For a large portion of the population, sex is no big deal. When done with consent and safety in mind, sex can be great for relieving stress and connecting with your partner. Yet in the country that we are constantly met with sexualized images, we have ridiculously tight lips when it comes to talking about the act.
In the middle of the Bible Belt, it’s highly taboo to take your pants off. It’s a mix of religious ideology, culture and often miseducation that leads to repression. From that, we enter the realm of shame. We don’t want to talk about sex and our bodies. In the South, and in Louisiana specifically, there is virtually no sex education, and what they do have is bare-bones. There are still schools teaching abstinence only programs in spite of statistics proving their ineffectiveness. Louisiana has paid for this silence, now ranking second in the U.S. for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
If something is repressed, it will find a way to surface. There has always been a special type of allure in doing things you believe you aren’t supposed to do. That is where the fetishization of the black body begins.
In 2015, the most searched porn category in the South was ebony. Some people will have the gall to say that black people should be proud to be seen as attractive, but it’s not the humanity of a black person that is sexy, it is explicitly their blackness. There is a definite correlation between the fact that the south was riddled with anti-miscegenation laws and that the one-drop rule was law.
The one-drop rule is a social and legal principle of racial classification that deemed any person with even one ancestor of sub-Saharan-African ancestry or, “one drop of black blood” is considered black. Anti-miscegenation laws made sex and marriage between members of different races illegal. These were all in the pursuit of maintaining whiteness and the delusional “purity” assigned to it.
There is an air of exoticism and an undertone of inhumanity in how white people perceive melanated bodies: we’ve all heard it. Someone has “jungle fever” or “yellow fever,” black men are more well endowed, black and Latinx women have more curves, Asian women are submissive and the men are “small,” the list goes on. For black people specifically, we are subhuman and animalistic (aka the “jungle” in jungle fever) and that animalistic perception is what makes our bodies sexy. Many slave owners had black mistresses on the side for this exact reason.
It doesn’t just show up in the form of sex; it’s in our everyday interactions. Very Freudian of me, I know, but it’s true.
“You’re so attractive/smart for a black person!”
We can’t be great because of our blackness, we have to be great in spite of our blackness. We can’t have our personalities just exist as they are; they either have to support and enforce the stereotypes of blackness or work against them. I’ve personally experienced people translating aspects of myself into “acting white” because I wasn’t the embodiment of the stereotype people have of black men. I have been told that I’m not “really black” in an attempt to make me more palatable for them, and I refuse to allow it.
There’s nothing wrong with interracial relationships at all, but there is something drastically wrong with not seeing someone as anything more than a racially sexualized body. For my non-POC readers, I encourage you to explore the mindset you have of people of color when it comes to sex, and to be aware of whatever those perceptions you have are and why. If you find yourself fetishizing people, just remember: The sexiest thing in the world is to be seen as a whole person.