TRIGGER WARNING: References sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse.
by Kim Crosby
[feature image by Alma Woodsey Thomas]
This is some real hard talks and for all my sistren who have lived through or who are living through sexual violence, be careful with yourself. You don't have to read this to prove anything to yourself or others. You are magnificent as you are.
I, like many of the femmes of colour in my life, regardless of sexual orientation, have experienced sexual violence at the hands of strangers, friends, family even lovers. Hell the media and the government actively participate in this shit as well, even knowledge masquerading as 'science' (psychology today, I am looking squarely at you) are to blame. It requires courage to, as the brilliant Arti Metha says, to walk out with, "me and my slutty thigh high sparkly fishnets against the world."
Over the course of my life this violence has come in the form of caregivers, street harassment, and at the hands of partners both male and female. I was introduced to sex and sexual desire at a very young age, and let me be specific, I was introduced to being 'sexually desired' at a profoundly wrong age. I felt deep, gut wrenching shame, responsibility and oh so much guilt. I was sure that people could see it written all over me. I begged and pleaded to what I understood God to be, to have me forget. To wipe away the memories, the sounds, the dreams, the flashbacks and start me all over again.
I think something very different happens to girls who know sex too soon.
Girls who come to know that sex is a currency and we are in a recession.
Girls who don't yet know the context, that we come from a history where sex workers were priestesses and now our bodies are regularly dismembered and commodified. We are blamed and branded as we tap into a power stemming as far back as time immemorial. And my sistren, I want to remind us that we remain both beautiful and priceless no matter how many people we sleep with, no matter what happens to our sex.
In this patriarchal, racist, mind fuck of a world we are both what is desired and defiled, vessels of power and of shame.
And there I was trying to walk that impossibly fine line between Madonna and whore. Completely inexperienced, but with a body that clearly said otherwise and I had no allies. Had no mentors, had no women I could ask to provide me with guidance as I wandered, or rather strutted.
And then we are told that this is what makes us special. And at first it feels like it, and even when it doesn't it still is the only place where women are truly 'validated.' We can be smart, athletic, creative, but we all are all still required to be attractive. And being this exceptional holds in betwixt the fingers of its mysticism the promise of love, attention, adoration, but mostly the promise of a promise. The promise of something more.
I find myself searching the eyes of each person I meet and asking the following questions:
“Could you love me?”
“Would you hurt me?"
“Do you want to fuck me?”
“And how would I know the difference?”
I imagine that it must be so freeing, so beautiful to look into someone’s eyes for the first time and see eyes, and feel nervous and curious, maybe some butterflies, some deep in the chest, down in the belly welling up of something. I wonder what it must be like not to need to know the answer to these questions, not to have your survival depend on knowing whether someone’s desire to fuck will overwhelm their desire to protect you from harm, on knowing what you must exploit, what you must manipulate in order to get space in the midst of this.
We girls of the fatherless tribe, girls of the motherless tribe, we work in trade.
And I have done it too - for love, support, to build family and to find freedom.
And I have no regrets.
We glorify men as pimps and hustlers, but I want to shout out to all the womyn doing what they have to do to survive, all the womyn doing what they have to do to thrive. To the video girls, and the trans womyn, the sex workers and the dancers. Our society gives us few options and we are still able to leverage these experiences into book deals, professional dance careers and Masters degrees in physics.
And I want to say, it's not enough to tell us to keep being strong and keep on hustlin. We actually need work, commitment for others to challenge this culture and transform the dialogue. And I want to give props to those of you who do it. Those of you who sit with us and devise plans for us to come home safely, those who tell us that we are are your heroes, those who check their brethren when they spit whack 'game' to a sister - because it isn't a game.
This is our lives.
And these are our bodies.
And even if we like sex that is rough or that explores rape fantasies, even if we love or have deep appreciation for masculine energy regardless of the body that it comes in - the fact of the matter is that the consent is what turns us on. We are giving permission to ourselves to be submissive and this in fact is a reclaiming of our bodies in a culture that decries that our 'no' means 'yes'. It is possible to protest misogyny with my legs spread wide open and I am going to just that.
And as much as wish I didn't have to say this, we have to say this.
Don't rape us.
Don't shout slurs at us on the streets.
Don't act with ownership over our bodies.
Don't police our bodies and that includes how we dress, how we fuck and how we birth.
Yes means yes. That's it.
Don't drug us, slip things in our drinks, wait until we are drunk - these things are not consent.
We are not responsible for getting you off, or tempting you, or in general for your lack of self control.
We are children of the universe no less than the sun or stars.
It's time you all acted like it.
"For Femmes Of Colour Who Rose Too Early & Set Too Soon" originally published on bklyn boihood. Republished with permission.
Kim Crosby hails from Trinidad & Tobago, but is made of the fabric and texture of the many places she has worked. Kim is a published creative writer, and as a spoken word artist was invited to the stage as part of the acclaimed Les Blues Collective with the Black Theatre Company, and has performed solo at Toronto’s Rhubarb Festival. Over the last decade, Kim has built a proud reputation as a passionate youth leader and community organizer; fostering equity and anti-oppression into everything that she does. Kim is currently the co-director of The People Project, an organization producing innovative arts and leadership opportunities for queer and trans youth in Toronto as well as engaging in a partnership based approach to institutional change.
Want more? Follow Kim @ Queer, Gifted, & Black.