It had never occurred to me to see myself as a victim. On some level, we have been conditioned to see victims as a clear black and white line. However, in this new era, and growth of the “Me too” movement, and the understanding of spectrum behavior, I realized that I too have been in many me too situations.
I never wanted to be a victim of rape, so, more often than not, when I found myself in a sexual situation where I didn’t want to move forward, I conditioned myself to agree to the act to avoid being violently raped. Sure, I could’ve left. But the fear of being pulled back into a room and forced pushed me to consider engaging as my only option. And, when your options seem extremely bleak, they don’t seem like options at all.
It recently occurred to me that I was once a victim of coercion. During my recording of the How I F*ck podcast, the host asked me about my first sexual encounter after being diagnosed with herpes.
I was at the house of a guy I was dating, we were watching a movie at his home, and I hadn’t disclosed my status to him yet. Eventually, the moment arrived when he wanted to have sex, but I didn’t want to have sex. I told him I didn’t want to have sex. But he proceeded to push forward. In the final moments of the tug-of-war, as he was not taking no for an answer, I made a choice not to be a victim of undeniable rape. But in turn, and with years of breaking down rape culture, I became a victim by another name. That name is coercion.
Although I never saw myself as such, it took years of education to learn that consent is freely given and can be taken back at any time. One sexual encounter does not guarantee you access forever. And the inability to remove consent or not feeling safe enough to withdraw consent means that the act falls on the spectrum of rape culture.
It takes a powerful person to acknowledge that all they thought they knew is now questionable and, in many cases, outright wrong.
I grew up at the height of the rap era. Women in bikinis, shaking their asses. Strip clubs and pool parties were the focus of every video, and bottles of Dom sprayed across the weaves of every moist bodied video vixen. It’s hard for men and women growing up in this era to realize that those scenes played a pivotal role in what we now know as rape culture.
You can even take it back to the 70s and 80s with a cult classic like Revenge of the Nerds. In the movie, the main nerd character donned a mask to trick his crush into having sex with him. Let’s not forget the blacked-out date-rape in Sixteen Candles, or the peeping Toms in Porkys, or the attempted car rape in Back to the Future.
Sometimes what people bitch about as “cancel culture” is calling out fucked up shit. (I challenge you, go back and look at these movies and tell me you’d want your daughter in those roles).
I’ve experienced having my ass grabbed when I was 14 at a street festival. I was followed on the six train in NYC on my way home from college. My elementary school friend and I were even followed on our walk to school by a pervert who fondled himself from a (not so far) distance. Even receiving unrequested dick pics in my phone (I swear that book is coming); it’s all problematic.
But the worst, by far, was when I was exiting my building and rushing to get into a cab when a man approached me. Because I didn’t make time to stop and talk to him (you know, because I was getting into a taxi), he felt entitled and enraged enough to threaten my life.
“I should shoot you in the back of your head bitch!” Were his words, to be exact. Not knowing if he meant it or not, as the driver pulled off, I slid down in the back seat.
This altercation still sits with me because I had no clue how to respond. I still don’t know how I would react if it were ever to happen again. The nerve of a total stranger to feeling so confident and comfortable to threaten my life simply because I didn’t stop to engage in his advances.
I hate to go down this road, but I’m going to do it anyway.
As a black woman living in NYC, most of the disrespect I’ve experienced was at the hands of black men. Black men who will call me cute one minute, then turn around and call me a bitch when I ignore them. It’s been black men that have followed me for a block to get my attention and turn disrespectful when I deny their advances. It’s been black men in passing that feel they had ownership to my body, so much that they saw fit to reach their hand out to touch me. WTF!!!
For those men fixing their mouths to say the “That’s not me” bull shit, you’re missing the point.
It doesn’t have to be you. But it’s happening to your daughters, sisters, cousins, aunts, mothers, friends, etc. It’s happening. Ask the women in your life if they’ve ever been verbally assaulted, followed, threatened, cat-called, coerced, or inappropriately touched. If they tell you yes, I challenge you to listen to them, then consider what measures you can do as a man to change the pattern of negative behavior.
The black man-child that shot at those women dining outside, those women could’ve been your sister. The black man-child-cowards that beat up the black woman at the liquor store in NYC, that woman could’ve been your daughter.
How do you, how do we change the cycle for the next generation? How do we change the culture of rape, entitlement, and violence towards black women? We can’t continue to march and fight for the same black men that turn around and victimize us in the streets and the homes.
Some great black men do not perpetuate these acts of violence. However, those who do, do it so loudly, boldly, and proudly that they often overshadow the good men.
As a “good” black woman, I don’t want the least desirable of us being the standard for all of us. So, all the “good” black men need to be louder and more visible than the toxic and problematic ones.
You’re tired of the black male generalizations; me too. So, FIX IT!