Archive | February, 2011

“We Created A Circle”: Reflections on the CFC Retreat

28 Feb

photo of eight CFC members

We began making plans for our first Crunk Feminist retreat months in advance.  The first attempt, in May, failed because of an unexpected death in Brittney’s family.  We initially planned a workshop-like gathering in Atlanta on Emory’s campus but the postponement, coupled with hectic schedules and life’s work, lasted one year.

Our second attempt, scheduled for February 2011, nearly a year from when we started, would be a weekend getaway in the mountains of north Georgia.  Eight of us confirmed our plans to attend.  Aisha Durham, Moya Bailey, Asha French (and baby Asali), Susana Morris, Brittney Cooper, Sheri Davis-Faulkner, Whitney Peoples, and me (Robin Boylorn).

In preparation for the trip we collaborated plans over email, including the selection of a logo designed by Aisha and the design of t-shirts, care of Brittney and Sheri.

On the Friday of our journey we met at Sheri’s house in Atlanta.

The agenda said that we should be there by 1:30 EST.  But then there was the getting there part.  Susana and Brittney had to “make groceries”.  Asha had to get the baby together.  We relied on our own time and took advantage of the delay to bond together.  We had traveled a long way to get t/here.

We came from all over.  Aisha the farthest—from College Station, Texas.  Robin and Brittney from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  Susana from Auburn, Alabama.  The other CFs were already local.  We were traveling to Mountain Top Cabin Rentals in Blue Ridge, Georgia for a reprieve, a retreat.  We packed up a rented car with groceries and toiletries for the weekend and congregated in the driveway, dancing, talking shit, bonding over the bliss of finally, finally all being in the same place at the same time.  An hour behind schedule we got on the road.  Sheri and Moya driving.  Whitney and Brittney riding shotgun.

Separate conversations in the car quickly melded into one as we discussed teaching, research, sex, and music.  We stopped at Longhorn ½ the way there and spent time checking in with each other, vocalizing our goals for the weekend, and sharing how we were doing.  Only a few of us were meeting for the first time.  Collectively, we all felt that the weekend was timely, something we needed for reassurance and renewal.  We got back on the road with a little over an hour between us and our retreat.  An hour later we were picking up keys from the office, which was closed.  It was already dark.  Our anxious anticipation quickly turned to silent frustration as we searched for a road with no name and a cabin with no number.  The twists and turns up the mountain were calamitous, steep, long.  It would have been scary had it not been for all of us having all of us.  After passing the road and turning around, stopping at two cabins (one occupied, one unoccupied), and nearly giving up and going back, we finally found our place, “A Beary Good Life.”

Everyone praised Jesus, “grown man Jesus” as Susana said, either in their minds or out loud, when we finally made it to our cabin in the pitch black dark and in one piece.  And the stars were beautiful.

A group of women can unpack a trunk full of groceries quickly and meticulously.  After a quick tour of the premises we selected sleeping arrangements and congregated downstairs for an impromptu meeting.

In the meeting Brittney distributed agendas and we discussed our goals for the weekend and what we hope to accomplish before Sunday.  We also prophesied about Susana’s feminist bakery “Real Women Have Rolls & Buns,” and all of the various feminist-inspired eateries… I suggested Audre Lorde Have Mercy Cake, which would have some kind of chocolate in it and Brittney explained how by the time the bakery was fully functioning we all would be known by name, calling forth Moya Bailey Irish Cream.  There was also talk of selling self decadence (oils, tea baths, etc) in the Ida B Wellness Center.  Etc. etc.  We talked about plans for moving forward with the blog and sponsoring a crunk feminist dance at the NWSA.  These plans put a smile on everyone’s face.  And we dismissed ourselves to get comfortable and prepared for our night’s rest.

After eating Rotel (cheese dip with tomatoes) we congregated in separate spaces.  Asha and the baby retired to bed.  Moya and Whitney listened to music and read, respectively, in the living space, while  Aisha, Susana, Brittney and myself sat around the kitchen table.  Susana wrote a blog, I recorded the events of the day, and Sheri twisted Brittney’s hair.  We transformed the cabin into a black feminist space through transformative conversation(s), hearty laughs, and memory-making.  


