It was a summer night in Brixton, 2017; the night I was to perform a live reading of one of my erotic romance novels for the first time. I was BRICKING IT! I downed a glass of rosé to steady my nerves and headed upstairs with my girls in tow. We entered a large black room with moth-eaten velvet curtains, tarnished gilded frames and crystal chandeliers that hung overhead, but the most defining feature of the room was the wall to wall black bodies taking up every seat, lining every wall and spilling out into the hallway. The event was centered around the erotic and to see an abundance of unapologetic, grown and sexy black people in attendance was amazing -t’was a rare sight!
And then I saw her; Madam Storm (my now co-founder of our sexual wellness collective MSSS. Her head was half shaved, with dreadlocks that swung about her leather corseted waist, long legs clad in thigh high stiletto boots, her face seductively obscured by a lace eye mask, and in her hand…a whip. I’d never seen a black dominatrix in the flesh before -she was this kinky fairy-tale creature made real and I fell in love in an instant. Along with Madam Storm were some adult performers from overseas who I’d admired for years -Glamazon Tyomi and Jet Setting Jasmine and King Noire of Royal Fetish Films. *Fangirling intensified* -I was SHOOKETH!
Most sex positive spaces in the UK look like diversity box ticking
. . . and it’s not because of lack of educators, content creators or performers. I’d never seen this many black performers/hosts/panellists in a sex positive space. I’m used to maybe seeing a ‘token’ black person…maybe a ‘token’ Asian person if they’re really pushing the diversity boat out…but that’s about it. This example of the lack of representation is the reason why there are spaces created specifically for black womxn, because a lot of the existing ones aren’t as intersectional as they should be, therefore our sexuality isn’t as normalised as it could be. This has a trickledown effect. As I discussed in my previous post, The Stigma Around Black Sexuality and How to Break It, black communities are still quite behind in unlearning sexual shame and learning to embrace their sexuality. As with every other industry, it is important that the voices of non-white people are amplified, because not being included in the mainstream forces people to go underground, which slows the necessary conversations non-white communities need to have, because people aren’t seeing themselves celebrated openly.
Sexuality is universal. It is something that everyone has in common, so why is sex positivity so whitewashed?
As a sexual wellness content creator, I work with adult brands a lot. Often, when I am browsing their sites, all I see are whiteness. White hands holding sex toys, white figures modelling lingerie/fetish wear, white faces in the throes of ecstasy, white couples being intimate, or the emulation of ‘lifelike’ sex toys where once again, white bodies are displayed…unless maybe it’s a ‘GIANT BLACK COCK’ that panders to the Mandingo fantasy. Imagine if you are not white and this is generally what you see; would you feel like sex positivity includes you?
On the other hand, some brands that are racially inclusive often turn out to be colourist, opting to use racially ambiguous or light-skinned black women whose skin tone matches the fake tans of the white women they are surrounded by. Let me make this clear, this is not what real diversity looks like. We are not an aesthetic; we are human beings who come in a variety of shades. Using only lighter skinned black and biracial women with Eurocentric features is the absolute bare minimum. Do better! Those of you who are doing better -thank you! It matters.
When black womxn enter sex positive spaces, we don’t feel safe.
On the subject of things that matter, the Black Lives Matter protests have made a lot of us reconsider the brands we support, including adult brands. Many didn’t care enough to do the work beyond a performative black square, which translates to us that *MJ voice* they don’t really care about us. Knowing this means that when black womxn enter sex positive spaces, we don’t feel safe in these so called ‘safe spaces’. We expect to encounter some form of racism, we expect to be the only one or one of few in the room, we expect to be hypersexualised, fetishized and silenced by the fear of speaking up for ourselves in case someone calls us ‘aggressive’ (cc: the ‘angry black womxn’ trope).
This is exactly why Madam Storm and I created MSSS – we understand the importance of the sex positivity movement and having a sex positive space where black womxn do not feel ‘other’, where they won’t have to worry about experiencing the feelings that come with ‘otherness’, where their voices are considered, where they don’t have feel weird about their desires or learning about their bodies because they can look around and see other like-minded women who look like them. MSSS is a safe space where sex positive black womxn can actually feel safe.
“On the other hand, you have the dominant black womxn who must play up the ‘angry black womxn’ trope.”
Another thing that leads to these feelings of otherness are the depictions of black womxn in mainstream porn -a medium where most people get their sex education from. Black womxn are often depicted in one of two ways; there is the submissive black womxn who is fetishized, sometimes in the most disrespectful and culturally insensitive ways (the racially charged language and references are rampant). On the other hand, you have the dominant black womxn who must play up the ‘angry black womxn’ trope by being hyper-aggressive. There isn’t really much in between to be sex positive about. It’s generally quite off-putting.
With the emergence of feminist porn, there was hope
. . . but *le heavy sigh* HERE WE ARE! Female-friendly sex is depicted, which makes it more watchable, but the lack of inclusivity is still present. In many of the films that include black bodies, they are accessories to interracial scenes and often, those performers are black mxn being used once again to fulfil the Mandingo fantasy. I have yet to see any black couples or black womxn being centered (if you know any, please send them my way).
For sex positivity to progress, the industry and communities have to become as universal as sex itself. So ketchup, mustards!
Shakira ‘Scotty Unfamous’ Scott is an inappropriately fancy, London-based sexual wellness content creator, multi award-winning erotic romance author, co-founder of the sexual happiness experts MSSS and #DumpHim queen! She started her blog to help women of colour explore and remove the stigma around their sexuality, educate them in the art of sensuality and promote and inspire self-love and body confidence. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.