Are Black Women Asking for It?

I was dancing with my girlfriends at a party last weekend when I felt a hand quickly slither up my thighs and grab my vagina. I turned around and violently attacked the stranger who assumed that he was privileged to my body. When mutual friends convinced me to calm down and speak to him, I was accused of “trippin” because he never thought that I would be upset.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBU5Yu6RFBY]

As a woman living in an inner city, I have been conditioned to accept the fact that when I walk outside, some random man will probably think he is endowed with the privilege to yell “Ay shawty come here” to me from across the street and call me something obscene like a “low-frontin hoe” after I ignore him.

These two situations highlight what I like to call the lose-lose of sexual harassment. If a woman does not react after being violated, she sends the message that she is okay with what just happened, she enjoys it and, perhaps, is inviting it. On the other hand, if she does react, she is often accused of over-reacting. How dare she be upset with the man who just invited himself to her body without her permission? This highlights two major concerns: 1. The false sense of entitlement that many men feel towards women in public spaces. Men should not feel entitled to receive a response when they disrespectfully approach a woman and they should not expect a woman to docilely accept or even enjoy an uninvited touch from a man. The second major concern is  2. a tendency to blame the victim by qualifying her reaction as extreme. The idea that a woman is being dramatic or overreacting to being harassed shifts the blame from the harasser to the harassed and fails to assign responsibility to the party that is guilty of violating boundaries.

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Yet, some might argue that women are, in fact, inviting this type of behavior. When I first walked into that same party, I saw the all-too-familiar scene involving a girl on the floor. She laid on her back with his head in between her legs until he moved on top of her and began humping her. Her facial expression straddled between shocked gasps that said “Oh my God! I can’t believe he’s doing this!” and euphoric attention-loving smiles that screamed “This is great!” For a second, I thought I was at the filming of a porno or maybe at the local strip club’s “College Tuition Tuesdays.” Then reality hit me- I was at a college party.

 

The question: Are black women asking for it? After watching every episode that Law and Order: SVU has ever produced, I would like to think that the sexual harassment I’ve experienced is not my fault. It’s none of our faults, right? After all, that’s what Olivia Benson would tell me. But the same questions keep running through my head: Was I asking to be sexually harassed? Was I asking for a stranger to put his hands between my legs? Was my outfit too revealing and my dance moves too provocative? Was it my fault for standing next to other women whose morals were looser than a pair of 90’s jeans?  Was it my responsibility to distinguish myself as a woman who would not tolerate being touched inappropriately among women who crave it?

The answer: No. Despite the strength of the over-sexualized images of black women in the media, we have the right to dress and dance in whatever way we please without being subject to the unwanted touches or words of our male counterparts. Saying a woman is asking for sexual harassment is as irresponsible as saying Trayvon Martin was asking to be shot when he wore a hoodie.  It is the responsibility of men to exhibit self-control, respect for self, and respect for women. We can argue that black men will not respect black women until we respect ourselves, but that is just a clichéd excuse that men have used to justify their failure to respect physical and social boundaries. It is men’s responsibility to ensure that their actions do not perpetuate the objectification of black women.

The goal: Self-expression without self-consciousness. Women should be able to do, dress, and dance however they want without being afraid that their appearance or actions might be inviting sexual harassment. Women should not have to wonder, “Am I asking for it?” every time they leave their houses.

The bottom line: If I am twerking to “Bandz A Make Her Dance,” I am not asking for it. If my skirt is shorter than Joe Jackson’s temper, I am not asking for it. Unless I ask for it, I am not asking for it. 

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MissEducation has also written The Soft Bigotry of Charter Schools: How low expectations for leadership at charter schools limit students.

More From Our Blog:

A Message From WFTF: http://wp.me/p2vzdP-rj

More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City: http://wp.me/p2vzdP-m6

A Speech on Jordan Davis and Emmett Till: http://wp.me/p2vzdP-j5

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21 Responses to “Are Black Women Asking for It?”

  1. Jazz April 23, 2013 at 3:56 PM # Reply

    One question: why is it black women that are thought to be asking for “it”? White women don’t grind at the club? I feel like the secondary categorization is unnecessary. All women are hyper-sexualized in today’s society, and I feel it is a generalization to refer to only Black women in the brunt of the argument. Trust me, other colors of women twerk, too.