On Saturday we took turns taking baths and gathered together for a hearty breakfast prepared by three of us and passing around our collective baby.  The day’s events both meshed together and easily transitioned from breakfast talk and reflections to vision board making and identifying problematic ads in the process.  We talked about our life’s work as ongoing, sustaining, important.  Several CFs pulled the ads and articles in order to share them in classes and use them in dissertations.  We cut out words and images of our visions and dreams, both for ourselves and each other.  We shared our vision boards over sandwiches outside with a backdrop of mountains and a soundtrack of drums (c/o Sheri).

Afternoon naps offered necessary sustenance and rejuvenation and led to our final meetings, discussions of opportunities for the CFC, and future visions.  We discussed how to sustain ourselves, each other, and our collective missions.  While homemade pizzas were being made, conversations took place about everything from academic jobs, to life maneuvering, to womanism.  We mulled over these serious topics with brief interludes of unrelated conversations about moments inspired by songs from our decade of “growing up” and being grown.  Pandora radio played songs that reminded us of particular moments in our life or childhood.  Music brings back memories.  Some good, some bad, some haunting.  We took turns taking care of each other and offering words of help from our own experience(s). 

That night we ate—pizza, salad, popcorn, strawberry cake (not in that order) and jointly made feminist anointing oil.  We also made bath teas, across the table, and talked—and laughed—and understood each other, trading kitchen table wisdom and personal struggles.  We committed to be more intentional about being there for one another. Respecting each other’s boundaries. Taking care of each other.  Taking care of ourselves.  The night ended with me holding crocheted yarn in my lap after listening to the bellyache laugher of my friends, doing dance steps, watching interesting videos on youtube, and relishing in not having to be serious.  Subconsciously aware that our time together was almost over, we avoided sleep until after two o’clock in the morning.


On Sunday we took the task of memorializing ourselves in a group photo (other pictures, too, captured through Moya’s vision/s throughout the weekend).  A brief meeting around the table reminded us of the short and long term goals we had made and strategies to not allow our dreams or visions, to fall by the wayside.  Then, in an eloquent and remarkable moment, we created a circle of strength and wisdom and love, reading excerpts of Octavia Butler’s words about the inevitability of change (in Parable of the Sower) and making promises to our baby, a representation of all of us.  The circle culminated in love and a reminder of what we realized in our final meeting, that the Crunk Feminist Collective is “a conduit for care.”

I realized, as we closed the baby blessing, that the weight of our emotions and cares fell on the last woman in the circle (each time we gathered accordingly), who bravely and brilliantly articulated together, the culmination of who we are (as women of color feminists), what we have been through (as black girls turned grown ass women), what we envision for ourselves, and what we want for our future and for the future.  Strong for each other, our circle complete, we extended support through open arms and woman strength.  The retreat is over.  Now it is time for change.

The day’s spent.

The time together.

The memories made.

The setting.

All beautiful.

Circle un/broken.

We gathered to leave the space (of healing & peace) and to take it with us.  All in a feminist day’s work.

What’s Love Got To Do With it? Attacks on Reproductive Justice

23 Feb

Everything. Love has everything to do with it. I’ll explain. This month we’ve been talking about love in many of its forms here at the CFC. In another corner of our world, though unfortunately one in which we all still live and try our best to love, there is an ongoing attack on women, our families and our most treasured communities.

I’m sure that many of you have heard about the various bills being introduced in Washington and around the country that target women’s access to health care. Access to comprehensive reproductive health care.  Access to abortion.

