God, Guilt, And Sexual Pleasure: The Black Woman’s Dilemma

How many times have you been in bed with your partner—doing some kinky awesome ish, floating on a sea of sensation and totally lost in the sauce—when you suddenly felt like your (grand)mother/ mentor/ Sunday school teacher was somewhere looking down at you and shaking their head in disapproval? Did the realization kill your ladyboner fast? Did you freeze up and suddenly feel awful in some type of way?

I bet you did.

A friend of mine told me, once, she was on her knees handling her man’s business orally when it suddenly dawned on her that OMG this was the position she had assumed to say her prayers every day since she was a kid. That dick fell out of her mouth like it was a hot potato and after that she could never fully relax during sex with the dude. Needless to say, the relationship didn’t last. And though I wish I could say that friend was the exception, the more I talk to my sistercircle of women the more I hear stories of ambivalence about sex and an inability to let go during times of sexual pleasure.

Regardless of what part of the Americas, Africa or the Caribbean we come from, most black women are raised in communities where God is ubiquitous. We are surrounded by ideas that sex is dangerous (mentally, physically, emotionally) and can only be a source of excitement, fulfillment and personal growth if we are doing it within the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. So every time we fuck, we come to the activity with all this psychological baggage and latent guilt.

Our cultural messaging that sex is dirty and shameful and filled only with furtive moments of stolen pleasure that should leave us awash in guilt causes us to settle for mediocre, unfulfilling and emotionally barren nookie because we feel so guilty about the whole affair anyway not speaking up for ourselves seems like a lesser sin; it minimizes our involvement somehow. Having sad, bad, sex where we give the barest of ourselves and get back the barest of our partners in return seems like a safer alternative. Nah, girl. It isn’t.

I have come to realize that having good sex, sex that is consensual, communicative and fair, sex that leaves us with our toes curled and our weaves/naps sweated out, is fighting the power  (yes it is, raise your fist) because as black women we get a triangulation of problematic messaging. First there’s the “God might not like this” aspect. Then there is the twisted Victorian notion of morality, where human bodies are shameful, filthy and unfit for public consumption, that we got from our colonizers and slavemasters. To top off the turd sundae we add on respectability politics—the messages we imbibe from the cradle that constantly whisper into our psyches “Folks already think blacks are oversexed, dirty, immoral, Jezebels. Don’t prove em right by doing something nasty.”

We need to toss that mess in the trash and find something better to munch on. Good sex, sex that lets us figure out who we are  and what we like to do in the bedroom, allows us to discover our truest, most open and most honest selves. Good sex teaches us about trust and generosity and patience. It affirms our desire to be our own advocates, to insist and assert and to demand and compromise till things are exactly as we like them. And when we’re doing it and doing it and doing it well, sometimes good sex even makes us see God and gives us earth-shattering orgasms of Biblical proportions.


F.N. is a thirty something free-lance writer from Ghana. Currently, she is trying out a new life in Washington, DC

Originally published November 14, 2014