In episode 6, season 2 of the HBO acclaimed show Insecure, we were treated to an interesting conversation about oral sex that received very pointed reactions on social media. Many viewed the conversations between the four friends: Issa, Molly, Tiffany and Kelly, to be an outdated representation of oral sex conversations.
Issa sees oral sex as an act that would have black women labelled a “hoe.” For Molly, performing oral sex is something she only engages in after her partner has first performed the act on her. Kelly refuses, following an experience with a partner with bad hygiene, to perform the act at all. Finally, Tiffany, the only married woman in the group takes pride in performing the act on her man even citing it as the reason she has a ring on her finger and the other ladies do not.
Molly and Tiffany, perceive oral sex as a power act. By denying her partners the pleasure of oral sex until they have performed the act on her, Molly is setting a standard for her sexual interactions. She refuses to give pleasure that she will not receive. Molly is demanding her pleasure, choosing to have her sexual space be one of equality. By refusing to be the victim of one-sided sexual labour, Molly is taking a stand that many women need to take when it comes to sex. Women, often are scared to challenge inadequacies in the bedroom, whether it be the lack of something, or dissatisfaction with the performance of an act for fear of taking away the “sexy.” The pressure to maintain the façade of siren during sex often means that sex becomes performative rather than pleasurable.
Any sexual partner with whom you cannot communicate openly about your sexual needs is not someone that should have repeated access to your body. Sex is something to get lost in, not find loss in.
From the perspective of black womanhood, Molly’s stance on oral sex as a returned favour is a rejection of the expectation of black female labour. By having her partners serve her before she does them, Molly challenges centuries of servitude especially for the American black woman who has been sexualised from the moment she touched American soil. To experience the fullness of her assumed sexuality, you must first put in the labour.
Kelly’s refusal to perform oral sex after her experience with “musty balls” is trauma I cannot relate to but empathise with. Any man who refuses to shower does not deserve the pleasure of oral sex. Basically, No Musty D*cks Shall Pass These Lips.
Issa’s position is one that drew a lot of commentary. I would like to focus on the racialisation of her statement. By citing specifically, that performing oral sex has black women labelled ‘ho’s’, Issa assumes that white women have a freedom with their bodies that black women do not. For Kelly, the blame lies with “the black church” and whilst that is a tidy explanation, I think it is a great deal more complex than this. The sexualisation of black female bodies in America either on plantations or in the medical field meant that for years following the abolishment of slavery and beyond, black women to challenge racial stereotypes about their sexuality took on a sexually chaste persona.
To be sexual was to confirm white scientific lies about black female sexuality that supported the sexual abuse of black bodies. This chasteness bled into romantic relationships, where sex was discussed as duty rather than pleasure. Need to protect the image of black women from the white gaze meant that women/girls caught enjoying the act of sex outside of marriage were publicly condemned either by the church or community. Years of this led to a community that was conditioned to crush black female sensuality. It was not a lack of awareness but an act of self-preservation that quickly became oppression. In trying to preserve the black American female identity, black female bodies were imprisoned both outside and inside their homes.
Admittedly, white women did face sexual oppression from their communities but not at the risk of their life in the way black women did. The fear of rape or abduction for medical purposes that black women faced was compounded by the need to keep the honour of the black community which was constantly under attack.
Issa, despite being a sex positive 2017 woman, has inherited some of the fear of black female representation in sexual spaces. Sure, she is not keeping her legs closed until marriage but there is a limitation to her sexual freedom based on a fear of public perception. Coming from a long-term relationship which is a safe space for sexual exploration to the dating world, has Issa weary of perception. Opening oneself to dating means opening oneself to the opinion of others and that is an unpredictable minefield.
Written by Niki Igbaroola
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