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Out with Mammy, Jezebel and Sapphire...

You can't talk about the future of black women and sexuality without addressing the horrific and always evolving sexual exploitation against us. Centuries of rape, abuse, and molestation have manifested a sexual curse unjustly placed upon black women that is yet to be broken. Platforms, such as this one, are a small yet impactful attempt to shatter that curse, one cupcake at a time. Cupcake Noire strives to empower black women to embrace their sexuality regardless of how media, male-dominated culture, stereotypes, sexual partners, or past life experiences have molded it thus far. With that being said, let's create a fresh start together by understanding the history of our sexuality.

SEXUALITY /sek-shoo-al-i-tee/ (noun): the quality or state of being sexual; the condition of having sex; sexual activity; or sexual preference.

Sounds easy enough, right?... but did you know about the haunting stereotypes that attempt to define our sexuality? In a nut shell, black women are universally seen as uncontrollable, horny, promiscuous, irresponsible, welfare-abusing, reckless, selfish, hypersexual beasts. Did I leave anything out? <insert eye roll emoji> The word that always stings my soul is "hypersexual"...which is defined as:

HYPERSEXUAL /hahy-per-sek-shoo-uh l/ (adjective or noun): a stereotype that accuses black women of having a dysfunctional preoccupation with sexual fantasy, often in combination with the obsessive pursuit of casual or non-intimate sex; pornography; compulsive masturbation; romantic intensity and objectified partner sex.

But what really impresses me (obvious sarcasm) is how the white culture was also able to desexualize black women at the same time by depriving us of any sexual character, such as the famous asexual caricature, Mammy.

MAMMY /mam-ee/ (noun): a stereotype that portrays black women as desexualized servants to white families and who is generally good-natured, often overweight, and loud. 

Apparently, Mammy loved her job so much that she would often leave her own children, which is amazing that Mammy was sexy enough for someone to impregnate her <insert another eye roll emoji>, to tend to the slave owner's children instead.

Read more about the Mammy caricature here.

Mammy portrayed by Andy Warhol

JEZEBEL /Jez·e·bel/ (noun): also referred to as a sexual siren, is characterized as black women who are overly sexualized, aggressive, sexually promiscuous, uncaring, completely lacking in virtue and a woman who will use her sexuality to manipulate and deceive. 

The biblical origin of Jezebel basically deemed her untrustworthy, promiscuous, and evil. Black women specifically became burdened with this stereotype during the 17th century when Europeans went to Africa and witnessed native women living half-exposed due to the hot climate. Their label of Jezebel described these women as "sexual animals" who were trying to use their barely naked bodies to seduce them by any means necessary.

Sarah (Saartjie) Baartman aka "Hottentot Venus" vs. Nicki Minaj

For example, Sarah Baartman was a South African woman who was enslaved under false pretenses by Europeans and was publicly displayed to show off her large genitalia, especially her buttocks. The modern day "freak show" (more famously known as media and pop culture) continues to capitalize off of the bodies of black women for money, fame, and entertainment. Black women including Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, and Lil' Kim have been examples of criticism and judgment both by white and black culture.

Honestly, I didn't even know about Sarah until my matriculation at an all female historically black institution where it was tatooed in our brains that no one will respect our bodies and minds more than ourselves.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for "showing off what your mama gave ya" as long as you are doing it for yourself and no one else.

Read more about the Jezebel stereotype here. and the tragic story of Sarah Baartman here.

SAPPHIRE /saf-ahyuh r/ (noun): a stereotype that portrays black women as rude, loud, malicious, stubborn, and overbearing. also known as the "angry black woman".

Shonda Rhimes even provided her own definition stating that:

“The Angry Black Woman is a racist trope used to deny black women their humanity… black women are not allowed justifiable reactions to the myriad of bullsh*t – racist, sexist and otherwise – that they face.”

This stereotype allows society to judge the sexuality of black women once more in two ways. First, there is an assumption that on top of everything else that Sapphire can be mad about, she is especially angry about the fact that no one finds her sexually attractive because of her attitude. On the other hand, this same attitude is fetishized because anger typically makes better and wilder sex. This same fetish has been detrimental in the continual sexual exploitation of black women.

Personally, I don't know how many times my confident and strong personality has been downplayed as "fiesty" and that I must be a "beast" in bed. Ugh.

Read more about the Sapphire stereotype here.

Pam Grier was portrayed as a Jezebel turned Sapphire when she was betrayed.

The truth of the matter is that these three stereotypes among many others will forever be lurking in the shadows of our sexuality but it's up to us individually to refrain from internalizing the foolishness. During all of my research about this topic, I certainly had moments of frustration, anger, and disgust. But ultimately, I couldn't help but sit back, flip my hair and smirk while saying " You want to be or be with a black woman SO badly!"

Out with Mammy, Jezebel and Sapphire...In with Cupcake Noire

XOXO, Shawna

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