Developing a Healthy Sexual Ethic

It’s no secret in my friend circles that I was the last one to start having sex of any kind. I squandered my would be heaux years because of raggedy ass purity culture, never exploring myself as a sexual person, ashamed of any and all desire to know another person beyond a kiss or nipple play (which I was already going to hell for lol), developing performance anxiety about sex I wasn’t even having (*boxes self in the throat*), and foolishly thinking myself better than all of the other women (barely) getting their orgasms.

Luckily for me, my delay has not been my denial lol. I used my early 30’s to create a metric beyond “married=good/unmarried=bad” when it came to navigating how I functioned as a sexual person. I developed my sexual ethic through conversations with friends, prayer, intuitive knowing, and in consultation with life experiences because a truth I know for myself is that I need an ethic about my #poontivities regardless of if I’m practicing celibacy, #schoonchin here and there and everywhere, or if I’m in a relationship (thanks for the fun language Danyelle.#UnfitChristian).

For now, Ms. Kitty and I have settled on the follow ethic for #poontivities.

Keep it consensual. Consent is baseline, like basement/bottom floor. All parties must be in agreement that we agree to engage in some touching and other grown folks things *and* that that agreement (i.e., consent) can be withdrawn at any time for any reason. No one owes anyone their body or their touch.

Keep things as safe as desired or needed. Take whatever precautions all parties need or desire in order to be as close to safe as possible given the inherent vulnerability of #poontivities and protected against undesired pregnancy and diagnosis.

Body & sex positive. I’m a fat-bodied, Black woman with a hard fought and healthy sense of self. I had to learn to love myself and value myself as a fat-bodied Black woman in a society that values me for little to nothing at all. Affirmation is a practice that applies in all areas of my life, including this bawdy and the life and times of Ms. Kitty. That I would consider sharing my body and the pleasures thereof with someone is an honor for them. Therefore, this body is only shared with people who can honor, affirm, take joy in, and appreciate her. If you can’t appreciate this boom boom ka-pow, then you can’t have access to this boom boom ka-pow. Church, say amen.

Pleasurable. Sexual intimacy can be a lot of things, and what it should be, for me (and all parties), is pleasurable. Said another way, all parties should experience pleasure, including me. I have zero incentive to share my body with anyone who does not provide me pleasure. Pleasure can include orgasms, joy, excitement, agreed upon pain, and whatever else brings my partner(s) and I consensual, safe(r) pleasure. Please, and thank you.

Do as little to no harm as possible. Off top, I am not my best self when I don’t understand what’s happening or if I feel (intuitively) that I’ve been wronged. Because of that knowledge, I strive to be emotionally intelligent and honest in my dealings with folks when it comes to sharing bodies and experiences and ask for reciprocity on that front. (e.g., If I know that someone is feeling me [connection] but all I want is a good time [carnality], then I have need to reconsider #poontivities with them). Miscommunication(s) happen, and in those instances, the goal is for harms to be acknowledged and reconciled, if possible. I appreciate a good time, but I appreciate a good ethic even more.

Honor relationship agreement(s). This one is connected to not causing harm, but needed its own artiuclation. Regardless of relationship type (poly, monogamous, open, etc.), engagements should respect the agreed upon boundaries and process my parter(s) and I have relating to intimacy (i.e., who and how we can engage people beyond our relationship; e.g., We monogamous? It’s just us. We poly? We us and some more). If I’m single and living my best life, this means that I shouldn’t knowingly engaging folks who have partners who believe that their partners are practicing monogamy. In trying to do no harm, I shouldn’t be complicit in another person’s potential heartache.

Reconcile it with faith/spiritual/religious belief and practice Align your practice with your beliefs and traditions. I’m a christian who rejects any inherent shame, guilt, or sinfulness of sexuality and sex because I sincerely believe that God is concerned with how we engage folks in our sexual practice(s). I wholeheartedly believe that God cares about if we are we honest, caring, and doing as little harm to no harm as possible in our sexual intimacies with folks.

As we all (continue to) work through our own ethics around #poontivities, remember that our journeys are our own and that (optimally) we have people who support us as we craft and refine our ethical commitments. I, like Sway, don’t have all the answers, but I share what I’ve grown to know for myself in an attempt to help folks think through how we’re engaging ourselves and other folks in #poontivities.

To fun, to play, to connection, to self love, to affirming touch, to touch that turns us on, to touch that turns us out, to being worn all the way out, to being re-energized, to moments that feel like magic, to learning more about our likes and loves, to tension released, to feeling like a brand new person, to knowing another and ourself more deeply, to moments of ecstasy, to doing it without the fear of danger or harm, to doing it how we like it… to a sexual ethic that causes little to no harm and yields affirmation and pleasure.