    • Shenita Ann McLean April 23, 2013 at 4:43 PM # Reply

      What you must keep in mind is that this specific reference to Black women is one that should be separated from White women as well as other women of color for a specific analysis. White supremist racism and White gender ideologies peg the white woman as the hypersexual amazonian as well as the desexualized mammy all at once. Ideal femininites exclude Black women by definition because they can’t be feminine based on the underlying fact that they are Black. This makes patriarchy and racism intertwine to create a unique form of oppression that Black women face within this situation because based on White supremist racist patriarchy Black women aren’t women at all so violating their humanity, sexually exploiting them, and depriving them of choice is even the more okay because they do not deserve the delicate consideration and passive femininity status that White women receive within the larger American society. W

      While White women & other women of color do twerk &/or grind in the club, they are not as likely to violated within the specific context that Black women are violated.

      • Shenita Ann McLean April 23, 2013 at 4:58 PM # Reply

        Correction up there, typo alert lol, 2nd sentence, third line should be: “…White gender ideologies peg the Black woman as…”

    • nappycomfygal April 25, 2013 at 4:29 PM # Reply

      I agree. We, the supposed elite of all God’s creation, continue to show our stupidity when we still use ethnicity and other such classifications as a means to say who’s suffering more or less…or whatever. I think that ALL people should be shown respect, regardless of age, race, religion, etc.

      As a woman, a ‘Black’ woman, I don’t feel any man or woman (for that matter) has the right to put their hands on me. I don’t like to be touched, and I’m married with 3 kids. I’ve graduated from school for massage therapy, and while I enjoy the field of medicine and touch therapy, I STILL DON’T LIKE BEING TOUCHED! I can tolerate it within it’s respective boundaries, but some random jacka$$ thinking that just because I have boobs, fallopian tubes and a vag makes it ‘ok’ to touch me will have another thought coming to him when I snap on him and call him anything but the child of God!

    • The Urban Graduate May 4, 2013 at 12:16 PM # Reply

      I absolutely agree!!!

  2. Shenita Ann McLean April 23, 2013 at 4:27 PM # Reply

    Reblogged this on Red. Soc..

  3. Sirenas World April 23, 2013 at 5:44 PM # Reply

    Thank you for this post ! I really enjoyed the read. As a “black” woman myself i have experienced something similar not at the club but walking down the street. I was just leaving an HBC event when on the corner stood well dressed “black ” men. Not the typical thugs that most people attribute to girls being talked to when walking on street. One proceed to tell my friend and I to have a good night … pause typically I do not speak when someone talks to me on the corner because 90% of the time I say something back the gentleman does not like my response… This time I decide to say thank you and continue on .. as I thanked the guy for the gesture his friends decides to tell him not to talk to “random hoes”.. pause I wanted to go back and cuss him out but what would that solve.. nothing.. these are “educated” black man who belittle their queens (i put educated in quotes because as far as they were acting after we were called hoes you would think they were in middle school).. nothing said to them would solve anything nor did I feel like giving them my two cents… so I shook my head and walked away. So for you gentlemen that get mad at girls who do not talk to you thank your fellow counter parts for being a**holes when one decides to respond. lose lose of sexual harassment !

    • nappycomfygal April 25, 2013 at 4:36 PM # Reply

      I’m sorry that happened to you.
      Things like that happened to me sooooo very often when I was younger. It’s not like I’m all that, but, when I’d walk down the street, if there were guys standing outside, no matter the weather, sure enough…I’m subject to some fool thinking he could talk to me, yell at me…and even grab me. And, if I didn’t respond, or respond they wanted, I was called everything a child of God and the name on my birth certificate. It got to a point where, especially on nice days, if I wanted to leave the house, I’d make alternate routes to avoid being ‘holla’d at’ by random Joe Jacka$$. If the bus stop or corner store was within view, I’d have to walk in the other direction, around the corner and two streets over just to avoid a crowd. Even after I had my first child, just carrying him on my hip somehow warranted an idiot to ask me ‘ey yo’ babygirl, can you hold me like that?’ Seriously? But now, that I’m married, a homeschooler, a stay-at-home-housewife, I don’t really have to worry about that.

      • Sirenas World April 25, 2013 at 10:00 PM # Reply

        I’m sorry to hear that. But I am glad you are in a better place now ! 🙂 I just think it is crazy what people feel the are “entitled” to do.

  4. dude April 24, 2013 at 1:03 PM # Reply

    men should act like gentleman
    but

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OBPaenkxdg

    • Random Person April 25, 2013 at 1:31 AM # Reply

      Word! Self-expression without self-consciousness sounds really great, but a tad bit optimistic. People make snap judgements, it’s automatic. Even the least judgmental of us is still making *some* judgements. We as a society judge a person as a delinquent if they have lots of tattoos, or as a racist if they wear a dixie flag, or as a thug if they wear big tees and saggy jeans. Thats no different from a woman who wears revealing clothing being judged as someone who wants to be appraised by the very things she advertises. It’s not always right, but that is just life. People are free to express themselves in their actions, words, dress, etc. but others are free to judge you based on what you choose to express.

