although truth be told
not everyone is quick to build their walls
but i am of a special sort
who paves with one hand
i want to make you cum (or come) (or nut) (or bust)
i want to put your body under, watch your hips stutter
i want your little death to be by my hands (and lips) (and hips)
i want explosions, i want the warm rush or gush or seep
your knocked knees knocking me, your body working against me
you push me away but pull me closer. and i come, willingly.
i want you to beg me to stop and i want you to hope that i don’t
but don’t you dare say my name. coherency is an insult.
i want to see your bones through your flesh; i have unraveled you well.
i want to feel your moans through my body; the ugliest and the sweetest sounds
i want to feel embarrassed at how long i waited to see you shine in my bed
bless my sheets with your sweat, destroy them like you did me
when you let me drink in your glory
and let me, please let me
watch you like this
a thousand times more
so i can find better ways
to make you stay.
with you i am slow, easing my body in until waist level
not afraid to go deeper, but unsure.
i am used to diving in, feeling my chest expand to meet the rapid fire
yes or maybes, walk me to my door, call me later, be there in ten
and proving my devotion with each shed article of clothing
do i give myself to you quickly and awkwardly
or decisively, in pieces? my hips, then my legs, then my smile
how do i prove how much i want you without using words?
to all the girls who have watched their mothers cry
whose arms will never be strong enough to press through her walls
who learned early what it was like to be female
who carry the weight of a thousand dreams on their back
to all the girls who were responsible for our mother’s naivet(ies)
who rocked silently in their bellies as they snatched a living
from the hands of a foreign country
to all the girls who will drop out of college
and marry young
and will never hold plaques or medals or certificates
who will balance their children on still new hips
who continue the sacred tradition of fucking up endlessly (and permanently)
to all the girls who express themselves
in short bursts of desperation and honesty
i know you.
I’ve never been one to start in on semantics. The aftermath of a tragedy is not a particularly wise place to start, I know. What has transpired in Colorado has and will continue to exhaust us into the coming weeks and months, and filing in with the political agendas, Batman jokes and other imperceptive conversations is not my intention, but will probably be the end result. I’ve resigned myself to that. This is a conversation we all need to have.
I’ve spent too much of my time today reading about James Holmes. Because the world is still shaping their minds to his name and face, facts and details about him are being released slowly and with little fanfare—which is just as well, because I’ve spent more time reading conversations about him. I have been a spectator today to the underbelly of what I internally call “tragedy politics” —or the way we as a society choose to discuss the occurrence and/or the aftermath of a tragedy.
The good news is that we are all sympathetic creatures who are aware that something terrible has transpired. The bad news is that we as a society are not sure what to call it.
We have the general words and phrases: “mass shooting,” “tragedy,” “conflict” and “danger.” In between my bouts of spectating, I’ve heard some variation of the former and initially felt satisfied—but all of these words are lacking the weight of the “before” and the “after.” These words do not encompass strategy or planning or intent.
The word you are looking for, but will hesitate to use, is “terrorism.” That’s okay, I understand.
Terrorism is a strong word and our politics—the social and the regular—flinch in the face of improper labeling. We defer from labeling a spade anything but a spade. We are afraid to offend or to trivialize and we know—we have learned—that a gun shot is not akin to a nuclear war. Terrorism is big, overwhelming and definite. Terrorism requires intense hatred, the intention to harm and instill fear, and meticulous blueprints. Terrorism does not look like the wild, abruptness of Holmes’ actions—mental illness does.
We know what terrorism looks like and it does not look like James Holmes.
It takes time to build a social definition. It takes slow, fastidious crafting by several hands and voices to build a concrete idea of certain concepts. I am not surprised that we all are hunting for a word to accurately describe Holmes while “terrorism” sits openly and patiently, having the distinct weight to sum up his actions for us and others. As a nation, America has had the opportunity time and time again to build upon what it knows and what it feels—we have ideas about what terrorists look like. We have acted upon these ideas, built institutions to enforce them, created media tropes to perpetuate them and keep the ball rolling. We hand down our social definitions generationally, so our children learn exactly what and who to fear.
Furthermore, our definitions serve us and only us. History is only a reminder of how different we see ourselves. Our concrete definition conveniently leaves out the ways in which we too have terrorized or that we are still terrorizing or that we have only benefited and continue to benefit because we have terrorized. Our avoidance in labeling James Holmes, our insistence to get to the bottom of things, to trace his past life to conjure up an understand picture of his current one—these actions, these knee-jerk reactions do not exist in a vaccum. We question James Holmes the Person because James Holmes the Terrorist looks a lot like what we used to do—what we still do. We wonder where things went wrong for James Holmes because his violence looks a lot like our violence historically, but there was no positive outcome to excuse it.