On #NappilyEverAfter and embracing #NaturalHair: A Review-ish & Personal Reflection

My hometown’s public school system committed to having 3rd and 4th-grade students learn how to swim. I’m an ‘80s baby and the ‘90s raised me, so “protective styling” options and swimwear accessories during the school year were very limited. I’ve never chemically treated my hair, so water and I had a unique relationship. So unique that I never let the shower water directly touch my face. I cupped the water with my hands and washed my face to avoid the fate of possible first- and second- degree burns induced by my mom using the hot comb.

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So, when swimming lessons came in 3rd grade, I was unprepared for a few reasons. I reported to the pool with a stocking cap and shower cap and thankfully, one of the Black teachers intervened, as she knew the tragedy that was about to happen. She then braided my hair in the pool locker room. I am grateful to her.

Growing up with natural hair has come with its shares of pride and struggle, so when I saw that “Nappily Ever After” (NEP) was premiering this past Friday, I had to see what it was all about. Because, you know – representation matters. And I’m also a fan of Sanaa Lathan. I enjoyed watching the movie so I wanted to share some quick thoughts with you all. If you have not seen the movie, stop here because *spoilers ahead*.

NEP tells the story of Violet Jones, a thirty-something who has a built a reputable marketing career advertising mainstream beauty standards. Violet has been dating Clint for two years and presumes that he will be proposing to her at her birthday party. To Violet’s dismay, her elegant engagement ring is presented as a cute Chihuahua, named Lola. When Violet confronts Clint, he shares that their two years has felt like “two years of first dates” and expresses that he doesn’t know much about her, nevermind marrying her. If Clint honestly felt that way, I’d like to know how he felt confident getting her such a large commitment, like a dog, for a birthday gift, but I digress.

I appreciated that that NEP scratched the surface of the complexity of beauty being tied to hair through the lens of a brown-skinned Black woman — and one with at least 4A hair at that. Society has conditioned us to believe that natural hair is beautiful if it is long, perfectly curly when wet, and styled effortlessly. And we typically see these women presented in the media, leaving a host of other beautiful queens out of the picture. Natural hair is also kinky and coily, can betray you with shrinkage when wet, and take multiple attempts to achieve a perfect style. This shouldn’t make these types of hair desirable or publicly represented. We are overdue for more women that show the full and beautiful spectrum of natural tresses on the big screen.

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Prior to Violet shaving her hair off, she believed that hair held her attractiveness. And thankfully, she learned that her confidence made her attractiveness despite whatever style she chose to wear on her head. Violet and her mom have forged a strong relationship over hair care. Violet depended on her mother to press her hair and in turn, her mother imposed her rigid standards of beauty, which Violet later projects onto Zoe. Violet followed “all of the rules,” but was disappointed that this formula didn’t equal a marriage proposal. I found it freeing that when Violet shaved her head, she also cut her mother’s expectations. I was happy that she was able to meet Will, a Black man who validated her appearance and was able to make natural hair products that benefitted her. I appreciated the exploration of a heterosexual Black man with an “unusual” profession, such as a hairdresser. I hope that this creates more conversations about gender roles in the Black community. Often, we talk about Black women assuming the roles of “a man,” but there is little analysis of Black men assuming the roles of “a woman.” There seems to be many assumptions about Will’s class and sexuality. But, we also see a single-parent business owner who wants to make a woman happy. However, I’m still processing that sensual head massage in the park…

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I liked that the film shed light on people making career changes later on in life. Richard Jones, played by Ernie Hudson, took a chance on a dream of and pursued being a male model. I found it hilarious that he was featured in a boxer brief advertisement which generated a lot of attention. Although Richard wasn’t initially supported by his wife, we’re reminded it’s never too late to go after you want. After all, you’ll never know until you try and someone may very well be impressed by your “junk.” ; ) *bah duhn tisk*

I like the diversity in the Black male characters presented in the movie, even though I didn’t agree with some of the perspectives presented. George Wallace played a small role as a rideshare driver and meets Violet after her bloody honey fiasco with the guy she meets in the club. Violet shares that Clint hurt her feelings and Wallace essentially shared with her that she shouldn’t have an issue if she wasn’t cheated on or (physically) abused. This scene irked me but showed an existing perspective. Women are seen as sacrificial beings. Society and sometimes family will tell us we have to get a man, “keep a man,” and raise our family while our dreams, mental health, and happiness be damned. We are supposed to always put our full selves out for everyone else and be satisfied with the empty glass left behind. A woman’s role on this earth is not merely to exist and be perfect while doing so. I appreciated that Clint was able to boomerang back to Violet with a ring, only for her to realize that it was a ring from a man she didn’t want.