      What happened with the guy grabbing her crotch was certainly not something she asked for. But I am almost positive that the guy who did that must have had some sort of success with that sort of move in the past, likely while dealing with less self-respecting females. So he learns that this is something that works and filters his future actions based on that past experience. It’s Still not cool, still is harassment, but I understand how his mind even got to the place where he thought it was cool and wasn’t harassment.

      Another thing I have to say. Sexual harassment is reprehensible and disgusting and all that jazz. But the nature of the interactions between the sexes is generally speaking as follows; men initiate, women reciprocate(or not). I don’t see women stepping up to the plate and taking the role of initiator from men, most women are generally fine with just sitting back and fielding all the attention they get from men and making their selection. Why then does it seem like a surprise to some that in the course of fielding all that attention that women will deal with some douchebags? Seems to just make sense to me. Hopefully the ratio of douchebags to gentlemen will decline, but we will never be free of men who aren’t above vulgar, overly aggressive come ons.

      • shell April 25, 2013 at 4:09 PM # Reply

        I am absolutely NOT asking for any man to approach, touch, or compliment me. Ever. Please don’t excuse that horrible behavior that makes a walk down the street range anywhere from mildly uncomfortable, to downright frightening.

      • nappycomfygal April 25, 2013 at 4:58 PM # Reply

        I agree with you 100%. However, this is just a blog to speak for those of us who don’t feel the need to be groped, grabbed and fondled when we go out to a public place. There are even some men who would, after a while, find it irritating that he can’t just leave the house without some random female thinking it’s okay to touch him.

        Also, you’re right, it’s an ugly fact of life, but we DO tend to judge a book by its cover. We won’t freely admit it, but we do judge based on the looks of things. Should we? No, not all of the time. But we tend to, more often than not. Having said all of that, I think it’s a possible, home training issue for men and women. I also think that it’s an ‘American society’ issue. Why do I say that, or where do I get that from (you may ask)? Not to assume that only is America do things like this go on…NO..but, there are other countries where the body isn’t something to be taken so seriously. Sorry for the lack of another way of putting it, I’m just try to say that, as an example, a nude beach here in the ‘states’ are totally different than nude beaches in some other countries. In the American society at large, nudity is seen as taboo, especially the female body. But in some parts of Europe…it’s ‘just’ a body…nothing to get all huffy about. Some people in other countries can see a naked body and they won’t think anything of it, but here, we see a naked body and it’s enough to cause a traffic jam.

        My point, I think that some of us take the body way too ‘seriously’. It’s just a pair of boobs or a penis…get over it already! No need to grab a twat or crotch.

        As for men being the ‘initiator’, true…most of the times, you hear a man as the one who ‘dominates’ whatever…be it a company, a relationship or the sexual encounter. The major reason being, in my humble opinion, if a woman dare approach a man she’s interested in, then she’s either seen a ‘gutsy’ or a slut. She’s seen as ‘too aggressive’ thus depriving a man of his natural animal instinct or as the ‘hunter’ or the predator. How dare a woman do a man’s job and go after the man she’s interested in? Doesn’t she know HE is supposed to go after her? Or, she’s seen as a b*tch that can’t and won’t be controlled. Also, women like ‘me’, tend to be seen as the ‘oh, you’re daddy must not have been around, that’s why you feel you can’t let a man lead and come to you’ types. These are possible reasons why some women don’t approach or initiate because, more often than no, we are subject to things like this and, I for one, don’t feel like answering the questions that come along with initiating things. But that’s just me;-)

    • greedz April 25, 2013 at 3:37 AM # Reply

      I LOVE THE ARTICLE BUT THIS REALLY NEGATES ALLOT OF WHAT WAS SAID ABOUT “ASKING FOR IT.” I love Dave for making the situation more clear! MEN SHOULD BE GENTLEMAN ALWAYS, But women have to also understand the visual nature of men before completely judging them. We are two different creatures, one more visual, the other more emotionally inclined.

      • Humanista April 25, 2013 at 7:17 PM # Reply

        No.
        As is expected, people make judgement calls about a person on sight and that can cause them to think a certain way about that person. That’s life, but that in NO way gives one license to assault anyone physically OR verbally. You can’t conflate men “responding differently to visual stimulation” with some entitlement to act on whatever is in their heads. Any man (or woman) who doesn’t have sense enough to understand that every feeling they have doesn’t need to be expressed SHOULD be judged. Completely.

