Note from BW of Brazil: Reading today’s post brought to mind a conversation I had with a friend, also a black man, several years ago. In that conversation, I mentioned how, in society, the humanity of black men has been stripped away on the whole, with the only thing remaining being his masculinity and physical prowess including the centuries old idea that black men are more well endowed than men of other races. I asked this friend, if it were possible to grant black men full humanity in the eyes of society by erasing all stereotypes associated with us, would he accept a trade.
What’s the trade?
Well, imagine…When any black man is in any environment, no one suddenly feels threatened by his presence as a supposed criminal. No one assumes he’s a great athlete, no one assumes he’s a great dancer and no one automatically assumes that he likes Hip Hop. Along with the relinquishing of all of these stereotypes, we would also part with the idea that all black men are physically endowed similar to black male performers in porn films. Yes, I asked him that if it were possible that society treated him as a full human being with the only trade off being the extinguishing of the image of the pau negro gigante (big, black dick), would he be willing to do it. He responded, “But that’s all we got.”
His response spoke volumes to the demonized manner in which black men are trapped in the minds of society at large. In some ways, his response was actually true. Be honest. When most people think of intelligent men, what race of men comes to mind? What about rich men? What about powerful men? What about CEOs? Imagine you were told that the director of a top advertising agency wanted to meet with you about a possible collaboration, what race do imagine this man would be?
The whole point here is that it would not be possible for black men to be accepted as full human beings without parting with many of stereotypes and imagery that come with being black men, be they stereotypes we tire of defending ourselves against of or even those that actually work to our benefit in some areas of life.
Hypersexualization of the black male body
By Caio Cesar dos Santos
My sister questioned me these days about the fact that she had written about the hiperssexualização do homem negro (hypersexualization of the black man) and days later posting a photo in speedos on social networks. I found the questioning interesting because it seems like a confusion in people’s minds.
Exercising sexuality is a right for all of us, regardless of color, gender or sexual orientation. When I talk about hyper-sexualization of black men, I don’t mean that you are forbidden to find the body of that man beautiful, attractive, etc., this is normal and is part of human relations. The desire, the interest, all this is really normal. Hyper-sexualizing a black man is to take away from him the condition of man. It is to see him only as a body, a fetish, ready to be used and abused by his sexual desires. It is to characterize him sexually as wild, virile and violent. It is speculating about the size of his sexual organ without ever having seen him naked.
In the article “Qual é a identidade do homem negro?” (What is the identity of the black man?), written by Osmundo Pinho, he affirms that the masculine black body is fundamentally seen as a body-to-work and sexed body, fragmented in skin, corporal marks of race, muscles and sex, genitalized like the penis, plus symbol of sexuality, which serves as a fetish to the white gaze.
I remember when I was 16 a friend of mine, in a conversation, said that I “had a face of someone that had good sex”. And judging by opinions she’d given about herself at other times, that kind of sex, was a violent sex. The point is that this friend of mine had never even kissed me or heard of other relationships I had with other women. She simply deduced. Because of my physical size, my color. It was as if she fit me into a stereotype of black men in porn films.
All of this is problematic when I go back to the first paragraph and question my sister. If I were a white man, I wouldn’t even need to be writing about the hyper-sexualization of my body. That photo would just be a photo. The whole issue is quite simple. White men exercise their sexuality with all their rights without it categorizing them emotionally, intellectually and/or sexually.
A shirtless photo, in speedos, whatever it was, should not be meticulous. It’s as if, in order not to be hyper-sexual, I could not exercise my sexuality, couldn’t love my body, show myself. It is as if, in doing so, I would diminish myself as a thinking being, as a black intellectual, as an emotional human being.
Hyper-sexualization is a problem of whoever does it, not who shows himself. The role of the black man in the debate is to understand that he does not need to fit into the stereotypes created by society, that he can go beyond the sexual question and affirm his sexuality in the way he thinks best and most convenient.
And the function of everyone else is to see us not only as sexed bodies, but as whole men.