The Pleasure Principle

Erotica Is for Black Women, Too

Authors like Zane helped Black women realize that they come first (wink wink)

Aliya S. King
Published in
7 min readAug 14, 2020

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This article is part of The Pleasure Principle, ZORA’s ultimate guide to solo sex, self-pleasure, and self-love.

Like many Black women, it took a long time for me to accept the idea of being a sexual being. I’m 46 years old and about to get married (again!), and I still struggle with the idea that I can (and deserve!) the sex life I want.

There are two reasons for this. First, historically, Black girls have not been encouraged or even allowed to have sexual feelings. It’s understood that boys will eventually learn how to masturbate. It’s something we joke about. It’s a popular television trope. A teenage boy with a bottle of lotion plays for laughs.

But a teenage girl who wants to have sex? We can be punished, scorned, and — in some religious communities — literally killed.

I can remember very distinctly starting to identify sexual feelings. I was barely a teen, and I had no idea what to do. I was literally afraid to even touch myself in any way.

One day, I found a box of old books in my parents’ den. One of them was A Stranger in the Mirror by Sidney Sheldon. There was eye-popping erotica and in-depth sex scenes in every chapter that I can still recall to this very day. I dog-eared that book and hid it between my mattress and box spring for years.

It was my first experience with erotica, though I didn’t yet know it had a name. I would come across other examples over the years — all White authors and White characters. I’m not sure why I didn’t come across Black writers in erotica. But the one and only Zane was my introduction. And admittedly, it wasn’t very long ago.

Black women can be unapologetically sexual in fiction and in real life.

In 2010, my first novel, Platinum, was published by Simon and Schuster. I was a very nervous first-time novelist. I’d already been a writer for a decade. But a book was something else entirely.

Also? My book had sex scenes in it. A lot of them. It wasn’t quite erotica, but…

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Aliya S. King
ZORA
Writer for

Aliya S. King is an author, freelance writer and editor.