  5. lynzcf April 25, 2013 at 3:20 PM # Reply

    I find it to be astounding that someone would consider it to be okay in any way shape or form to touch someone sexually without their permission. I don’t care how a woman is dressed or what color her skin is. Trying to sugar coat, justify and minimize this, or to quite plainly call it by any other name but SEXUAL ASSAULT does nothing but perpetuate this type of conduct. Are we going forward, or are we sliding back….

  6. KonjureTREKlub April 26, 2013 at 6:37 AM # Reply

    I really respect this post. I am a black man that grew up in a household of women, so I learned respect for women a long time ago. I have had my times where I have over stepped my boundaries , and have no problem admitting it because I have learned from them and have grown up. I now have a beautiful girlfriend who I will make my wife in the very near future, and I have the utmost respect for her. Your post brings up some good points that are big issues within the African-American communities in the US. However, what your post fails to acknowledge is the lack of respect that women, especially Black women of today, do not have for themselves. How can you expect men to show you the respect you don’t feel that you deserve from yourself? Now don’t get me wrong, men will sexualize a woman in just about anything, but that doesn’t mean that a woman should wear clothes that show the lack of respect for herself. Yes, you do have the right to wear what you want, but the clothes you wear speaks to who you are and how you see yourself. It is your definition of beauty. Now I am also a man of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and I can tell you a whole lot about the invitation college women…girls…give to fraternity guys, but that in itself is another issue altogether. The hugest problem that women face with the sexual harassment they are experiencing, especially in situations where sexual hormones are induced by the environment they are in at the time, are the other women who in fact do make their style of clothing and style of dancing an invitation. It’s not a man’s fault that there are those that will respond in a positive way to the same actions that he used on you, and ultimately give him what he is after. If you want to fix the problem, stop trying to tell men to change. We won’t. We are biologically more sexually driven. What you should do is start getting women to raise the requirements for letting a man sleep with her. Just imagine what the world would be like if women really did demand respect and success as bare minimums to get in the door. It won’t work so long as there are women who are still willing to have sex for a burger off the dollar menu at McDonald’s or because he said I love after 3 minutes of a conversation. If you want respect, earn respect. Asking for respect never got anyone anywhere.

    • the alchemist April 30, 2013 at 1:02 PM # Reply

      Negro male entitlement, victim blaming, hormones, etc.

      Your knuckles are dragging on the floor brotha.

  7. Wisdom Fumadore May 1, 2013 at 1:40 AM # Reply

    Well as great as this article is, it’s one sided. First off, as a man no I do not agree with men sexually harrasing any female, but I feel this article is just another excuse to justify women having no sense of public decency or dressing classy. Like one of the replies below, respect is not something you just ask for, you earn it. The problem is not just these perverted brothers, it’s also your fellow sisters too who have absolutely no shame, pride, self respect whatsoever. You see what some of wear at clubs and how they act, grabbing a guys d*** while twerking on it, dancing is no longer dancing, more like sex with clothes on, throwing themselves at dudes with the most cash or best cars, brothers getting head in the club, your so called sisters going home with complete strangers, now cos some brothers have been successfull in the past with their approach, they think it’ll work on every female and therein lies the problem.
    I’ve seen what some ladies even wear to church and I’m thinking are you serious? There are kids here for crying out loud, it’s not necessary to wear see through stuff and let the whole world know the type & colour of underwear you got on or the fact that you have none on at all, and no we don’t want to see your BUTT CRACKS!!!
    Like I said earlier, every man must exercise self control, i’m againt sexual abuse, but also WRITE AN ARTICLE FOR YOUR SISTERS to carry themselves with more respect cos too many of them these days are hungry for attention not respect, the pictures on FB & Instagram proves that!
    In all let everyone take responsibility for their own actions!

  8. kenyatta2009 May 26, 2013 at 11:34 AM # Reply

    Reblogged this on A Little Local Color.

  9. Christina May 26, 2013 at 6:27 PM # Reply

    “Men should be offended when someone claims that women should prevent rape by not wearing certain things or not going certain places or not acting in a certain way. That line of thinking presumes that you are incapable of control. That you are so base and uncivilized that it takes extraordinary effort for you to walk down the street without raping someone. That you require certain dress code be maintained, that certain behaviors be employed so that maybe today, just maybe, you won’t rape someone. It presumes that your natural state is a rapist.”

    Great post!

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