I’m Black and Asexual. Stop Being So Surprised.

What it’s like to not exactly fit into society’s stereotypes of Black women

Photo: Nolwen Cifuentes/Getty Images

TThe first time I told someone I was asexual, they thought it was a joke. I was sitting in the middle of a gay bar, surrounded by people of all sexualities, and this person still thought I was joking.

It didn’t take them long to realize I was dead serious, then disbelief set in.

“I thought asexuals didn’t like sex?”

The question wasn’t a malicious one, but it was confusing (and annoying). I’d never told this person that I liked sex. I’d never told him I didn’t like sex either. I’d never had a single conversation about sex in his presence, so why was he making assumptions about what went on between my legs?

It took him a while to find the words he needed to explain what he was trying to say. It came out in broken stutters colored by a level of embarrassment that I didn’t understand until we were walking home. He explained that he’d met Black people who were gay, bisexual, and transgender, but he’d never met a Black person who was asexual.

I’d never linked the color of my skin to my sexuality. Here’s what I’d always known:

  1. I didn’t like relationships, especially not the type I saw on the big screen.
  2. I rarely tolerated physical affection from my partners.
  3. Sometimes the idea of sex was abhorrent to me, but sometimes it wasn’t.

These were my truths, and I always thought they were simple. My truths had never before clashed with my culture, but on that night, I was faced with the reality that when my friend saw me and the color of my skin, he made a story in his head about the person I must be, and I didn’t fit the narrative.

There shouldn’t be any shock or anger when a Black woman doesn’t want to have sex with you. Our bodies belong to ourselves.

Walking home from the bar, I wondered if other people had similar assumptions about me and my sexuality. I spent that night examining my previous relationships. I remembered the way every single one of them seemed to believe that I must’ve been messing around with someone new because what other reason did I have for losing interest in our sex life? I’d written it off as consistently bitter exes, but maybe they weren’t bitter — maybe they were confused. Maybe it was next to impossible for people to see me, a Black woman, and understand that I just wasn’t a sexual being.

In truth, I’m the furthest thing from it. But while I may have accepted my occasional intolerance of romance and love, society doesn’t afford me the same choice.

Society painted me and other Black women and girls in stereotypes the second we came into the world. Through music videos, movies, pinups, and straight-up racism, my self-worth has been linked to my sexual desires and practices. This oversexed persona was even given a name; they call her “Jezebel,” a stereotype of the inherent hypersexuality of Black women.

And Black people have internalized the racist belief that we’re inherently sexual. Before becoming Jezebels, the innocence of Black girls is stripped from them as soon as their hips widen and fat mixed with muscle accumulates on their chest. A study called this phenomenon “adultification,” where people assign adult characteristics to a child based on the color of their skin.

I grew up with countless moments of classmates being called “sluts” and “loose” when they hadn’t even had their first kiss. It was expected of Black girls to be hypersexual beings. Everything we did was under a microscope that painted us in unflattering colors. We bore the mantle of adulthood before the concept of adult had even solidified in our heads.

And in the midst of this was little, old me.

Sexuality exists on a spectrum, and Black people exist within it.

A young Black girl shouldn’t have to worry every time she steps out the door because the world can’t seem to understand that our innocence doesn’t have an expiration date. There shouldn’t be any shock when a little Black girl tells someone she wears her clothes for herself and not to attract the attention of others. There shouldn’t be any shock or anger when a Black woman doesn’t want to smile for you or talk to you or have sex with you. Our bodies belong to ourselves.

And there shouldn’t be any surprise when a Black woman says she’s asexual.

Sexuality exists on a spectrum, and Black people exist within it. Everyone isn’t into the same things. There’s nothing wrong with me because I’m not interested in sex; I’m not missing out on anything. I find fulfillment and intimacy in my relationships in a multitude of ways; sometimes that includes intercourse, and sometimes it doesn’t. Above all, my sexuality, anyone’s sexuality, shouldn’t be a judgment factor in friendships, relationships, or in the world.

Maybe if society stopped imposing its own expectations on people like me just because of the color of my skin, my life would stop being such a shock factor to people who shouldn’t even matter.

I’m just a Jamaican-British writer trying to make things work in a big world. Find me on twitter @db_mckenzie.

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