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I have been a symbol of sex my entire life. As a black woman from a poor, single-parent household, I know the script that is written for me far too well. Black women are always more appealing as strippers or “hoes.” Before I even hit puberty, this script was shoved in my face and I was forced to memorize it.

When I was 11, I lived in a predominantly underprivileged, black neighborhood in Houston, Texas. Everyone knew each other. My mom worked nights at the local hospital, so often I was home alone with my brother, sister and an older cousin. My mom thought the high fences that surrounded our complex kept us safe from what was on the outside. Little did she know, what was on the inside tormented me daily.

Occasionally, I would make trips to the grocery across the street. On one particular evening, a group of older men — probably in their 30s and 40s — were standing near my house. A screwed/chopped version of The Hot Boys’ “I Need A Hot Girl” was blasting from a minivan parked up near the curb. As I approached, they waved. I could name every individual in the group.

“Hey girl, come on over here,” one of them called out to me over the music. He was a dark, tall man with huge brown eyes. I walked over quietly.

“I always see you going to school,” he said.

I nodded, but remained quiet.

“You like school a lot, huh?” he asked.

I nodded again.

“I could school you,” he said with a smirk. “There’s a thing or two I bet you don’t know yet.”

The crowd of men erupted in chuckles. I gave a weak smile and turned to walk away.

“You know where to find me if you change your mind,” he yelled behind me as I sped home.

Tears welled up in my eyes, not only because I didn’t understand the joke, but because I couldn’t understand why they were all laughing at me. On my way back home, I ran into my neighbor, a 17-year-old brother of one of the men who had just laughed in my face.

“Don’t pay them any attention, my brother and his friends are just stupid,” he assured me.

I didn’t say anything, but looked up at him with an appreciative smile.

“I got some new, cool movies,” he said. “You should come by tomorrow and we’ll watch one.”

I accepted his invitation. The next day I showed up to his house, three doors down from my mine. The bass from his music was making the front porch rattle.

“It’s open,” he yelled from inside.

I opened the door to find him sitting, completely naked, with his penis in hand watching pornography on mute, with Juvenile’s “Back That AZZ” pounding out of the speakers. He gestured for me to come closer. I closed the door and shamefully walked back home. I saw him, not too long after, by our neighborhood pool. We both avoided eye contact.

My best friend and next door neighbor, a white girl whose mother was a drunk and father permanently absent, was only 13 years old — two years older than me — when she became known as the neighborhood “super head.” I remained naive about her reputation, until she begged me to come over to the house of another boy who lived in the neighborhood. We were all sitting in his living room alone (his mother worked two jobs and was never home) when he pulled down his pants and she got onto her knees in front of me.

“You should try it,” she urged me.

I couldn’t find it in myself to. I went home and we never spoke again.

By the time I was 13, I was completely desensitized  to the onscreen bouncing asses on BET Uncut. The women were only distinguishable by the color of their G-strings and the amount of dollar bills stuffed into them. I was numb to the men who measured their manhood by the number of women in their front pocket.

When a message came down the wire that the neighborhood drug dealer was shot and killed in front of his four-year-old child, part of me was glad because he had been making sexual comments to me for months every afternoon on my way home from the bus stop.

“I bet you got a fat pussy,” he cooed while riding behind me on his bike. I could barely understand his words through his gold-plated grill.

For months, I smiled at the thought of his death, even knowing that a little boy would grow up with no father. I figured the kid was better off that way.

That smile signified the loss of my humanity. I wore it throughout my life. I plastered it on when I started having sex and the men who sought to please me only knew how to stroke their own egos.

“I really just want to make you cum,” was always the supposed objective, yet none of them cared to listen when I tried to explain that a penis was not necessary for that.

I smiled through the “make that ass clap” through the “slow motion for me” and the “how many drinks will it take you to be with me?” through the “get out your seat hoe” and the “hoes,” “bitches,” “mollies,” and “pussies.”

I understand the circumstance of my childhood. My mother was a single parent who was rarely at home. We were poor and black. This is a fact. And no, I can’t say that  solely blame the Rihannas, Lil Waynes and Rick Rosses for the perpetuation of the myth that black women are merely sexual play things to be bought by the highest bidder. But I can blame a supposedly powerful society for not comforting its poor, fatherless, colored girls. For constantly diminishing our value. For having us believe that the only thing of worth lays on top of us or between our legs.

This is an indictment of the many who reap the benefits of the dehumanization of millions of black women. And I am no longer smiling.


The Frisky

This post originally appeared on The Frisky. Republished with permission.

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  • Joyous

    So glad someone brought up what Malcolm X said in the 60’s. That was part of the speech called “Who Taught You To Hate Yourself”, May 5, 1962 in Los Angeles. Powerful.

  • ETC

    This is such a powerful story and discussion that we are all having here. I immigrated to the U.S. with my parents at a young age. We started out living in a poor, black neighborhood. I have had similar experiences of sexual assault that are being described here. I also think that the sexual assault behavior seen in black communities are very unique. As soon as I moved to a very diverse neighborhood, the street harassment and degradation of my black womanhood decreased significantly. I have read quite a bit of literature regarding black feminism and was able to obtain a very interesting explanation for this behavior. A theory that I truly believe in is the fact that black men(in general) are very frustrated with their lot in life in the U.S. They in fact hold a lot of hatred and contempt for themselves, but in order not to acknowledge that, they project misogyny towards black women and girls. Basically, they take out all of their anger at being marginalized by overall society on black girls and women. Harassing makes them feel like “men”. I would say this extends not only to the no good men on street corners, but to the way black men interact with black women in general. The way they attempt to approach, date and mate is done in a very bizarre fashion when compared to black men in Africa and Latin America, as well as non-black men all over the world. I have been saying this for a long time: black men and women who are descendants of slavery and oppression need to collectively have therapy to repair all of the wounds of the past and present.

