“Most often attention was not focused on the complete black female on display…They are to not look at her as a whole human being. They are to notice only certain parts.”
Bell Hooks, Black Looks
A few Between the Sheets posts ago I ended with two pictures, one of an ape’s ass and one of a Sketcher Shape Ups shoe ad, admonishing women to heart their upside-down heart, or their booty. Today I want to focus on the rear end.
In previous posts, I discussed how black female sexuality has manifested itself in overexposure (available for purchase or taking by anyone) and invisibility (not authentically discussed) . To summarize, for the past two centuries black women’s sexuality has been obsessively defined as uncontrollable, grotesquely fascinating, and unworthy of respect. These popular beliefs obscure other more accurate reflections of black females’ erotic lives, and make it difficult for many black women to thrive as agents for their own sexual needs and desires. This post will discuss certain aspects of ass partialism as well as the commodification of the black body in terms of general ass consciousness.
Partialism is defined as: “an emphasis of sexual interest upon one part of the body,” or “a form of fetishism in which the sexual stimulus is a part of the body, as pictures of feet.”
Personally, I don’t see a problem with partialism as long as variety is accepted within a preference. For example, maybe legs totally turn you on. Skinny pins, big calves, knobby knees, bowl legs, hairy haunches, short stems; any and all legs will do the trick. Things get a little dicey when partiality includes a specific size, shape, or color, at the exclusion of other types.
For example, I have a certain male friend that rejects women based on their hip size (the more they are shaped like a tall, 14-year-old boy, the better). I see this as inherently problematic. I kick myself every time I think of how many times I didn’t point this out to him (mainly because he was insulting all women with any mASS at all, but also cause his standards are highly unrealistic and almost impossible to maintain. Lets face it, honey…once that woman pops out the 2-7 children that you also deem a requirement, her body will cease to resemble a toothpick). I also kick myself because I think his general fear of big hips pointed to a certain amount of latent racism.
In any case, it’s easy to see that black women’s/large rear ends have been revered and hated in our culture. Take Cindy Crawford’s comments about Jennifer Lopez’ booty (which inspired this amazing, imaginary fight scene that floats authorless around the interwebs). Also try to remember a time, long ago when Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian were still friends (I know, it’s hard folks), when they broke up Paris made a comment describing Kim’s ass as, “gross.” The rear end thing is not limited to black women anymore, but really, any non-white woman. White women’s asses are small, thin, flat, well contained. Non-white women’s asses are big, juicy, shameful
According to legend, this fascination with rear ends, started with the objectification and display of Sarah Baartman in 1810, and eventually spread to European culture and fashion in the form of the Victorian bustle, which made its first appearance in late 1800′s.
But that was a long time ago, yah? Yeah, but the same stuff is still going on.
Speaking of and Kim KardASShian:
The bustle is interesting because it imitates a particular body part (ASS) of women thought to be sexually deviant and less than human (BLACK), while also acting as a signifier of wealth. Whaaaa? Paradoxically, only very rich women could pay to get a butt structure made. And only richer women could then afford to get that butt structure covered with yards and yards of beautiful fabric.
It’s like everyone was sippin’ on haterade. You know, like your homegirl that tells you your boyfriend ain’t no good, and then when y’all break up you find that the silly ho been hangin round, trying to get him to break her off a piece…sorry, some hood just came out. You know what I’m sayin tho, right? Sometimes people hate because they want what you have for themselves.
I think these two quotes have helped me when thinking about the relationships between dehumanization, materialism, and sexual desire.
“Contemporary forms of oppression do not routinely force people to submit. Instead, they manufacture consent for domination so that we lose our ability to question and thus collude in our own subordination.”
- Patricia Hill Collins, Black Sexual Politics
“Victorian men must have benefited from the sex appeal the bustle style exuded. A man’s imagination could have run wild wondering what part of the style was all woman and what part was manufactured.”
-I steal so many quotes. I forgot where I got this from. From some blog. My apologies.
If my interpretation is correct, then the bustle was used to create the illusion of a big butt, which meant unbridled sexuality, which was condemned if you had one skin color, but revered if you happened to have the other.
This is still going on today.
Exhibit A (this is the only exhibit, but still)
Is it surprising then that rumors have been swirling about the bootylicious entertainer, Beyonce? Several gossip rags, and lots of youtube videos, claim that she uses pads similar to that pictured above to enhance her badonk, which in all likelihood is a great ASSet to her. What does this have to do with conversations about authenticity and sexuality? Does it even matter?
I really don’t have the mental energy to weave my thoughts around the following images, but I’m sure you can see where I’m going with these.
I have so many problems with this ad. 1. Declaration of Independence, bASStardized; 2. These women all have the same body, I see no significant differences between them; 3. I’ve fallen for claims like this before (i.e. Apple Bottom Jeans, J. Lo Jeans. Made me feel worse when they didn’t fit).
I’m posting this video because I watched it after I had done all of this really intense reading about black female sexuality and it MADE ME CRY. I felt so angry for type of woman portrayed in this video, begging for approval, touting her supernatural sexual capabilities, changing clothes so many times, fucking tap dancing…and for what?! All she asks for in return is one night. One night! I’m sorry, if I fucking learn how to tap dance for you, you better return the favor in kind. I’m talking salsa, merengue, o algo como eso. Sabes?
I want to end with this quote from one of the sexiest women of all times, Marilyn Monroe:
“I’ve never fooled anyone. I’ve let people fool themselves. They didn’t bother to find out who and what I was. Instead they would invent a character for me. I wouldn’t argue with them. They were obviously loving somebody I wasn’t.”
Projection. Collusion. Illusion. Invisibility. It’s all there in that quote. Aaaaand, I’m done.
Love and Enjoy.
Click here to find the next post in the Between·the·Sheets series.