This is the second essay in Anatomy Of A Mango, a series where Dani peels back the sweet, tart layers that have led to her “fruitful”, healthy sexuality.
Sex, for me, is very much about the exploration of another body and how that exploration leads to a different understanding of myself. I consider myself to be quite in touch with my own sensuality. I am, in turn, very in touch with my sexuality and what it means to be sexy. This assuredness didn’t just come out of nowhere, I had to work for it. Seek it, fight for it in my own way. I am a fat, Black, lesbian woman; four identities that have been notoriously met with hostility and violence.
In sexual relationships, as I said in the last essay, women of these identities are often put into boxes of either a mammy figure or a fetishized body. The question of personhood is not given space in these kinds of encounters. Being of these identities can make it difficult to accept oneself and value your person, your body, your happiness. Having sex in this body, I have come to learn a lot about myself and what I will or will not tolerate. Being someone who has shared my body with many people, I can tell you that through each one I have journeyed to an understanding of my deepest desires and what fulfillment I want in my life. This ventures beyond sexual fulfillment and extends into almost every aspect of my life.
One of the ways in which I have sought and found comfort in my own body was through random hookups and unattached sex with multiple partners. We live in a culture that sees sex between unpartnered individuals as void of substance and any real value. Monogamous, long term love is believed to be the only way to engage in healthy relationships with others. It is the natural end to a life of “dating around.” However, I have learned things from hookups just as I have learned from long term relationships. Even little love affairs that last two weeks or only one night can be educators.
However, I have learned things from hookups just as I have learned from long term relationships. Even little love affairs that last two weeks or only one night can be educators.
I am always seeking more self-knowledge, but I’m not necessarily ready to enter into a serious relationship with someone. I want to continue to have fun and engage in smart, safe, hoe activities! There is so much we can open ourselves up to when we start to question the mode of relationships we are supposed to value most.
This time we find ourselves in the fall of 2014. After a brief battle with homelessness and graduating from college, I set out to live on my own for the very first time. I had a seemingly legit job. The house I moved into was owned by a nice enough white lady who put one of those HRC equal sign stickers on her fridge when I moved in. I felt like I had finally found where I was supposed to be. I threw dinner parties and made custom cocktails for my friends. It was, on its surface, a great life.
One day at work we had done a little “get to know each other” training about how we deal with conflict. I forget most of what this thing was about, but the gist was that if you responded to conflict in a certain way, you were supposed to stand in a group with others who matched that. I stood in my selected group and watched as a short, Black woman with locs danced across to her side of the room with people that “gave in” during a conflict. She quipped, “ask my girlfriend, she always gets what she wants.”
My attention was immediately captured. Not only had a spotted another gay in the room, but she was cute. She had a girlfriend, but that was of no consequence to me. (I was a different person then, living a vastly different life. I’m not exactly proud of that but it is what it is.) We’ll call this woman C. C and I met and hit it off pretty well from the beginning. I liked her sense of humor and that she seemed incredibly into me, so very into me, in fact , that soon her long term relationship was over and we were spending time talking outside of work. C was really beautiful, and I was flattered to have someone spending so much time thinking of me. At the same time, I was courting two other women from our workgroup, but it was C that caught me.
The first time I invited her over to my house we had discussed chocolate and wine, and so it was the theme of the evening. She brought the chocolate and I supplied the wine. The sexual tension between us was palpable. I didn’t stop to think that maybe she’d need some time to recover after ending a long relationship. I didn’t think about anything but getting her into my bed. Eventually, I had enough of laughing and leering at each other as we sipped from our wine glasses, and so I asked, “What did you come here for?” She laughed and suggested we move the party upstairs. I happily obliged and led her into my bedroom where it didn’t take long for us to fall into a makeout session.
Kissing C was a little like drowning. I liked it and hated it all in one swoop. It felt vulnerable and raw, and so I turned my face away and proceeded to kiss her neck, allowing my tongue to flow over her deep brown skin. C was the first squirter I had been with, and I learned that day that making a woman cum imbued me with an incredible sense of power and dominance. Once I got going it was hard for me to stop. I wanted to hear her whimper, scream, beg me not to stop. We fucked without abandon for what seemed like hours.
