The book Wild Women Don’t Wear No Blues: Black Women Writers on Love, Men and Sex is an empowering collection of essays written by black women writers and edited by Marita Golden. The collected is dedicated to the memory of the true wild woman Audre Lorde, who herself had contributed an essay in the collection, Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power. Audre Lorde, in her life and in her legend has been a symbol of a powerful force, inspiring women (and men) to stand as their true selves – unafraid and unrestrained – for a true feminist revolution is as within as it is without.
Lorde calls this power, located in the “female and spiritual plane”, the erotic, which when tapped into, reveals one’s true purpose. The erotic, according to her, “is an internal sense of satisfaction”, which when it has been experienced, “we can require no less of ourselves”. This internal compass guides a woman in deciding for herself her pursuits – be it writing, painting, digging up the earth, making love, dancing to Nina Simone, raising children, or choosing a career – with a force that resonates at the level of the psyche, the emotional, the physical, and the spiritual.
But it is not only Lorde’s stimulating essay about the erotic which catches your attention, there are other essays written by women of colour – women who were unbecoming for their times but who lived and thrived, women who saw in their own lives valuable lessons, collected them, and hung them on the common clothesline to be shared with girls and women across milieu, and women who loved themselves and the men & women they encountered and together strew their feminine energy without shame, worry or fear, fighting for us, who would come after them, with their free opinions and free bodies.
There is the essay written by Tina McElroy Ansa, A New Shower Massage, Phone Sex, and Separation, which is one of my personal favourites, where she writes with unrelenting confidence how she had decided that she was going to take charge of her “first time”,
“For my first time, I was determined not to pick a backseat fumbler, but a more experienced, sensitive man. I was not about to be rushed. I owned the bed and paid the rent each month on the house in which it stood. I had gone to my gynecologist a while before for birth control. And I had all night.
That first time was nearly perfect, mostly, I figured, because it was what I wanted in the way I wanted it. And consciously and subconsciously, that first time set the pattern of my seminal sexual life.”
Then there is an essay called Sleeping with the Enemy, written by Audrey Edwards, which brings into light the courageous act of interracial love amidst the persecution of history, racism, and sexism. Edwards shares about the love she had held for white men, and how men, across races, regions, ages, and circumstances, are all the same. She writes,
“But the truth, I’ve found, is that race and sex are never quite so black and white. The enemy is often within, and the war between black men and white men is usually over what war tends to always be about: power and control, ego and honor, profits and privilege—not about us women, necessarily, but about men being men.”
Patrice Gaines, in her essay Tough Boyz and Trouble: Those Girls Waiting Outside D.C. Jail Remind Me of Myself, speaks about the constructed image of the “bad boys” who attract women toward them, much like a natural aphrodisiac. These men, exuding freedom, power and in control of their lives and livelihood, often found their way to incarceration. As a young girl Gaines herself had been in love with that image,
“When you’re a black child who believes she has no control over her life, you create your own definition of freedom. These men exuded freedom. They controlled their lives, working when they wanted to and at what they chose to work at.”
Unfortunately, as with any intimidating power, the kyriarchal system perpetuating reason, rationality, and objectivity, the non-rational erotic has been suppressed and misnamed, and along with women vilified into the negative. Not only is this erotic power turned against women in making her inferior, it is often directed “in the service of men”. Pornography is a direct result of this negation of the erotic energy, where the act of receiving and giving sensation is devoid of any true feeling, except for superficial and profit-producing pleasure. It seems only natural for the status quo to be this, for as Lorde writes, “we have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings.”
My own understanding of love, men, and sex has been superficial, dubious, and often inappropriate, owing to the upbringing that I had had. Not only did I visibly show disinterest in these taboo topics, I was unfortunately also surrounded by women and men, who themselves did not delve into the full extent that love and sex demanded and mattered. Culturally exposed to quaint notions about love, relationship, and sex, I did not giggle so much as much as I internally desired to understand these repeating words and acts. Love is still a fleeting arrangement and re-arrangement of words, a collage of images cut out from poor sources, and with menial information.
When I grew up and had more access to resources, my understanding was shaped by the imagination of the white male, replicated in abundance through mainstream culture and media. From this source, my learning was particularly hampered, in that I was now aiming to become the ideal woman, in skin, in hair, in apparels, in tricks and cunning employed in pursuit of love and men, and in disposition.
This being the reason, I believe that women of colour, writing about love, men and sex becomes the epitome of erotic power, breaking apart ideals, monopoly, and desensitization. As Marita Golden writes in the introduction,
“And what were you talking about when you talked about men? Talking about men made it suddenly possible and safe to talk about love and sex. We didn’t know it then, but when we talk about men we are talking about power and powerlessness, about choices, fears, limits and boundaries. We are even talking about ourselves when we think we’re just talking about THEM. For we choose, when we choose a man, a psychic mirror we are sometimes afraid to look into.”
I know this much – whenever a woman, anywhere in time, anywhere in place, anywhere in age, when she is aware of her sexuality and has a right to choose her sex life, she becomes a radiant beacon for the ones who follow her. And, following such women or walking alongside them, as has been the case in history and in revolution is the way to claim back what is ours, and re-write it in a way that we want to read it. Because when we do that, we, as Lorde writes it well, “…touch our most profoundly creative source, but we do that which is female and self-affirming in the face of a racist, patriarchal, and antierotic society.”