I’ve heard a lot about race today and how we should all abstain from painting lines in the sand. How can I paint something that was already there? I can only enhance the clear line of separation between domestic and foreign terrorism, and assure that you will sympathize James Holmes. You will do it because your media does it and your media will do it because it has always, always been adept for creating excuses for the ones it loves.
You will cite the benefit of the doubt; you will list fairness as your only crime. “What happened to James Holmes?” you ask, and I will answer again and again, “America.”
Is there anyone other reason for excusing terrorism created by a white man than the fact that we have done so again and again? For a country that was founded on the terrorism that was marketed as liberty, by colonialism that outlined its fresh new colonies in blood, it makes sense that we are all uncomfortable with the prospect of pointing the blame at ourselves. Your decisions do not exist in a vacuum, and your unease has a reason for being so natural. If we labeled terrorism truly and honestly every time we saw it, James Holmes would be another fixture in the long line of American terrorism. Not liberty, but terrorism. Not independence, but terrorism. Our Founding Fathers would lose their nobility; Mount Rushmore would be an shining beacon of terrorism. Our economy would be an aching reminder of those we died to build and maintain it. The Declaration of Independence would be signed in blood. We would pledge our allegiance to the terrorism in the hearts of our forefathers. Our anthems would be delicate, sweeping odes to terrorism.
But: James Holmes is a terrorist. James Holmes is a terrorist because his violence was not senseless. James Holmes is a terrorist because he had the intent to terrorize. James Holmes is a terrorist because the terror he left in his wake was premeditated, was widespread and will be long lasting. James Holmes is a terrorist no matter how much it hurts.
We need to start here. I am not asking you to swallow two hundred some odd years of history in one solid gulp, but I am asking you to start with the smaller battles. I am not interested in media campaigns or introspective insights into the minds of Holmes; I am not interested in humanizing. If there is another way to label the anguish, fear, and longevity Holmes’ actions have caused, I can guarantee your right now that it will not be enough. Not nearly enough.
we only hold our noses to the sky to retaliate against lies that will not help each other. like my mother who tells me to chew on the bones for health and luck, who senses my interest in easier living and twists it to her will. you lie in bed and tell me that maybe i will find some joy in this sorrow and i believe you with that same broken care.
if a lie kills as it nurtures, is it still harmful? when your pain and joy meet at the middle, when you learn that your madness curls in softly to protect your heart & mind, you forget to wish to your ceiling for the day that you’d lose it. your anger becomes part shield, part-medal like you had something to live for and behind.
i think, i cannot let this rage go to waste & work until the soft pads of my fingertips erode into bones.
Adults shamed in childhood have the following traits:
“False guilt” is the belief that you must perform to be loved. To perform well. One of the biggest mistakes I continue to make is that of oversimplifying; of believing that there is one concrete answer to all my popped stitches. I do it because I want to be protected; moreover because I am the only one capable of protecting. No one ever talks about how one learns to lie as a form of survival.
Does it make me less fucked-up if I can tie all my flaws back to a simple moment? Chemicals more free-form in a brain; every Tuesday I slip under the sheets with the lights off. A boy much, much older than me learns my anatomy during nap time; I stop having dreams. If we all realized that being this crazy takes years of dedication, could we accept that we had a hand in all the hard work?
1. They are afraid to share their true thoughts and feelings with others.
God, please let my mother’s sneering eyes be the reason I bite my tongue. Let the shadow of a hand be the reason I draw I curl in to protect myself from blows that never, ever come. Let my father’s indifference and reeling anger be the reason I dance around people like they’ll stop loving me any minute. Let my perfectionism be a direct line to being one less headache in a parent’s life.
4. They struggle with feelings of worthlessness and believe they are inferior to others. They believe that is something they can never change as worthlessness is at the core of who they are.
Please don’t let this be anything I’ve willed myself to. When I tell my story of preservation, I want every action my body makes to be one of resistance. Stories are not as noble if you were the villain before the victim.
I’ve already written something vaguely connected to the Middle Finger Fiasco that burned down the Superbowl, shot kittens into the sun, and turned all of America’s future tax payers into mindless delinquents.
That post really has nothing on the legions of posts I have written or have seen written about Madonna’s post-MFF comments on Ryan Seacret’s show, partly because I like to maintain an air of professionalism somewhere and because Madonna aptly decided to drop a few words on the entire affair after I’d written that post. Trust me, things would have been radically different had I known beforehand that Madonna had enough gall (or little memory, I’m not sure which) to condemn M.I.A. on something she’d who knows how many times before. My complete and now justified aversion to Madonna aside, I would’ve been the first to call that show of hypocrisy out.
