Black Women + Sexuality

India Arie’s Essence Fest Criticism Reawakens Wounds on Black Female Hypersexuality

Racially-rooted stigmas and sexual criminalization are a continuing cloud over Black women.

Quintessa Williams
Published in
6 min readJul 6
Black Female Body Portrayal by Ana Brown | Photo Courtesy of The Salt Lake Tribune

The hypersexual war on Black female bodies has been culturally rooted in our diaspora for centuries. The often pre-stigmatized perception of Black women as overly-sexual has encouraged society to consistently impose their opinions, projections, and critiques around how we should properly present ourselves in the world.

On the other hand, perpetuated sexual adultification unfairly accelerated our ability to claim our girlhood earlier than our counterparts. And in today’s climate, Black women face higher degrees of sexual objectification than any other racial female group.

Public perceptions of Black women and how they display their sexuality have been a critical debate for decades. And sometimes, the criticism can potentially become further complicated when it originates from within our own community or even when we become our own perpetrators.

The 2023 Essence Festival took place this past weekend at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The concert series of the festival, hosted by Deon Cole, Affion Crockett, Spice Adams, and Janelle Jams, featured acts such as Lauryn Hill, Megan Thee Stallion, Doug E. Fresh, Jermaine Dupri, and Janelle Monáe.

During Stallion's performance, the rapper invited a group of fans onstage to give them an expert lesson on twerking; — a widely popular dance in a sexually provocative manner. Singer Janelle Monáe also sparked controversy when she flashed one of her breasts during her performance.

Yesterday, singer and songwriter India Arie became the subject of a widespread online media debate when she expressed criticism towards Stallion and Monáe’s performances at the 2023 Essence Fest.

Under a captioned post from Hollywood Unlocked on Instagram, Arie commented:

“The issue is what is CONTEXT. Humanity does EVERYTHING. But does EVERYTHING BELONG IN A STAGE. No. is everything for KIDS? No. is everything for EVERY BODY?” NO. so when we as a culture make…



Quintessa Williams
Writer for

Freelance Writer & Journalist 📝📚| #WEOC | Blackivist | EIC of TDQ | Editor for Cultured, WEOC, & AfroSapiophile. Bylines in ZORA, Momentum & GEN Publications.