I’ve been working as a reproductive justice advocate for about 8 years now, and this is about as bad as I’ve ever seen the climate on reproductive justice. In big picture terms, this appears to be a 3-pronged attack against reproductive justice[1]: 1) national legislation 2) state legislation 3) the culture war messaging. Here’s the breakdown:

1) Congress: As we saw when the House of Representatives, newly under Republican control, decided that their first move was to try and repeal the health reform law passed last year, it’s clear that their aim is to undo one of the Obama Administration’s crown achievements – national health care reform. These folks will do anything to tarnish that legacy and are more than willing to use reproductive rights as a distraction and wedge issue. There have been a few high-profile national bills trying to limit reproductive rights. They are:

  • The Pitts Bill (HR 358): would allow doctors and hospitals to refuse to perform any abortion, even one that was needed to save the life of a pregnant woman. Under current law, a pregnant woman with a life-threatening condition cannot be turned away by a hospital, even if her condition requires a doctor to abort her child. The Pitts bill would allow a doctor to not only deny an abortion to a dying pregnant woman but to also refuse to transfer that woman to a place where she might be able to receive an abortion. In fact, the hospital would not be required to do anything at all. More here. Also, here’s a video of some real stories that shows what happens when you deny women access to abortion even if there health is at risk.[2]
  • Smith Bill (HR 3): would impose a permanent, blanket prohibition on any and all federal spending for abortion care. The most far-reaching federal funding ban in years, this bill would prevent abortion coverage in the insurance exchanges that will be created through health reform. It is an explicit attack on poor women’s access to abortion, because lets remember who exactly gets federal funding for their health care? They are low-income women on Medicaid, women who get their health care through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan, through the Indian Health Services or through the military. I was on GritTV recently, feeling enraged and talking about how HR 3 is race and class based attack. See below. Also here’s a great breakdown on all the horrible things this bill does.

  • Pence Amendment (to HR 1): Eliminate all federal funding to Planned Parenthood clinics around the country. Planned Parenthood operates 820 health centers around the country and provides sexual and reproductive health care, education, and information to over 5 million women, men, and adolescents each year. It’s important to acknowledge PP’s history, but let’s be real: defunding PP and Title X clinics won’t save the government any money or create any new jobs it will only take vital health services—like birth control, cancer screening and HIV tests—away from women and families who need them. A couple of fabulously crunk Congresswomen spoke from personal experience on just this issue.

2) The States: There are so damn many of these bills all over the country that all I can do is offer a sampling. I hope you’re sitting down.

  • In Pennsylvania Senator Don White (R- 11) introduced Senate Bill 3 which would ban abortion coverage in the state health insurance exchange. Currently, more than 80% of insurance plans cover abortion services – a bill of this magnitude would cause many women to lose coverage. (Bills like this one have been introduced in more than 20 other states).
  • In Georgia, State Rep. Bobby Franklin of Georgia introduced a bill in his state last week that, if enacted, would require proof that a miscarriage occurred naturally. If a woman can’t prove that her miscarriage–or spontaneous abortion–occurred without intervention, she could face felony charges.
  • In South Dakota, state Rep. Phil Jensen, has introduced a bill to change the state’s legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person “while resisting an attempt to harm” that person’s unborn child or the unborn child of that person’s spouse, partner, parent, or child. (This bill is shelved for now, but can potentially resurface in the next few weeks.)

I’ll stop, I think you get the gist of how awful and far reaching some of these state bills are.

3) The culture war AKA an attack on poor women and women of color:

It seems, after all this, that this is not about health care or the budget or jobs: it’s about targeting poor women who rely on the government to help them access health care. This morning NYC woke up to a billboard in Soho claiming “the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.” These billboards are popping up all over the country and are particularly vile given that the disparity in abortion rates mirrors all other health care disparities in the black community from heart disease to infant mortality and diabetes. See here for a full statement about these billboards from The SisterSong Collective and Trust Black Women.

There has also been an uptick in intimidating abortion care providers, with the aim of  instilling fear in their hearts and minds so that they might stop providing critical health care to women. Click to watch a great segment about this on the Rachel Maddow Show.