It took me a while, but I realized that while hypocrisy may compose the first layer of bullshit concocted by the self-righteousness Madonna flaunted, there are so many other nuances ready to follow, considering Madonna’s thirty three year career. I mean, this is the woman who came out with bustiers blazing and powerful songs/images, most of them allowing sex positivity and encouragement for women. To hear the media tell it, Madonna was the first to do anything: fuck up gender roles, fight ageism, introduce sex far and wide as just shit people do. She was all about subversion and being powerful. She was all about being the spunky, sexy young woman, until she got old (and thus turned into the spunky, sexy old woman—keeping up that rebellion, I see.)
You’d think that a woman who spent all her time virtually flicking off the world around her would understand when another woman, also known for virtually flipping some birds as well, actually flipped a bird.
You’d think that, if you didn’t understand how the music industry works.
I say the music industry and not Madonna, because Madonna’s reaction is not an isolated incident. In fact, I’d go so far to say that the music industry is responsible for Madonna’s reaction, simply for the ways they have both pushed her to continue and lauded her for continuing. There are so many different displays of sexism and racism that come with the way Madonna has slipped into her acclaimed status, because there are so many different ways that music industry has (implicitly) threatened irrelevancy and failure had Madonna not risen to the challenge of remaining relevant.
About a week and a half ago, I found this graphic floating about on Tumblr. Because I have been on Tumblr for a while—and because jokes about slavery have become a little more pathetic and a little less shocking—I found myself reacting to this with a befuddled annoyance instead of the righteous rage that I probably should’ve had and couldn’t muster up. In the past, rage such as that would prompt me to write post after post about how the graphic was wrong and insensitive and totally inappropriate in order to get my post across; instead, I saved the graphic to my bookmarks and moved the hell on.
Make no mistake, however: the above graphic is truly wrong, and it is insensitive, and it sure as hell is inappropriate, for reasons that have to do more about slavery than making a joke at a black woman’s expense. But when you truly think about the joke that was meant to be made here; that, essentially, Rihanna (who is Barbadian and probably not well acquainted with American black slavery or its aftereffects) cannot possibly enjoy S&M culture because the same tools used to elict pleasure in her practices were also the same tools that were used to enslave her ancestors—you begin to wonder why this was the last resort in society’s attempt to truly accept what Rihanna did with “S&M”: properly display her sexuality, despite the stereotypes surrounding women of color and sexuality.
A recap of sorts: Barbadian pop singer Rihanna released “S&M,” the first single of her 2011 effort, LOUD, with a video that prominently featured, like the lyrics of her songs, subliminal and outright references to the practices of the S&M community, including bondage, mouth gags, a dominatrix outfit complete with a whip, and plenty of latex. Of course, it goes without saying that the video and song received a strange mixture of backlash and admiration, but it was only the backlash I was and still am truly interested in, because that too was and still as strange mix. On the one hand, society’s discomfort with alternative sexual practices and attractions (including non-missionary, non-heterosexual, or non-monogamous sex) accounted for one half of the backlash, but another trend that paid special attention to Rihanna and the previous works of white female artists brought the criticism to a full close in all the ways I expected.
New York Magazine’s Willa Paskin described the video as a “goofy version” of Lady Gaga and Madonna’s attempts at working with S&M culture, which brings me to one of my strangest (but needed) questions yet: can certain spaces of sexuality belong to white people and, in effect, white musicians?
And I believe that’s a little different than just questioning whether or not the BDSM community as a whole is majority white or white dominated, because that would still imply that POC/WOC could still operate within the community, just with not much recognition. I want to question why Paskin felt that referring to Madonna and Gaga, who have both experimented with S&M themes in their work in what Paskin obviously recognizes as “legitimate”, was acceptable in discussing Rihanna’s multicolored, expressively loud video that made the same references, had the same sexual nature, and the same intent of provocativeness as the other two works.
It’s quite possible that anyone could probably guess the answer, just like it’s possible that Paskin reflected the same ideas about WOC and sexuality that society has built upon for centuries: that women of color, when not being viewed as hypersexual by society and simultaneously being allowed to display/discuss their sexuality, could not possibly be interested in the BDSM culture and its practices. Those ideas didn’t come out of the blue; they’re most likely based on a mishmash of deceptive ideas that rob black women of their sexual agency, expression, and their legitimate feelings.