  • GetRealBW

    @Apple Pie

    You said:
    “Men of other communities are forced to step up and be a man because they know that heir women will not mess with them until they have their stuff together.”

    I question how often you have even been around other races to have any idea of what you’re talking about at this point. Nobody requires non-Black boys to step up and “be a man” beyond his immediate family and…wait for it…HIMSELF. There is no secret agreement within the non-Black female collective that they won’t mess with a man unless he has his stuff together. Non-Black men aspire to be more for THEMSELVES, and driving that home their communities don’t give them the women of their race to blame if they don’t. If men fail its because they failed, not because some women didn’t come along and force them to be something. Da hell? Think about this, the Latino community also has a high oow birthrate yet those kids have less of a chance of growing up in a single parent household because Latino men actually marry their women and feel obligated to take care of their seed! And there is an entire community behind him, female AND male, who reinforce that at every turn. That is all there is to it, men’s actions are not predicated on women’s. Everybody is an independent person and is held accountable for themselves and their actions. That’s called instilling personal responsibility.

    The very idea that Black women are supposed to award Black men with treats (ie sex) in order for them to behave like decent human beings who can even take care of their own flesh and blood should be insulting to Black men. But you know what, I think many Black men are incredibly happy that women like you talk this stuff that puts everything on women because it makes their life incredibly easy. They never have to aspire on their own, consider morality beyond what they can get away with, or be responsible for any of their actions as long as they can point to the idea that someone (BW) ‘allowed’ them to act that way. Furthermore it always gives them a go to blame for their failures–the BW.

    I mean really. Picture white women en masse blaming themselves for white men not taking care of the children they chose to create with them. Get real honey!

    • Chelley5483

      Damn right GetRealBw..

      I give my daughter three marshmallows from the lucky charms box every time she uses the potty, wipes and washes her hands properly. She is three years old and simple rewards like that are appropriate for her age group. It’s a fun game we have.

      There is no way I’m treating a grown ass man with a developed adult brain, capable of making decisions and maturely handling the responsibilities that comes with those decisions, like a three year old. If he’s a good boy, he gets lucky charms, not a good boy, refrain from dispensing lucky charms? Otherwise this boy’s pissing on any and everything? Get the whole hell out of here..

  • joe

    The reason some commenters have talked about predatory behavior in non-black men is because quite a few women on this board have stated that this type of behavior is unique to black men. That is simply untrue. This year alone, millions of women in India took to the streets to protest widespread rape and street harassment after a young woman was gangraped on a bus. Japan was forced to create women-only subway cars to protect schoolgirls from the sexual assaults of Japanese businessmen. Egypt, Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries have also created women-only public transit because of rampant sexual assault. In 2008, Mexico started women-only buses to combat rampant groping. These facts may not be convenient for those who want to spread the propaganda that only black men engage in this type of behavior. But how can a problem be solved without acknowledging its scope?

    • Kaeli

      I get your point however I think when it comes to black women, black men are the problem. Just like for Indian women, Indian men are the problem. We can’t do it all so to fix the immediate problem for black women it means moving away from places where large groups of black men are (if you can). I don’t think anyone is saying that other groups of women don’t experience the same thing but I think the point everyone is trying to make is that talking about Indian women won’t help black women here.

    • Annoyed

      You just don’t want to be held responsible for what black men do. US black women should join hands with Indian women and do what? And will that make Pookie on the corner keep his mouth shut when a black woman walks by? An African woman in an earlier comment spoke eloquently about how black male behavior in the US is exceptional and you have chosen to ignore her. Black men who come to this site would do well to do some listening. If you haven’t noticed, these young black ladies here are not putting up with having men define tleir experience for them. And by the way, why do you assume women from other countries want to join with anyone else? All politics are local my friend.

    • Chris

      i agree. the whole world has been desensitized with “sex” propaganda. it’s a monkey see monkey do situation. men everywhere need to stand up and be real men – protectors of women and children. women need to stand up for themselves and be real women – stop exploiting yourself and show some dignity. children desperately need good examples to follow and the whole world desperately needs to turn back to their Creator.

  • Thanks for actually sharing your story. This is a very similar story of many women living in “poor” neighborhoods across the world. No father in the house because of– welfare, jail and abandonment, single mothers working low paying jobs, lack of education, children left alone, low self-esteem, sexual abuse, lack of morals and void of any type of religion. The glorification of deviate behavior-jail, drugs, sex. These are real issues in the ghetto.

    The Lack of A Father for a young boy is very deep some act out and commit crime some may even become gay. They do not know how to express their hurts so they look to their peers who do not know anything. The blind leading the blind. Men and women who are raised in an atmosphere neglect, abuse, and abandonment will have some issues when it comes to relationship. Many in these communities refuse therapy and church.

    Its sad because people who are hurting and abuse may hurt and abuse others. When one is able to move their family they get and an vow never to return. As a community no one ever talk about black predators and sexual abuse of young women under 18. People still blame the victim or make excuses for these men. The sad thing is because of the rise of stronger drugs there are more disgusting things going on in these neighborhood from prostitution of children, sex with animals, and childhood slaves/ sex trafficking. These poor neighborhoods are no way like the poor neighborhoods of the 1970s and 1980’s.

    But it takes someone to get sick and tired and make a difference. I pray those who have grown in this environment and left will return and make a difference.