I’ll end by quoting a brilliant article by Leila Husseini and Anu Kumar, who discuss the effect of singling out abortion as something separate from health care and targeting those that seek to provide it:

“Let’s not be coy about this stigma; since the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, anti-abortion advocates like Alvaré and Johnson have been working to eliminate abortion in the United States by shaming women and doctors and nurses and their families. Women walking into clinics are taunted. Providers of abortion care are stalked, threatened and assassinated…We know that stigmatizing abortion is inherently harmful to women’s health — preventing them from getting the care they need. When abortion is inaccessible either legally, financially or physically, women are more likely to turn to the back alley.”

This is about our health, our families, our safety, our communities and yes, about our ability to love. So perhaps it’s fitting after all that I post this in the month that the CFC is talking about love.

[1] Many of you might be wondering what the difference is between “reproductive health” “reproductive rights” and “reproductive justice.” These aren’t interchangeable and I highly recommend this brilliant explanation of why certain terms are relevant at certain times but not others.

[2] Full disclosure: I work for Raising Women’s Voices and helped gather these stories.

no love

21 Feb

i don’t write love poetry anymore

or/poetry about love

my heart and bed are empty

my thoughts a distant memory

of/what love used to be


i once wrapped my life & legs around him

watched from the outside as i

lost myself in someone else

who didn’t lose himself in me

it was an out of body experience

& when he touched me, he moved me


his voice melted me like butter

& in his presence i was weak

when he would walk into a room

it was his eyes that would speak

saying, “Robin, c’mere”

& i would come every time

@ the drop of a dime

thinking if only he were mine

i would find a way to

love him longer/pull him in deeper/make myself sweeter i

often wondered how miraculous it would be

if he used his powers for good

when I would tell my friends about his swag

i was often misunderstood

but there was

healing in his fingers &

peace across his lips &

wonder in the rhythm

when he moved inside my hips

he had that voodoo

to woo, ah, & please

skills that could bring a grown woman to her knees

so imagine me, half grown

but mostly just an aged child

trippin’ off the way he had me

hypnotized/with his eyes

until I could hardly see

he offered me his love & i was a fiend immediately

wanting whatever piece of himself

he was willing to offer me

i wanted to give him a progeny

tattoo his name all over me

until my whole body was numb

i was trippin & his so-called love

left me mute, deaf, & dumb

i was paralyzed by the lull of his words

seducing me like poetry

i begged him to

speak to me

get to me

make me feel things were the way that they used to be

the days when he would stare at me with wonder & surprise

the 26 months before he got between my thighs

when we were friends & not lovers

when we would laugh & not fight

when we would sleep with no covers

& make love until the daylight


that was all an illusion

& all his back & forth kisses

brought me was confusion

it all began to make sense/eventually

loving him was becoming detrimental to me

i lost who i was & tried to be who he wanted me to be

& it took hours & years in front of the mirror to finally see

that that just could not be

light skinned & simple minded

i simply can’t be

submissive & open-handed?

paying a “love me” fee?

giving up my body & mind?

baby, that shit is NOT free

so you can stay with that other chick

but she can’t do it like me!


i was crossing over emptiness

building bridges with fences

& when he left, i finally came to my senses

seeking bliss from a fool when I should have been seeking princes

i had to put up my defenses

& honesty is a must

that wasn’t love that i felt

that feeling was lust

i don’t write love poetry anymore.

Praise the Lorde!

18 Feb

Color picture of Audre Lorde laughing

On this day, in 1934, Audre Lorde was born. She named herself “black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet warrior” and gave us the words to do the same. Although many quotes will be in circulation today, I’d like to offer this one up, as a particularly good example of Lorde’s crunkness.

All too often the message comes loud and clear to Black women from Black men: “I am the only prize worth having and there are not too many of me, and remember, I can always go elsewhere. So if you want me, you’d better stay in your place which is away from one another, or i will call you ‘lesbian’ and wipe you out.” black women are programmed to define ourselves within this male attention and to compete with each other for it rather than to recognize and move upon our common interests.

-Audre Lorde

Scratching the Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving

Publised in The Black Scholar, vol. 9 no. 7 1978


Can you believe she said this in 78?! That it is still all too relavant today?

h/t to Yolo Akili for the quote.