I’m not so naïve now to say that the backlash against the “S&M” video was solely based on anti-BDSM ideals; now I can clearly say that it’s based on anti-black sexuality ideals as well. Paskin proved with a sentence that we are somewhat comfortable with BDSM references in popular music when they come from a white (female) artist, that boundaries can be broken (as with Madonna), and buttons can be pushed (as with Gaga) when there is a white artist approaching alternative sexuality. When Rihanna decided to join the clearly monopolized trend of making these references and interacting, on some level, with the community, it was seen as unnatural and even shocking for a black woman to actively participate in things like domination, submission, and gagging in legitimate, expressive ways.
Mostly I feel that this comes from stereotypes about black women and even black families; that black women are, for some reason or another, solely interested in and satisfied with regular, missionary, heterosexual, Christian sex that is only used for reproduction. As archaic as the belief is, it still holds because the black family is still viewed as one of the most important products of the black community, and something that holds enough value that its members are unwilling to do anything to break it. When you match that belief against the other beliefs society holds about black families (read: that they’re promptly being ruined by the absence of the lazy, irresponsible black father), you have to wonder which one holds true between the two. Is the black community obsessed with making and keeping family, or slowly destroying it?
Either way, it’s harmful to the sexually expressive and sexually active black woman, who participates in non-monogamous, non-Christian sex without a need or a want of family. This is the base of the backlash Rihanna gets; that she is not only having sex that operates outside of family creation and building, but that she is open about it. It is obvious that the music industry and society has been a little perplexed, if not totally uncomfortable with Rihanna’s gradual exploration of sex and sexual agency throughout her career; Good Girl Gone Bad was only the genesis of society’s mourning in losing the Innocent Little Island Girl image that Rihanna had initially started her career with. Not only was Rihanna’s sexual agency expected, but it was needed. Black female artists are expected to retain a certain amount of sexuality but also something called “classiness”—a characteristic that should still make her worthy of respect and of sexual desire. I hear the “argument” of “classiness” used against Rihanna a lot because her outright sexual nature and concepts are often deemed the opposite of “classiness.”
I realize that black female artists are expected to be cautious when discussing/displaying all and any aspects of their sexuality because of their already being hypersexualized and viewed as sexual without their consent, with a variety of bullshit reasons (their “curvier” bodies, for instance.) For Rihanna to continually push that restriction aside to delve into alternative sexuality and outright sexuality, and to work with BDSM themes, is seen as justifiable to delegitimize her interest in the culture and its practices. Paskin, like society, does not and cannot view the “S&M” video and its song as legitimate because Rihanna displays concepts that do not fit into society’s expectations of black sexuality in females: straight and fit for reproduction.
On top of the base layer of anti-black sexuality ideals is that of society’s discomfort with Rihanna’s image as a black female artist (BFA). I have discussed, and will probably continue to discuss, society’s need to not only regulate black artists to two or three specific genres (R&B, rap, and hip-hop) but its further imposition on BFAs, regardless of genre. Rihanna has come under fire for some concepts displayed in LOUD outside of “S&M,” including the bright colors and hipster chic styling of “Last Girl in the World,” where Rihanna frolics around in pink fields and is surrounded with pink/blue/yellow balloons. Sometimes it is believed that Rihanna’s approaches to videos and to subject choice in music may venture outside of the concepts presented in R&B (where she can sometimes be pushed into because she is a black artist.) Time to time, I have to remind myself and others that Rihanna is a pop artist, that she makes quality pop works and rarely ventures into R&B and rap/hip-hop until she is featured on another song. Black artists have been operating in many genres for centuries, but are still expected to put one genre or the other out and can be criticized if they do not do so.
I have also discussed briefly that black female artists are expected to come out and “slay” frequently—to be “fierce” and dramatic and strong in all of their performances, videos, and songs. There is nothing wrong with that (in fact, I fuckinglove it), but it further enhances the restrictions placed on black female artists, to the point where it seems difficult to wrap one’s head around Rihanna dancing to “S&M” on the stage. She’s not slaying so much as she is grinding/shimmying/crooning, all expected of BFAs, but not to the point where it is acceptable.
Rihanna is not expected to, as a BFA, be discussing these things. Sex, if discussed, is expected to involve the participation of the man, hours of preparation on the woman’s part, promises of sexual satisfaction for the man involved, is completely hetereosexual, and is allowed to be “freaky” but not “kinky.”
This seems like a list of confining expectations on black sexuality, but it also reads off as a list as to why BDSM is not viewed as prominent or as a selling point to the black community (outside of the believed “Christian, reproductive sex” aspect.) BDSM, while not a perfect community absolved of sexism or other problematic concepts, does promote the equality of sexual satisfaction for both partners and a certain freedom that comes with allowing women to be seen as dominating or controlling in a way that is satisfactory to all of the partners involved, or even in society (where men are believed to be the dominant partner or aggressive during sex.)
