"I am Black, kinky, and seriously considering leaving The Life."
These words are what I am thinking about now, as I sit on my knees with my hands on my hips and my hands on my thighs. I'm rarely ever completely still. While pretending to be relaxed, there is always another thing to do. This man is my feeling of gratitude for helping me overcome my racing mind. I then start to think about how I would have lived without him.
These words were written with a foolish assurance and a deep, gnawing pain that I did not want to admit. They were written with the thought of my close-girlfriend asking me softly: "I love you...why do you want me hurt you?"
In this moment, the shame that I felt back then could overwhelm me. The question she was asking was the one that has haunted me ever since I realized all the ways I was different: "What is wrong with me?"
My sexuality was not influenced by anyone I knew, even though it was shaped by my strict, traditional upbringing in a family of traditional immigrants. Since I was able to comprehend "like" or "kinky, I have been pansexual. This was long before there were any words. But I am Black and I am a woman. The world can't seem to understand these identities in relation to who I am and what my sexual desires.
Yet, here I am, kneeling down, learning to be still, at his command. Finally, open and vulnerable enough to share this with someone, and me, to admit that it's not a passing interest to "roughness."
This is the way my sexuality works. I am what the BDSM community calls a "switch". I can be submissive or dominant but I prefer to be led. It is something I have accepted. It was difficult to find someone who does, and it has made me question what I accept in myself.
That was when I realized it wasn't BDSM. These are the problems, not BDSM but the ridiculous expectations and perceptions Black female sexuality has. Problem is how everyone sees us as domineering and aggressive. Racist images of us as sassy, fast talking nannies that give no direction or lip have overshadowed our true identity as people.
It is not only that Black men insist on me respecting myself enough to desire a sexuality that they approve of but also how white men refuses to see me for who I am. As many Black women subs, I was continually approached by white men in "The Life", who wanted me to be submissive, even though I had made it clear that I wanted a Dom/domme. Even on dating sites, it happened even though I didn't disclose my interest in BDSM. OKCupid was one example. I was approached by white men every day asking for a "strong, Black women" to rule them or an "angry Black goddess to humiliate them."
What I really want and who I am is doesn't matter to Black women. That's the problem. My sexuality was often taken away when I was with Black men. I was intelligent and college educated. I could be trusted to fear my body and my desires. After confessing to my desire for BDSM and seeing his disgust, I realized that men might not know how to respect me if they let me dominate.
I was afraid I would have to learn how to let go of kink, and that I would only be able to find someone who loves me without the kink.
They were still better than the Dom/dommes or couples who wanted me to humiliate them as a way to engage in racist fantasies about violating and harming Black women without regard for my/our safety and boundaries. I was unable to navigate kink, seeing only white women being lovingly collared and Black submissives being brutalized made me fear that the D/s relationship I desired was not possible.
I felt out of place in kink and tried to hide who I was, but I found that I was only frustrated or ashamed when I started dating vanilla.
My brief experience as a sub has made me feel more at ease. While on my knees, I felt empowered. My situation was so unacceptable that I felt like I was being ignored by society. I cried about it over and over. But, other Black women shared my feelings.
This is who we are.
This is me trying to be truly fulfilled. I choose to be with someone who challenges my self-worth and forces me to live authentically, even though it may mean challenging established ideas about Black sexuality.
We don't know if these queer, little Black girls will ever find their happy endings. I don't know if any girl will ever do that. In the meantime, I'm learning to be still and kneel, to live truthfully, and to get up from the bed with others, feeling empowered and affirmed.
I am Black, Kink, and both unable or unwilling to leave "The Life".
Original publication of this story was January 2017.
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