A Love Poem for Single Mothers

17 Feb

Hey girl, I’m calling

Cause I got your text

Seems you might need a hug

And a minute to vent


So you spent one more night

Trying to find the words

To explain that joint parenting

Means joint work

That what he can’t pay for

Can be supplemented with time

Especially since you’re working

And studying at night


He seems to believe

That you are well paid

Even though you are overqualified

For a job that you hate

But you stay cause you have to

And your boss knows that well

But her singing your praises

Is not pay your bills


And you’re tired I know

Because you tell me so

From the bullshit at work

To the bullshit at home

Cause he said he was coming

But then something came up

You finally made plans

But now you are stuck


He says they can visit

Now that he’s moved away

As long as you pay for

Plane tickets each way

Now he’s taking you to court

Because he has not seen them

But has not paid any child support

Since you left him


You are buying the school clothes

Supplies and new shoes

Paying for aftercare

Shopping for good schools

There’s soccer, dance class

And pediatric care

Dropping off, picking-up

Brushing their hair

Managing the five emotions

they have in five minutes

Begging for bathroom privacy

until you are finished


All this seems to happen

In a matter of weeks

You are wanting to scream

You can barely speak


So just bring them over

You need some time

To breath, do yoga,

Sleep and unwind,

Have sex if you want to

Do nothing at all

They can hang with their auntie

I was waiting for your call

And here is some money

For that overdue bill

Some tickets to a play

A container with a meal

Don’t fight me just take it

You deserve a full day

To get yourself centered

To just get away

And when you return

Feeling rested and loved

You’ll get your child, a small bag of dirty clothes

And that hug.


14 Feb


“Why Miss Celie, she say. You still a virgin.”
–Alice Walker, The Color Purple

“can/you touch yrself/&/when you do/ do you rush to say/ ‘get thee behind me/Satan?’”
–Ntozake Shange, “intermittent celibacy”

The First Lady and the girl are tarrying for anointing. She has spent her teenaged summer wondering why God has not made her body worthy of the Spirit that stretches women across the Pentecostal pews, speaking in tongues and falling out under the touch of the First Lady. She has finally walked down the carpeted aisle toward First Lady’s towering hat, her outstretched hands. Together, they pray until cloven tongues like as of fire make the girl’s “hallelujahs” indiscernible to the natural ear. “Be patient,” says the First Lady. “You have to ask for your anointing and even then, it takes its time.”
The prayer room in the back of the deserted church is spirit-still. The parishioners have long left; the pastor is doing important pastor things in his office while his wife tends to woman things like tarrying for tongues. “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, halle…” The girl’s tongue trips. She pauses, impatient. Sweat pools in the small of her back. “Be patient,” First Lady coos, speaking in her anointed tongue until it fills the room with thunder. The girl braces herself in the straight-backed church chair and speaks the twisting praise until numbness spreads from curled toe to tingling scalp. Her tongue slips again. And again. The fire that the apostles wrote about is trapped in her bones, and she speaks in the tongues of angels, shaking and shouting like women with twice her burden. “You see,” says the proud First Lady, “The holy spirit is a gentleman. He will not come unless you ask, unless you are sure you want Him. You’ve got to commune with the spirit.”

The girl/ woman knows now the crucible that birthed First Lady’s analogy. She lies frozen beneath a man who is neither gentleman nor spirit, holding her breath and praying for more anointing. He is the second man to surprise her with his erection, to take what is not offered, to violate sacred ground. She wonders if/ when she said yes.