I believe sometimes our shoes begin to hurt to help us realize that we’re walking in the wrong direction.

Overall, I enjoyed watching the movie. I found joy in its opening and closing with a pool scene. There is a lot of contention around Black people and swimming in general, beginning with slavery, stifled with segregation, and topped with Black swimming parties not actually being “swimming” parties. I liked that it didn’t end with a marriage proposal disrupting the idea that “Happily Ever After” has to begin with a wedding. It does start, however, when you realize you are living your life and controlling your temple on your terms and yours alone. I believe that there is more to Violet’s story before or if she chooses to walk down the aisle. I wish it was the first of a miniseries because I’d like to see her journey explored further.

I also wish her mama would have celebrated Juneteenth over the 4th of July, but that’s just me.

-Tia M. Howard


What are your thoughts on Nappily Ever After? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think!

For colored girls who live for snap filters and a little bit of cleavage

So let’s talk about this feature image…

I participated in this personal project called Scars of our OWN by Sarah, owner and photographer of OWN Boudoir.  It is a project where participants are exploring there external and internal scars. These photos were done in March and I had been going back and forth about whether I should share them or not. But I returned to the poem below (which I wrote back in January) and knew this was the perfect piece to share with this image. So first shoutout to Sarah for making this experience so amazing. What are my Scars? A part of them is dealing with my body image. I have many assumptions about what my body says about me and how I operate in the world. Some of them are valid and others are things I need to work through. More about my experience with Sarah will be shared on her website so stay tuned there, but in the meantime, enjoy this piece.

For colored girls who live for snap filters and a little bit of cleavage

This poem is for you.

For you women whose thighs rub together and have jeans that are proof of the friction.

This poem is for you who have love handles that need to be appreciated daily.

For you still learning to appreciate those handles.

This poem is for all the BS you put up with

The frustrations , the questions, the triumphs

This poem is here to lay it all out.

This poem doesn’t have answers

But it has truth, and to be honest, I like to sit in the truth.

I like to sit in the uneasiness and vulnerability and boldness of it.

So this is for colored girls trying to lose weight to reach their full bad bitch potential

Who have reached the point where their motivation is to stunt on these niggas

Just to prove a point

For colored girls who wear sizes 16 and up and still want to be sexy in what they wear.

Thank Black Jesus that Lane Bryant and Target have answered our prayers

And that there are online boutiques like Monif C and Elloquii, but some days how our bank accounts are setup, we stay in our prayer closets for better deals and stretch pants

For colored girls who are good enough for late night rendezvous, but not good enough to take home

Cuz in reality our big bodies don’t get real love

They get half assed intimacy in our inboxes after midnight

In reality our big bodies don’t get fawned over, they get overlooked

And it’s a daily battle to tell ourselves you are beautiful

You are worthy so fuck these niggas and their superficial standards

For colored girls who manipulate the shapes of our bodies with Spanx and tights to smooth out rolls and have scars where the material rolled up or stayed on too long

But this dress has to have the Spanx so we deal

For colored girls who aren’t considered “thick” because we don’t have an ass

We have stomachs and thighs with stretch marks

So we are looking for the word that describes our shape and it’s a word or words that we are proud of

For colored girls whose breast cups extend into threes and into the alphabet past Ds into Fs Gs and Hs

And even then we still want to buck the system and not wear a bra

And trust me, these triple D’s don’t always have a bra holding them hostage

They need to be free

To be free colored girl… I sometimes get there

Like that one summer I put on a two piece bathing suit without a wrap to cover up my thighs and let my stomach out.

