Black, Female, Woke: Sexualized Abroad

 “As a Black woman, I feel like aspects of our culture—music, art, conversation—inundates us with messaging that link our bodies and how we use our bodies, in relation to men, with our worth.”

– Chelcee Johns, Black Girl In Om


This isn’t a sob story nor am I seeking unsolicited attention. This is a demand for awakening.

I’ve waited a long time to write this. Mainly because I’ve been tiptoeing around the topic, hoping that it would dissolve if I kept ignoring it. Hoping that the more I escaped the idea by putting up a fickle front that the problem would just pass by. Of course, I can never deny my physical appearance, as there is nothing I could do about it because that’s what God has blessed me with. But I can say that due to my appearance and the underlying powerful, yet intersectional history that comes with my skin, has led to unwanted, ignorant and sexualized micro-aggressions that would make me cringe the moment someone would open their mouth to coo, “I’m not racist or anything but…”

It’s the hypothesis that makes me uncomfortable. The “if I were to approach this woman in this way then maybe I would be able to know what it feels like to be with a black woman” that makes me want to bang my head against the wall. The fact that it’s an experiment and once that experiment is concluded it leads to nothing but feeling like a check off a bucket list. Next.

Being a woman is demanding. But being a black woman is both demanding and challenging. Everything that holds a black woman together isn’t merely just because we’re strong. We have to be because this world is cruel to us and everything isn’t entirely in our favor.

Witnessing my mother go nights without sleeping just to put food on the table for my siblings and I while my father aimlessly stayed to himself, the mothers whose stories of being silenced while being demeaned either verbally or physically, the amount of sacrifices that black mothers in general have done for their children is nothing new within the black community and specifically to the world. Our struggle is real. It’s not to be overlooked; but what’s new, honestly. Now that #BlackIsBeautiful has become a trend and being black is becoming perceived as gorgeous (as it should be because it is), I don’t want to be perceived as “fascinating” in a place where people who look like me are scarce. I’m not an exotic creature that one must dissect in order to come a conclusion. There’s nothing “fascinating” about my godly features, I’m merely human just like every other woman on this god-forsaken earth.

Before I left for Belgium, some of my friends, whether close or distant, all said that European men are much more open and some of my ratchet friends would state, “Gurllll, you better get yo’self some European d*ck!” When I first arrived, I was like “Yussss, let’s get it on and poppin’. I want you, you, you, and you”

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But to be honest, with my woke ass, that wasn’t the case. I’ve been approached by men, in-person and digitally, that were curious with carrying out their sexual fantasies that seemed a little bit taboo for their social liking – some initiating uncomfortable conversation and statements that are not only unbearable but repetitive. Like who raised ya’ll to talk like this? Oh right.

Don’t touch me. Don’t pull my hair. Don’t pat me. Don’t initiate inappropriate behavior and play the victim when I put you in your place. Don’t approach me with, “I’m not being racist but,” and while we’re playing any social drinking game, such as Never Have I Ever, don’t state a comment that you know someone could be deeply affected by. I don’t care about your token black friend that you so proudly boast about when speaking to any person of color and quite frankly, that’s not the point at all. It’s not cute, it’s intensely rude and I will forever call anyone out who’s ignorant enough to speak on something demeaning as such. Maybe one might think that seeing a black woman in bed is sexier, but it’s not. It makes women like me uncomfortable and to be honest, at risk. There have been multiple times where I felt more like an object than an actual woman. I’m definitely not limiting this only to European men because I’ve had my fair share of catcalls back in the States that were also unsettling and frightening. Being followed while walking to the corner store. Being lustfully gazed upon by a family member while greeting them. Something that black women know far too well.

You know how many nights at the club have been ruined because someone decided to inconvenience me with their idiotic shenanigans? Far too many to count. So anyone reading this who feel deeply offended: you’re a part of the problem and you need to check yourself. If you still don’t understand where I’m coming from, watch season 2 episode 2 of Chewing Gum on Netflix: you’ll thank me later. And for the rest of my sisters who are currently studying abroad or about to study abroad next semester, protect your identity. During my time here, I’ve made potential lifetime friends and experienced life that I thought would never be possible. I got to live a classic life that are mostly seen in movies that your privileged socioeconomic counterparts get to experience. But don’t be fooled, traveling while black demands your wokeness and your inner security. 3 months going in, I knew that a minor part of my year was going to be filled with bullshit.

The year is coming to a close and I’ll be returning home soon. I’ll never forget my experiences here, both positive and negative but I’m not here to sugarcoat and say that my year was filled with rainbows and dancing unicorns (bitch, I wish). I’m speaking from what I know and what I’ve seen and on behalf of black women I’ve encountered both in the States and abroad with the same story. I hope that you can understand some of the pain that I and numerous other women endure, which has made me who I am today: unapologetic. Although I wish I can sugarcoat the racism and sexualization that I have undergone during my year abroad, I can only speak and bring to light the obstacles that I’ve encountered. I only hope to create awareness on this issue for people like you and me. And do me one solid fam: if you not sure about whatchu ‘bout to say, keep it to yourself. You’ll save everyone from dealing with your misogynistic, sexist-fetishizing bullshit.

Until next time,

~R

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