The woman has lost his face beneath her navel, this man who knows her fear of flesh, the man who has told her that sex is body-worship. She prays under the ceiling fan as the room spins ecstatic. She feels every second of the minutes that go by. He caresses her clitoris with first the broad flat of his tongue, then teases her with the fluttering tip. She grabs ears, rakes hair… He draws her full pearl into the vacuum of his mouth, sucking her through her spasms. She rides the waves with her bucking hips and begins to shake beneath the hands resting on her stomach. She anoints his face with her oils, pouring from a reservoir unknown. She holds her breath and freezes, bracing herself for what she has imagined inevitable. But he is a just glistening smile, retreating and moving close until he rests against her shaking body, head to pounding heart. She feels him flaccid against her knee and begins to breathe again, wondering if she owes him. In the morning, the fried-egg, burnt-toast answer is no.
She spends many nights beneath the ceiling fan that sticky summer. She has bucked against his patient mouth, bounced God’s name off paint-chipped walls. They take his sheets to the Laundromat; the spinning suds remind her of her liquid self.
One night, he stops her before she shimmies her panties to her ankles, prepares to climb into fresh sheets. “Do you know there doesn’t have to be an after? This is sex too. I’m not going anywhere near you until you ask me. You don’t have to be afraid.” She rewinds the nights, lets the pattern play back in the theater of her mind, and shimmies unafraid.

One day soon, she will make his bed a river and forget to feel pressure. She will grab ears, rake hair, and shout all the gods from all the heavens. She will ache to ride his patience, long to extend an invitation for flesh. But her tongue will be tied. She has never asked for it before.
That truth will make her nakedly giddy. She will have answered the question that she had asked for years. Was there some truth to the Paul of Tarsus/ R. Kelly, mind/ body split? Had she ever asked for it before? Had she given signals? Had her eyes been deceiving? Had she made some sort of inadvertent hip movement, unknowingly signaled some sort of go-ahead that only her partners were taught to read? No. Never. Not once. In that moment, she will know those other men to be liars, know herself capable of wanting this communion of flesh.
“Please,” she will say, pushing boxers past his slight hips, nodding to the drawer where she knows he keeps gold packets like treasure box toys. “I want to feel you.” He will ask her if she’s sure, remind her that sex is not a three-course meal. He will lick shoulders, kiss moles, and dip below her navel to fill her with the whole of his tongue. When she is brimming over like a baptismal pool, when she has exercised her rights and exorcized her wrongs over and over and over again, only then will he enter gently, kissing her “Yes”-ing mouth.
She will know for the first time what it is to breathe through the initial moments of puzzle piece bodies. She will know what it is to willingly expand to accept flesh, to make room for an invited guest. She will know what it is to ride hips, lick lips, and suck the flesh of collarbone without praying for a swift end. She will intimately know the spirit of sharing pleasures, the resounding clarity of yes.

Who will divide this woman? Who will disregard the temple of her body? Who will dictate her alienation– tell her she is either spirit or flesh, blessed or cursed, all evil or all good? Who will deny her the healing of communion?

Living Single

7 Feb

Living Single TV Show Female Cast

I hate the term single. Despite the fact that most of us come in to this world by ourselves and leave that way there’s an expectation of partnering in the interim. And while you are granted a bit more of a reprieve from single shade* in queerdom, there’s still a palpable partner privilege that operates. Couples only hang outs, automatic invites to your partner’s friends’ functions, less unwanted amorous attention because you’re read as off limits, more respect for your time as it’s obviously being impacted by another person, etc. I’ve had the unfortunate but not uncommon experience of losing friends to relationships, only to be heard from again in the equally unfortunate but not uncommon instance of the break up. As a non-partnered person I also feel some pressure when hanging out with half of a coupled couple. I sometimes sense suspicion of my intentions. It seems non-partnered people are read as a roving threat to relationships. There’s always some pop culture plot point where a generally good person, usually man or masculine, is tempted by an evil single seductress who doesn’t give a damn about the existing relationship. Y’all saw Obsessed right?

As I age, I am curious about that moment when singlehood switches in peoples’ minds from the willfulness of youthful independence to tragic pathological existence. I think that timeline is too short maybe even non-existent for straight women and while there’s a bit more leeway in queer community, there comes a point when casual dating isn’t cute anymore or perhaps even possible because folks are booed up. It has me wondering if there’s room to maintain a single life as an older person, like still dating in your 50’s and 60’s? And how do you find folks to date if all your peers at that age are married or partnered? I mean the Golden Girls had it rough but they’d all been married before. I really struggle with this as someone who is ambivalent about romantic relationships, particularly as constructed in this society.

