by Vianca Masucci
All of America is in a buzz about the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. And why not? Next to coal, sexual frustration is America’s most abundant natural resource. The release of the movie has pulled sexuality out of the shadows and placed it at the forefront of all conversation. This is all very exciting, in more ways than one! Examinations of the difference between loving kink relationships that are founded in choice, trust, and mutual pleasure and the abusive relationship that is portrayed in Fifty Shades have illuminated the important distinctions between abuse and safe, sane, and consensual acts of unconventional love. Namely, stalking and financial manipulation (even at the hands of the rich, powerful and debatebly sexy but undebatably privileged Christian Grey) is creepy abusive behavior that is separate from the intimate, affectionate practice of BDSM. #ByeChristianGrey #gohangwithFelicia
But Fifty Shades is riddled with problems in addition to the undertone of abuse. What really bugs me about Fifty Shades is that it perpetuates sex negative archetypes that delegitimize the sexual desires of folks with nontraditional sexual interests. The plot of the movie focuses on the corruption of a white, lithe, most likely pumpkin-spice-latte-loving virgin ingenue by a rich and powerful fetishist who struggles with a history of emotional and sexual abuse. It’s like a Disney Princess story with the “inexperienced virgin” and “troubled fetishist” archetypes substituted in for the usual protagonists and a long history of abuse acting as the evil influence. In this way, the mainstream manages to reinforce the classic romantic tale that is fueled by conservative, sexist morals and invalidate fetishism by associating it with corruption and child abuse. Yikes!
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In spite of the copious amounts of shade being thrown at fetishism by the movie, Fifty Shades is inspiring a sex movement that challenges ‘Mericans to indulge their sexual curiosity. But, the new sexual frontier is just as problematic as the old one and subscribes to a system of sexual archetypes that are not only conservative but detrimental to PoC. Watching the movie brought back hella memories of my own excursion into kink and my experiences with this frontier. (Side note: Yes, I did go to see the movie in theaters. But, I bought a ticket for Selma and snuck into Fifty because I have “not one dime” for basic shit.) Sweating like Beck when Kanye approached the stage at the Grammy’s, I nervously walked into my first kink gathering. Within thirty minutes of my arrival, I had been called ‘chocolate’ twice. Within two hours of my arrival, a man asked if he could see my “big black donk”. I responded by telling him that I had too much ass for his “small white dick” and then I left. (Yes, that clapback game is on fleek.)
Never discouraged, I credited my bad experiences to chance and decided to join an online community of kinksters . After filtering through a few message boards and fetish pages, I noticed some frightening trends. First, most of the users on the site, 92% of whom were pigment-challenged, were as basic as Hooked On Phonics. Second, many personal ads on the site explicitly stated that their authors were looking for white or asian partners only. Like, really bitch? Third, there were very explicitly defined archetypes of the kink world and many of them did not empower marginalized individuals. From the ballbusting black goddess that echoed aspects of the “angry black woman” stereotypes to the large and scary “bull” black dominant that cuckholds other men to the white supremacist/black slave subgenre of D/s , the content of the pages had “hot ass mess” written all over it. I was shocked by that fact that, even in a space that was so forward-thinking, there existed these backward, pre-packaged ‘boxes’ of kink sexuality. This sister was not having that—the only box you can put me into is wet, warm, and delicious. Turned down, I turned off my computer and turned my attention to finding different turn-ons.
Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate everyone’s right to fantasy. I understand that fantasy is derived from cultural influences and inherent sexual hardwiring. No one can control what tunes their flesh flute or, to an extent, what they’ve been exposed to. What worries me is that these archetypes pull from harmful stereotypes that many PoC are working hard to fight against and any attempts at challenging them are met with arguments defending sexual freedom. But, even sexual freedom can cross boundaries that reinforce white male privilege. And, when basic white biddies are approaching you at a fetish party, feeling entitled to a glance at your ‘chocolate donk’, you realize that they do. And when basic biddies are fetishizing black bodies online via problematic archetypes, you realize that they do. And when kinksters of all flavors are posting personal ads looking for PoC to fulfill their fantasies by performing in an archetypal role but never for a fetish relationship amongst equals, you realize that they do. Further, these archetypes can make PoC feel awkward navigating a social sexual scene that they feel as though they don’t fit into and won’t be accepted in. Incapability to understand or follow the narrow social scripts presented by these archetypes leave a lot of people feeling insecure, unsafe, or unworthy of this variety of affection. That’s just fifty shades of total bullshit.
So, what do you do if you are a PoC who finds yourself with a new interest in BDSM? Try it! Plenty of roads lead to good kinky sex. You could totally avoid the scene by converting a vanilla relationship into your wet nightmare or take a deep breath (and some valium) and enter the world of BDSM. There are many kinksters who aren’t racist succubi and some very queer, very PoC pockets of the scene. Look for them or, better yet, create them. With all the newfound interest in this genre of sexual expression, I’m hoping that the kink world will become a bit more diverse.
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Hailing from Newark, New Jersey, Vianca Masucci is a health advocate working to eliminate health disparities in underserved populations. Her voice is influenced by her experiences navigating this world as a queer, Afro-Latina with a thousand-year-old soul and an insatiable appetite for social justice. Her Meyers-Briggs personality type is IDGAF.