I snapped photos of myself in the sand and in the water

And felt free

Cuz there is something about cleansing and freedom in water

I felt invincible and beautiful and loved all by myself

I shash shayed past thinner women with bigger confidence

I sent photos to friends and potential baes

To be free colored girl, I sometimes get there

When I take nudes of myself once I get out the shower

There may or may not be a collection in a private app on my phone

There may or may not be folks who receive them in their inboxes

On those days, Instead of shaming my body and trying to hide it

I spend time admiring it

And yet sometimes I am uncomfortable in my nudity

I suck in and twist to paint a better picture, a better image

To be free colored girl it can be uncomfortable

But this is for colored girls who, despite being uncomfortable,

Smile anyway

Rock that dress with the right fit for our curves

Shoot those shots in DMs

And take those selfies with good filters

with of course a little bit of cleavage

BCB 1/16/18

No One Owes You a Flat Stomach

I was in a group on a social media site where a member posted a photo of women in a group photo. The women had clearly taken time to get dressed up for the picture and the joys of sisterhood had them glowing in the photo. A couple of Petty Betty group members wanted the rest of us to know that most of the women looked good but that the big(ger) woman in the photo  “needed a girdle” because “no one wants to see all of that”. I responded that no one owed anyone a flat stomach. My response was met with the regular schmegular “people should take pride in how they look” spill. Again, don’t nobody owe you no flat stomach *shrug*. No one owes you a girdle. No one owes you the discomfort of restrictive shape-wear that makes their body shrink. This is not a judgement of folks who partake in shape wear. This is to say that no one is owed another person’s decision to wear shape wear.

society questionWithin a society that privileges thinness (the accepted standard for body beauty of women and femme folx) and prizes proximity to thinness, talking sh*t about fat(ter) bodied people is a normalized practice.  It’s a regular habit to tell fat(ter) bodied people what they “should do” with their bodies. We, fat(ter) folks, are told to shrink ourselves and that we’re taking up too much space. Let’s not even start on weight loss/diet culture’s rampant ever presence and portrayal of fat(ter) bodies as deficient of confidence, attractiveness, joy, movement, or beauty. Health trolling is part of the culture as well. Health trolls (poorly) disguise their disgust and disapproval of fat(ter) bodies in feigned concern about fat[ter] bodied people’s health and wellness when all fat(ter) bodied folks want to do is post a selfie on the gram. For my own mental health, I don’t engage folks whose overt or covert purpose is to shame members of #TeamMcThickems. I’m Joseline Hernandez to the foolery: “I cannot.”

Fat Women- Things to doReal talk, I used to be a respectable fat. I was a fat who let everyone know that I wasn’t like the “other”, “bad” fats. I was a “good”, respectable fat who ate right, worked out, and had my fat in all the “right” places (hips, breast, thighs, butt; by shape wear and genetic body composition). I had to unlearn/am unlearning all of that mess. I had to ask myself how I won/benefited/profited from the shaming of bodies in general and fat(ter) bodies specifically. The answer was that to shame fat(ter) bodies brought shame on my own body and required me to remain bound to a set of ideas that brought no liberation. What good does shaming a body do? N-O-N-E. As I continue (present tense) to unlearn unhealthy, shame laden ideas, I now know that nutrition and fitness are for me and not currency that I leverage to shame other fats or to prove my worth in a thin-centric culture. I recognize the freedom that each person and body has to exist, be comfortable, have fun, and be free of shame.

 

zip a the lip aSeriously, no one owes you a flat stomach. No one owes you the absence of back rolls. No one owes you a long sleeved top and pants in the heat so that you don’t have to see their body. Period. Point blank. Full stop. I didn’t come to take up all yall’s good time, but yeah, don’t nobody owe you no flat stomach. The next time you fix your lips to tell a fat(ter) bodied person (or anyone, really) what to wear, remember the lesson from Wedding Crashers: “You shut your mouth when you’re talking to me.”

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If you’d like to read more critical discussions about weight/size, visit the body is not an apology website. As for me and my house, just know that yall gone catch this thigh meat and exposed back all #Summer2018

On being a “Fat, Black, B*tch” & Learning To Love Myself

For the last three years (2014, 2015, & 2016), I’ve won best presentation in the State of Georgia at the Georgia College Personnel Association annual conference (with various co-presenters).

In 2015, the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) College Student Educators International’s Standing Committee for Women named me Outstanding Emerging Professional.

In 2016, the Georgia College Personnel Association named me Outstanding Graduate Student (Doctoral).

In 2017, Cite A Sista co-founder Joan & I were awarded the Innovative Response Award for Social Justice by the ACPA Commission for Social Justice Educators for creating this very movement.

I travel a lot. I’m published. I’m the youngest person in my doc program (for now) and I’m respected by tons of people I idolize (Hey Drs. Darris Means, Dafina-Lazarus Stewart, Stephen Quaye, Z Nicolazzo, Chris Linder, and many others!).

My name is Brittany Williams and beyond these accolades, I’m a Sister; Daughter; Cousin; Mentor; Friend; Mentee; Socialite Wannabe; Wing Woman Extraordinaire; Grammar Rule Breaker; Word Creator; Aspiring Raging Feminist B*tch; Fashion Connoisseur; Makeup Enthusiast…

And Every. Single. Day. I struggle not to hate myself because of my body.

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On a run in Dubai, U.A.E.