Co-dependent love is constantly represented as the ideal.  “I can’t sleep/think/ live/function without you, romantic partner” leads to the inevitable crash of despair when things don’t work out because you’ve set up someone else to meet the impossible expectation of completing you. “Forsaking all others” doesn’t just imply sexual partners but in a nuclear model of family, seems to also speak to friendships and extended family. Why do mother-in-laws stay getting a bad rap?

And yet, there’s something really real about co-dependence in a culture that doesn’t value interdependence. A romantic partner is expected to be there, in “sickness and in health” in ways that we don’t demand of friendship. Subsequently, a spouse or partner has legal and social rights that a friend does not. For queer folks this is particularly important when unsupportive biological family can legally trump chosen family. Our legal system actively limits who we can call on which reflects and exacerbates social beliefs about relationships.

I have a more playful, flirtatious way of thinking about intimate relationships which usually rubs up against (and not in a good way) a social expectation for monogamy. I have romantic friendships that are not quite platonic, sexy time friends that aren’t quite lovers, close kindred spirits that should really be on my insurance before a romantic partner. And while pop culture flirts with poly possibilities, it never quite goes all the way. There are an endless number of songs that reference men cheating or women cheating on their boyfriends b/c of the supposed sexual prowess of whomever is singing/rapping the hit. So while there’s a tacit tolerance of cheating, intentional polyamory remains off the table. And even with an occasional “my girl’s got a girlfriend” and “ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none,” women are tools for male fantasies, heterofying homosocial sexual behavior.  Folks are more into the illicitness of affairs and the freakiness of multiple sex partners than building articulated intimacy with more than one person. I digress…

I want to live in a world where there isn’t a hierarchy of relationships, where romantic love isn’t assumed to be more important than other kinds, where folks can center any relationships they want whether it be their relationship to their spiritual practice, kids, lovers, friends, etc. and not have some notion that it’s more or less important because of who or what’s in focus. I want to feel like I can develop intimacy with people whether we are sleeping together or not that I will be cared for whether I am romantically involved with someone or not.  I want a community that takes interdependency seriously that doesn’t assume that it’s only a familial or romantic relationship responsibility to be there for each other.

I didn’t just dream this way of relating to each other up. Other cultures and communities throughout time have had more options in terms of how they construct connection. And we are doing it now. Folks are creating interdependent relationships and community that disrupt popular perceptions of appropriate partnering. I just wonder what it will take to get more of us to honestly evaluate the realities of our love and determine whether we are actually getting what we want. Love is abundant, not scarce. Why would we ever want to limit or narrow its flow?

Asking for a Lift …From the Bathroom TOSD from Mia Mingus on Vimeo.


Living single

Hat tip to Zachari C. for bringing her brilliance to the piece.

*Single shade – the general social derision of single people and singleness

Single, Saved, and Sexin’: The Gospel of Gettin’ Your Freak On

3 Feb

Note: This is the first post in our month long series on sex, love, and relationships. To protect the anonymity of the CFs and so that we may speak more freely, many of us will be posting this month under the Collective pseudonym CrunkAsHell. We will also let you know whenever a post is NSFW (not safe for work). Happy Reading!
Like most conservative Christian folks, I grew up believing, that sex was reserved for marriage. For years my sexual experiences were laden with guilt. I routinely went years at a time with no sexual contact, until I would finally, in a fit of weakness give in to my urges. I was caught in a continual cycle of self-denial, self-indulgence, guilt, confession, rinse and repeat, topped off by five years of celibacy. I was treating sex as if it were a bad habit that I desperately needed to break.

All of that is a prelude to a confession: I’m single. I’m saved (as in born-again Christian). And I have sex. Unapologetically.

