The Politics of Sex, The Principle of Pleasure
by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan (in Exile)
In a society that routinely demonizes women, particularly women of color, because of sexuality, that rationalizes sexual violence through tropes and narratives of hyper sexuality, that sanctions and ignores sexual harassment, and that polices the clothing, the bodies, and sexualities of women, any discussion of sexuality is immensely political. In a country defined by a history of sexual violence, one where white masters routinely raped African American women and justified their violence with references to black female sexuality, the politics of pleasure are never simply a frivolous exercise.
We live in a society where men and women get messages about whose pleasure matters, who has ownership over another’s body, where women, particularly women of color, are reduced to some of one’s parts; the questions around sexuality and pleasure are immensely political.
How else do we explain the pornographic standard of male orgasms? How else do we explain popular culture emphasis on male-gaze, one that places women as objects to be consumed along a pathway to pleasure? How else do we explain what Heidi R. Lewis’ highlights in her brilliant article (“Li’l Wayne and the New Politics of Cunnilingus in Hip Hop”), where she documents the relationship between hip-hop and cunnilingus (which led to countless conversations). How else might we explain the narratives about giving a woman oral pleasures (“cranial maneuvers”) as “gross,” “dirty” “nasty” and otherwise “unnormal”?
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