For the last three years, I’ve battled multiple injuries that have made my love for fitness and working out a struggle. Because I shredded multiple tendons in both ankles, I’m not only unable to run half marathons like I used to, but I’m unable to manage my weight and body size as much as I’d like.

On an academic level, I know that my body and how I look does not negate the wonderful things I do at school and work. I also know that being bigger does not make me any less worthy of love and affection. But every day for the last few months has gotten harder and harder to leave home to do the things I do feel good at because of how I struggle with the way I look. I also struggle to stop making excuses for the way I look (see: previous paragraph for an example).

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This is my favorite meme ever. I’m never not (yes, a double neg) going to use it. What a cutie?

There are many days I find myself battling inner perceptions that I’m worthless. For a lot of people who know me, such a thing can be shocking. I was called pretentious last year because the truth is, I’m undeniably intelligent and especially so about certain subjects and I’m not afraid of letting people know this. Some would call this cocky but I call it confidence because when it’s true… Well. *sips tea* But somewhere along the way, I’ve come to internalize the idea that things I bring to society are 1) all I’m worth and 2) never good enough because they come from a woman who weighs 218 pounds. Oh hey capitalism, I see you boo. 

I know these feelings and emotions to be steeped in a culture of fatphobia.

I know that what is considered fat culturally for us as Black women looks different but often does not make room for the rolls of fat and saggy skin I’ve accumulated due to my constant flip flopping weight. I also know that my constant obsessing over what I’m going to wear to avoid becoming the next negative internet meme stems from a culture of fat shaming in the name of jokes and internet fame.

I haven’t quite figured out the recipe for undoing this internalized hatred of myself yet and that’s hard to admit. I’m good and pretty much everything I touch…. Except this. Except learning to accept the changes my body is going through and building a better relationship with food to help aid in my overall health goals rather than working towards a specific body image. I also haven’t figured out how to stop eye-rolling size 4 women who call themselves fat when on a very real level I know they’re trying to unpack the same BS I am at size 14/16. Beyond all of this, I’m still grappling to identify what this means for how I look at and connect with other fat bodied people.

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Outside the U.S. feeling #unbothered about my body for the first time in a while.

Being my size is interesting because I’m not technically obese and I’m not “skinny” or “fit” neither. Few “fat” women (fat in an empowering sense) make room for me and even fewer “skinny” women make me feel included because I’m somewhere in-between for a lot of folks in our culture. Because of my height and body shape, I also end up hearing something entirely else: “you’re not fat but your a$s is,” or “you’re just curvy,” and even “you just have childbearing hips.”  Yes, I have an hour glass shape that seems to be in style right now (behind coke bottles anyway)… But you don’t know shrinking yourself and feeling overweight until you’ve paid for a Delta comfort seat only to realize you’re on a plane that’s smaller than normal so your curvy hips keep pushing up the arm rest and the skinny white guy next to you stares at you in disgust before you see him typing on his phone as the plane takes off–

*something something* fat, Black, b*tch.

That ish hurts. Honestly. Truly.

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That time I finally went out in Athens, GA because I felt attractive enough to do so…

As I go through the motions with my body and try to come to love her for all the cool things she can do rather than how she looks doing them (Yes, I’m anthropomorphizing my body which is funny because it’s already human?); I realize how lucky I am to be in this body because it’s mine. I’m also lucky enough to be surrounded by beautiful curvy women who embrace and love their bodies for how they are and recognize that we’re gonna’ get this workout in and love who we are now as much as we love the ideas of what our bodies can become. To be in the presence of friends who speak lovingly of their fat rolls and whose partners compliment every Black woman he sees simply because he’s learning just how screwed up all of this really is (Hi, Zerotti :-p).

But I know this journey is going to be much more than the people I surround myself with (although it’s half the battle). So I’m going to therapy. I’m spending time with people who make me feel empowered and beautiful just the way I am (Hi, King Julien). I’m also seeing a nutritionist to help me think about building a better relationship with food. I’m also gonna eat the friggen’ Publix cake because anyone who tells me not to can see #TheseAcademicHands I love it and without making excuses. I know that weightloss is not as simple as just working out—I do that and I love the gym. I also know it’s more than micromanaging my food intake with Myfitnesspal. But I’m here today as someone many people perceive to be a bold, confident, strong Black woman to admit that changing my mind is going to be a lot harder than changing my body and they’re both super difficult. Not only do I have a LOT of unlearning to do, but even more relearning than I once thought imaginable.

If you take nothing from my story I hope you take this: You are enough. You’re not alone. Yes, thinking that is normal. No, that fat roll isn’t the end of the world on the beach. And yes, it’s hard to (un)learn to see your body differently, but you can do this.