At my former church, I spent at least one Friday a month, hanging with the dynamic, beautiful, thoughtful, educated sisters of faith who did ministry work. These women were not stuffy; they were totally real:  about how lonely it is without someone; about how they never saw themselves at 35 or 40 still being alone with no prospects; about how frustrating the prospect of perpetual celibacy is. But I respect these women because they decided that “doing it God’s way is best,” even if that means an indefinite period of celibacy. And so inevitably there would be the roll call of who had been celibate the longest. 5 years, 10 years, etc… And because these women believed strongly in the Bible as a rule book, no extramarital expressions of sexuality are permitted, not even masturbation.

I, however, have had a long-standing off-again/on-again relationship with more than one B.O.B. (battery-operated boyfriend).  And I simply don’t believe that someone else should get to touch my clitoris when I don’t.

So while I love these women and while I believe we love the same God, I do not love their sexual ethics. I do not think one can live and thrive in them. For me, Christianity is too much about grace, too much about freedom to engender the continual guilt, frustration, and anxiety, which I continually confronted merely for expressing my sexual selfhood. Surely there must be a better way.

But when it comes to the sex life of the single Christian, it’s hard to take the Bible as the gospel truth, because for us, their ain’t no good news in it. Song of Solomon’s erotic imagery notwithstanding, no scriptural loopholes permitting me to get my much-needed freak on presented themselves.

But a loophole is not what I needed. I needed a bigger view of God.

For so many women, the biggest faith struggle of their life has been “believing God for a mate.” Year after year, these women serve, pray, and live chaste, believing that God just requires more faith, or alternately, that God is still working on them. And the Black church, in its refusal to consider the impact of over-incarceration, poor education, underemployent, violence, and AIDS, on Black families and heterosexual Black marriages, only makes it worse by reinforcing Black women’s feelings of personal and relational inadequacy.  The Church’s parochial sexual politics and double standards have made it even harder for Black women to find the kinds of relationships they so desperately seek.  My sister friends want dudes who are in church often, “know the Word,” love God, and are willing to court them for as long as it takes with little to no physical contact. Most preachers don’t adhere to that standard, and while there are some men who would, there are many many, legitimately good brothers who won’t. Our churches rarely even preach celibacy to men. <Side Eye>

So when I recognized the way social conditions and religious guilt shaped my options for partnering, I began to ask different questions about my relationship to God, to the Bible, and to faith. Because my friends were following the rules, to a tee, and yet the rewards elude(d) them.

I don’t want the good stuff, sexual or otherwise, to elude me while I’m over here dutifully following the rules, so I’ve actively and painfully gone in search of a better way, filled with life affirming principles and enough grace to let me enjoy my life and some good sex, too.  ‘Cause frankly, now that I’m over 30, getting some, getting it good, and getting it on a regular basis is non-negotiable.

I refuse any longer to live a fear-driven life, based upon a set of rules that mete out punishment and reward based on how well I perform.  I think Jesus came to free us from performance driven living.  As women, we are no stranger to performance driven lives, which often leave us empty and unfulfilled as we try to be all things to all people. And then we turn around and try to do this same thing in our faith, and it isn’t working. For Black women who are already forced to be superhuman in every other aspect of the world, our faith space, personal and communal, can only be liberatory when it permits us to be fully human, sexuality and all.

If we choose to be honest and intentional, we can build life-affirming intimate relationships, both inside and outside of marriage. But our conservatism has stripped women of the right to be intentional about engaging  and enjoying their sexuality, even causing some women to avoid condoms and birth control, so they don’t have to acknowledge their choices. AIDS is real, fam.

Sex is a form of creative power. And it is in the literal fact of its creative aspects that we feel alive, fully human, and connected. I think God wants nothing less than this for us, and that requires regular, intimate connections of bodies, or at the very least a very regular, intentional and unapologetic intimate connection with our own body.

So sex is back on the table for me in an emotionally safe intimate connection with another person. Because marriage or no, I am clear about this one thing: celibacy is not for me. I need connection. I need intimacy. I need sex. Period.

That’s why I’m unapologetically single, saved, and sexin’.

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