I was the dominant partner and I loved being in control. I loved that she was bratty and teasing, but would eventually do what I told her to do. When I made her beg, she begged. When I told her to crawl, she would crawl on her knees toward me, she wouldn’t touch me until I told her to. When she did touch me, my body felt alight with desire. There was a flare in the pit of my stomach, the flames flashing, and licking, the more desperate she was to touch me the more excited I grew.
When I made her beg, she begged. When I told her to crawl, she would crawl on her knees toward me, she wouldn’t touch me until I told her to. When she did touch me, my body felt alight with desire.
C and I would continue to hook up on and off for about two years, even after we stopped working together. Our end was fairly terse, she got into another relationship but still wanted to sleep with me without her partner’s approval. By this time I had changed my life quite a bit, and so being the other woman didn’t sit well with me. I politely declined and we haven’t spoken to each other since.
When I had entered a sexual relationship with C, I was still very young and struggling with insecurity. She once called me out and said I was “addicted to being wanted” and that was true — I wanted that outward approval and the desire of others to feel okay with myself, I needed it. My inclination toward self-hate was strong and I completely relied on the validation of others to fuel me. Whatever confidence I portrayed was surface level, it did not sit or permeate the flesh.
What C did for me, though, was capture my delight for dominance. Always a soft-spoken, kind, person, I expected sex to be me succumbing to the wants of my partner. I was surprised to find myself so comfortable stepping into the role of top. I found that it was a role that suited me greatly, and so I was able to carry it through many more relationships. Being a femme top is something I love having as a part of my identity. It defies “traditional” modes of sex and relationships, even in some queer circles. Knowing that I could take a dominant role in sex made me more comfortable taking those roles in other areas of my life. In work, I sought more leadership roles and was able to come out of my shell so to speak around the students and parents I worked with. I wasn’t just the quiet one anymore, I could take charge and be in control when it was called for.
There are many rules to having safe hookups, many of which I have broken. Don’t meet someone alone at your home for the first meet up? I’ve done it. Tell a friend your location/who you’re with? I keep my hoeing pretty private (save this essay series). Even with my risky behavior, I’ve had thoughtful experiences that have taught me a lot about myself and the kind of sex I like to have.
About two years ago, I met J on tinder. J was in a great band who happened to be touring through my city, and was looking to have fun. I, of course, offered myself as the fun. I enjoyed offering myself as fun for many touring bands. At the time I met J, I was housing insecure, “subletting” a room from someone I didn’t know. This fact was a source of embarrassment, but when J arrived all of that embarrassment disappeared. J did Muy Thai which I found out from browsing her Instagram. Her body was incredibly strong; when we made out I climbed on top of her and she squeezed my thighs with her hands, marveled at my tits, let me wrap my hands around her throat. She moaned with pleasure as she searched my body and asked what I liked to do.
We eventually agreed on getting ourselves off separately then coming together at the end. We practiced orgasm control and denial, finally being pulled back to each other’s bodies and having orgasms together. Before we came to this conclusion together, J had violated a boundary. She tried to do something that is a huge no for me in any and all sexual encounters. I jumped back, shocked and hurt, she immediately jolted up and apologized profusely. It took me a minute to get back from reeling over the incident, but I was able to within a matter of minutes. This was an awkward and triggering moment, but not one it was impossible to recover from.
When this moment happened with J, I was so surprised by the force with which I had said no. The way both my voice and my body reacted to protect me from a boundary being violated
When this moment happened with J, I was so surprised by the force with which I had said no. The way both my voice and my body reacted to protect me from a boundary being violated. After that we were able to have a fulfilling sexual experience, but only because I had communicated my need at the moment and didn’t just suck it up and take something that I didn’t want. In the past, I would have cut sex short after something like this. We had done a bad job of outlining our do’s and don’ts before we actually had sex, so I decided that conversation was the better alternative.
During that experience, I learned the importance of having those conversations, that even if you are in the heat of a sexy moment you should still stop to have a dialogue about what you can and can’t do. Having these conversations makes it easier to enjoy the body of another without mishaps that can turn into triggers. It also can add to the building of anticipation and desire between the people involved. When I think back on my night with J, I remember it fondly. Later, her band was back in town and we talked, but a night of partying steered her in the opposite direction. I often fantasize about our paths crossing again and the thought stirs me.