In “S&M,” Rihanna does not talk about preparing for sex, getting her hair and nails right, doesn’t make any promises to sexual satisfaction, or anything else on the checklist for BFAs. She just makes allusions to having sex and wanting more. She talks about her nature and displays her confidence in it (“I may be bad but I’m perfectly good at it”), how she takes obviously pleasure from sex (“Sex in the air/I don’t care, I love the smell of it”) and of course, rounds it up with BDSM imagery. Not even close to expected BFA material.
For me, it’s not that these things are easy to explain, or that I even have to explain them. If I can be truly honest for a second: I get a kick out of explaining all the different ways society has gotten black women, black sexuality, and Rihanna fucked up. It’s that these ideas even exist, and can form themselves into this big ball of oppressive backlash and masquerade itself behind claims of ignorance (“I’ve just never heard of that before!”) or concerns about intellectual property (“Gaga and Madonna just did it first, is all.”) It’s not that it’s been done before; it’s who is doing it. Neither Gaga nor Madonna can lay claims to the BDSM community nor references to it, and both have been known to build upon previous concepts of other artists themselves. Your discomfort may start with Rihanna using BDSM themes, but cut the cake open, and you’ve got anti-black (female) sexuality as the creamy, raspberry filling at the very bottom.
For those wondering how not to pull a Paskin and delegimitize the expression of black female artists/black artists and pigeonhole the concepts of black music, it’s very simple. Don’t refer to a black artists work as a “goofy version” of a white artists’ work, for one, and try to understand that regulations on black sexuality do exist. Don’t boggle at the prospect of a BFA discussing BDSM; encourage it, because it allows for exploring other areas that white artists are believed to have a monopoly on (like rock music, discussion of drugs/references to drugs, discussion of suicide, etc.) Do try to recognize that other types of sexual intercourse exist, throw out your archetypes of black women and black families, and for the love of God, stop thinking Madonna was the first to get “kinky” and that she was the only one to truly “do it right.” Just like Rihanna and Gaga after her, she too was standing on the shoulders of giants.
Of course (and in my opinion), Rihanna was just the first to not fall off.
(Originally posted on January 31, 2012 at The BCP Blog.)
Can we just do my little (hypocritical) queer ass a favor and stop handing out cookies like it’s a bake sale?
Look, Barack Obama/Jay-Z/T.I./NAACP/everyone at large: no one cares about gay marriage. No one. I don’t care how many polls you read, how many queers you get up on stage, how many Dan Savage columns you waste your (obviously useless) time on—no one, absolutely no one, cares about gay marriage. That is a fact and I’m claiming it now.
If that sounds a little brusque, I’m sorry the truth hurts like a bitch—I’ve felt the slap too, more than once. Three days after singing Obama’s praises, I learned it quick: gay marriage, it turns out? Is not all that important in the grand scheme of things, when people like Lorena Escalera are still dying, when people like CeCe McDonald are sitting on trial for things that real, live humans do. While you’re (metaphorically) fucking around with the idea of gay marriage, other parts of the LGBT community—the ones that are not white, male, cisgender and/or gay—are actually getting fucked. It’s kind of hard to see around the media’s blinders, but it’s there and it sucks.
Let’s be real: there’s nothing wrong in theory with caring about gay marriage. It’s the practice I’m worried about. Sometimes we forget that we are amazing creatures with the power of multitasking, or even caring about more than one thing at once. We forget that different concepts, ideas and issues can co-exist, that sometimes an issue that has gone stagnant can be set calmly upon the back burners and we can move on to something a little more pressing, like homeless youth or intercommunity racism or lack of resources for trans* people. These are all important things to remember, but once the media hacks it way through yet another tired conversation on gay marriage, we tend to forget all of these things.
We really, really need to be better about this shit.
I feel like gay marriage is just a huge cockblock to other issues in the LGBT community. That’s not even an insult to gay activists (mostly), but just a nice visual of what we are all doing to people who literally don’t and can’t care about gay marriage. It’s hard to give a fuck about getting married when you are homeless, starving, suicidal or dead. If we continue to push the idea that gay marriage is more dire than those who are well, actually dying—the divide that is currently present in the LGBT will only serve to get deeper. That’s not a chance I’m willing to take.
So buck it up and suck it up, and get to work. We can fight for gay marriage if that’s what you really wanna do, but if you’re insistent on ignoring the lives and experience of others, I don’t know how long I can join you in that fight.
(Originally posted on May 20, 2012.)