Badu. Music needs it. However, I just don’t see Kelly’s music as pushing the envelope and while I didn’t exactly clutch my pearl during K. Michelle’s song, I was less then enthused. These reactions just reminded me that “everything ain’t for everybody” and a wide range of sexually expression is just what Black feminism needs. Lastly, when hearing the term “Ratchet Feminism” I think of throwbacks like Lil’ Kim’s “Big Momma Thang” or Khia’s “My Neck My Back (Lick It)”. When songs like those are embraced and accepted as feminist contributions… then there has been real progress.

  8. “The Booty don’t lie”
    “there is no justice without pleasure.” This line says a lot, all of which encompasses black women’s sexual politics. To be able to liberate ones sexuality from the overarching social constraints of another and return it to its rightful original owner is revolutionary in the most basic sense. This device speaks to the newer generation of black feminists as it examines black women’s pleasure and reshapes it to fit a more liberal and natural function. History has tried to eliminate black women’s pleasure while preserving its sexuality to satiate other people’s desires. When the moment comes for black women to state their own politics of pleasure they are meet with extreme destructive verbiage such as “slut” and “bitch” and or physical punishment (the little girls twerking). Kelly, K. Michelle and Janelle Monae (who I LOVE!) are revolutionizing the ways in which we think of black women in the pleasure prism. I personally believe that this is a battle for social justice. I believe if black women can utilize ways in which their images, bodies and narratives are told in their OWN respective light then the power dynamic that sources rejection, physical abuse and sexualized scolding begin to diminish. I think it’s important for black women to tell their side of the story by their selves. Black women have been for the larger part, an adjunct to men’s masculine imaginations and have suffered under a coalition of oppression, sexism, classism and racism. A way to liberate black women is by accepting a politic of pleasure that allows for sexual mobility without feminist “black lash” (out of respect that even derogatory terms carry more weight when directed at black bodies). This includes “twerking in mirrors”, “fucking without falling in love” and “kisses down low”. Black women like every other gender on the planet, should naturally have this pleasure space to operate in but a lot of times denied entry.

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  12. Bodily autonomy and sexual liberation for women are two concepts that I have given in depth thought to the last few months and your article just solidifies my conclusions, that despite the current and past representation of female bodies and sexuality that women still have the right and I believe the responsibility to perform sex in a way that is comfortable to her. I think that Tiarra’s hook on Wale’s Bad single is also a fitting in her lyrical declaration where she confesses that she performs sex well but has never made love.

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