Before J, there was H. H was named after an R&B and soul diva which was the first thing that drew me to them. There was a particular photo in their Tinder bio that struck me and left me a little starry-eyed. H and I talked very briefly. They were only in town for a little while and so we decided it was best to get straight to business. We didn’t meet up in person in a public place beforehand. I invited them to my empty apartment within hours of that first message exchange. H was more masc than most of my partners, but the attraction was intense. We exchanged brief hello’s and then I led them upstairs to my bedroom. There was no fumbling over how to get started, no shyness or reservation: we sat down on the bed and began kissing.
I had plans for that afternoon with H. I decided that I was finally going to center my desires. We talked breathlessly over the things that we could and could not do, still kissing and removing our clothes as our boundaries were laid out. I straddled them and rode them until my thighs began to shake, I felt diligent and powerful in my focus to make them cum, hear their cries of pleasure. I jumped off and proceeded to go down on them, asking if they wanted fingers, they moaned yes and I proceeded to reach toward ecstasy. With my tongue and my hands, I was able to bring them to orgasm. I relished in the tightening and pulsing around my fingers, the explosion of wetness and tremors.
After I was done making them cum, they asked if they could return the favor, and I coyly said yes. They scooped me from under my body and threw my legs around their neck. H went down on me for at least an hour before I finally came.
It was the first time anyone besides myself had ever succeeded in bringing me to orgasm.
I remember the feeling of the orgasm mounting in my body, the warm rush of fluid, my shaking thighs. All of my muscles tightened around the scream and I laid back on the bed exhausted. I felt like I had accomplished something monumental. After many partners who hadn’t succeeded in bringing me to that point, I had started to believe that orgasms were impossible for me. This was not due to my partner’s lack of desire or diligence. I had an acute problem with relaxing enough to be pleased. People trying to pleasure me made me tense, my mind wandered or focused too intently on the task at hand.
For a long time, I had sex just to bring other people joy, because other people wanted me and that was enough. I didn’t want to be touched or paid attention to — in some ways, sex was a way for me to disappear into another body. I didn’t want to be seen, I diminished myself to an experience for other people. When I made the shift to bring my own pleasure into the conversation, things finally started to change for me. I began to love my body and see it as something worthy of feeling bliss. The sex got better and more fun. The people that I laid down with had mutual respect and care for me.
My body has always been a tough place to live in. From battling fatphobia to physical and sexual trauma, it had never fully felt like my own, the skin and fat and bone of it all felt foreign and in the hands of someone else. Having a body like mine, one steeped in a political and personal history of violence, it is often hard to imagine how that body can be met with anything but harm. So when I go into these sexual encounters and am touched with fervor and delight, how can I help but feel as though it is a radical act of reclamation, even if I only know very little about the person? Bodies like mine aren’t often included in conversations around sexual freedom. I am supposed to hide, to not believe in my own sexual prowess and power. We own our bodies, and who we get to share them with can be an important emotional step toward self-confidence. It seems contradictory to say I learned how to view my body as my own by sharing it with strangers and friends, but it is a truth that I revel in.
We own our bodies, and who we get to share them with can be an important emotional step toward self-confidence. It seems contradictory to say I learned how to view my body as my own by sharing it with strangers and friends, but it is a truth that I revel in.
Being a person who has a lot of sex comes with its own stigma. Especially as a lesbian, for whom the stereotype is that we get into long, committed relationships and stay until things get toxic. I’ve only had one real relationship and the rest of my sexual life has been hookups or one night stands. What I love and learn about these encounters are the parameters of my body, its strengths, and boundaries, what pleases it. I get acquainted with what I desire in a more intimate way, what I like to touch and taste. Random sex and hookups (when done safely) are great learning experiences on top of being fun and sexy!
The flesh of a mango is, of course, the part that brings us the most pleasure. Slipping off the red skin gives way to a sudden, electric orange. It is firm, sweet, and giving. The way the texture of each piece almost matches that of the tongue. There is an explosion of tartness in my mouth each time I eat one. When I reflect on the moment that mango became a sign of sexual freedom for me, I remember the plate of fruit slices before me, how I used my teeth to pull away the meat from the skin. How sticky and slick my fingers got as I held each piece. With each consumed, the desire began to mount in my body as I imagined eating something else. I love the way some strings of it carry and get stuck in your teeth, the way the scent lingers long after. Even if a hookup only lasts one night, its effect can stick with me for months, or even years afterward. The velvet of each interaction sinking into the core of me.