Of the many challenges we face as same gender loving gentlemen of color, the most prominent is sexual objectification. The ways that our sex and sexuality are perceived by “the straights” is beyond demeaning. What’s more interesting is the way that we, as members of this community, are guilty of making the same assumptions. The sexual objection of the black body remains as problematic as its always been, but as most conversations around this topic tend to revolve around women, we’ve decided to spend a little time on focusing this month’s Front Page on sexual objectification as it specifically effects us as same gender loving gentlemen of color.
The best place to start is from the outside in, which is why we’ll start by talking about the ways we’re sexualized by the straights. The challenges with most of the straights is that their initial definition of us is shrouded in sex. When many of them hear “gay”, they visualize the sex before they even begin to visualize our humanity. Don’t believe us? Think a little harder and tell us that you’ve never been asked if you’re the “man” or the “woman” in the relationship, told that you just haven’t met the right woman, or been accused of being too cute to be gay. Consider these things and think about what these things have in common. You there yet? Well if not we’ll tell you that the one thing these things have in common is sex.
The question of which gender role you play in your relationships is based on how we have sex. Since heterosexual sex is a tale as old as time, we all know that men penetrate women, and answers to this question will let whomever asked know whether or not we’re fucking of being fucked. Similarly, meeting the “right woman” doesn’t mean that the two of us are going to hold court and pontificate on the nation’s political climate- it means that we haven’t met the right woman to screw the homosexuality out of us. And lastly, whenever someone tells us that we’re too cute to be gay, please believe that they wanna bone and are disappointed in the fact that we’ll never be interested in picking up what they’re putting down. This, again, speaks to how our gayness is perceived by outside communities, because when is the last time you told someone that they were too cute to be straight? Right.
Turning our focus inward gives us another perspective, one that requires us to take accountability for the ways that we sometimes objectify each other. And before you clutch your invisible pearls-don’t, because the majority, if not all of us, have been guilty of it at one time or another. The only thing that runs higher than our libidos is the impossibility of ignoring the men we find ourselves physically attracted to. Now this isn’t to suggest that we’re all sex maniacs, because that would be both inaccurate and unfair, but we all know how tempting it is to cast a second glance upon a well defined ass or bulge. C’mon.
While there’s nothing wrong with noticing someone’s anatomy, or in being physically attracted to them, we’ve got to be real careful about setting expectations around our attractions. Our tendencies to sexually objectify each other are somewhat unconscious as we often see something hot and start thinking unholy thoughts. We wonder about what that mouf does, how he tastes, and wonder what his ecstasy face looks like.
All of these things are as natural as they are harmless—until we start making conscious efforts to do otherwise. Commenting on our attraction to someone moments after meeting them, exhibiting a sense of entitlement to their sex, and disregarding their physical boundaries are all conscious actions, actions that not only cause harm, but are likely to land us in situations no different then the ones so many of these Hollywood executives have found themselves in. Again, there’s nothing wrong with respectfully admiring the goods, but the moment we move beyond doing that will be a moment that many of us might live to regret.
As black men we carry the unwelcome weight of living up to society’s expectation of our sexual adeptness. We are presumed to be sexual dominators, and many of those guilty of objectifying us place more value on their sexual expectations of us than they do on our lives. We’re fetishized within inches of our lives, and are often treated as sexual conquests. We’re the black from which they believe they can never go back from, the owners of the BBCs they secretly desire, and the most important part of their race play fantasies. And while many of us know this about them, we somehow continue to do commit most of these offenses on each other. We’ve got to do better.
Part of doing better is understanding that anyone who’s as attracted to us as we are attracted to them will find ways to show it. The eye contact will be mutual, they’ll lean inwards during conversations, and will more than likely find themselves fidgeting with whatever they can get their hands on in our presence. None of these things involve sex, but they sure are sexy. When was the last time… never mind.
Another part of doing better is being as conscious as possible. Okay, so all know how it feels to immediately break out into a sweat when we see something we like. The fault is not in finding someone attractive, but in thinking about a him in terms of his sex. The goal is to be conscious enough to respect his person-hood before fantasizing about his manhood. It means respecting his bodily autonomy and feelings by not staring at him, catcalling, and certainly not following his ass around with the creep cam Samsung installed on your Galaxy X.
The impacts of being sexually objectified aren’t just reserved for women, as we’re likely to experience similar emotions. Those among us who can attest to being objectified know exactly what it feels like. Its the discomfort we endure when someone stares too hard or makes a comment that makes us feel like a thing and not a person. While there are those on Twitter who thrive off of being objectified, those who don’t will often start to confuse their value with their sexuality. And what’s worse is that it makes it harder for those who either have been, or are used to being sexually objectified to interact with people. Yeah, as silly as it sounds, there are people who are afraid to interact with others because they don’t want to be objectified. Issa thing, for real.
All of this might seem contradictory as we celebrate our second annual Hot Sex issue, but with great hormones come great responsibility. Such, we’d like to close with a few suggestions on how to not objectify that new coworker with the super tight khakis. The first step is to try not to focus on whats in the khakis, no matter how form fitting they may be. Remember earlier when we said we’ve got to work on being more conscious? Well this is exactly what we mean. Focus on his eyes, but not too hard. Of course we’re going to notice things, but the goal is to act like we don’t.
This leads us directly to our second suggestion, which is to check our entitlement at the door. Regardless of whether or not we want to admit it, we ogle people because we feel entitled to do so. We believe its harmless and, at the very least, consider it as a complement. No matter how feminist it may sound, our sexual desires do not supersede the humanity of the person we’re objectifying. And lastly, we’ve got to remember that there’s a thin line between admiring someone’s body and objectifying it. We, as men, are extremely sensitive to visual cues, so we can’t expect, or be expected to not notice our initial attraction to someone. However, this does not give us a free pass to act in the same way manner that some sex crazed heterosexual men act towards women. We’re better than that.
The expectation isn’t that we should feign blindness, but that we, as gentlemen, remain respectful at all times. We’re going to step in front of the bullet of saying that our sexual desires and attractions are completely normal. There’s no way of ignoring it, but there are plenty of ways to monitor our behavior to censor it. Consciously monitoring our eyes and minds, the things we say and do, and exercising discernment goes a long way in the fight of not objectifying the men around us.
Although we normally find women at the center of conversations such as these, its important to note that we’re also subjected to being sexually objectified. Not on the same levels, of course, but you all know what we mean. The objectification not only comes from our heterosexual counterparts, but from within our own community as well. The belief is that because we are men, we’re inclined to be sexual creatures. Despite the things we may see on Twitter, this isn’t the truth for the majority of us.
There are plenty of who will claim that we, as men, don’t know what its like to be sexually objectified, and will quickly say “BuT WoMEn….!” However, our platform was not constructed for women— it was built to discuss issues as they affect same gender loving men of color.