CW: Racism, Sexual Explicitness
by Emmanuel Agu
So I suppose this starts as incredibly clichéd as every article you’ve ever read central to this topic, so apologies for the start. My story looks like this initially: a surprisingly overconfident, yet tragically naïve 18 year old city kid sets off to university, desperate to finally leave the comfort and restraint of home, yearning for a new circle of friends with few inhibitions; eager to explore depths of his sexuality and surrounding community. None of this realistically, was achievable with a 12:00pm curfew (African parents. Let’s just leave that one there.)
Fairly rapidly I’m granted a few of my first desires – fresher’s week had me out and as drunk as I could ever wish to be, I was very quickly surrounded with an open minded, assertive circle of young men and women, a second circle of friends as eager as I was to see what life was like living free the constraints of a second generation African upbringing, and finally a group of flat mates that squabbled and clashed and reconciled in a clockwork fashion that felt like a family away from home.
Many I had been on dates with, or perhaps had confessed my identity to (feeling a little loose tongued whilst inebriated) had told me my identity “wasn’t really a thing”, I was quite simply “greedy” or still had “half my leg in the closet.”
Soon I was experimenting with both men and women as freely as I so deemed it, though eventually the oscillating gender balance and furtive nature of some of these encounters began to accumulate; and eventually the once overconfident Machiavellian city boy had to take a break, let a few walls down and reach out for some advice/answers. Sadly the free spirited Norfolk I was beginning to fall in love with looked increasingly regressive. Many I had been on dates with, or perhaps had confessed my identity to (feeling a little loose tongued whilst inebriated) had told me my identity “wasn’t really a thing”, I was quite simply “greedy” or still had “half my leg in the closet.”
Hurt as I was, I just decided to internalize my identity for a bit longer- yet still my personal exploration wasn’t complete. Of course you see where this is going – like most young queer men I conformed, yes I (re) downloaded grindr and all associated apps, heck I even gave tinder a whirl too. I went to a few gay bars and clubs- and that is when a new side of society was opened to me that I had never encountered before. Men and women were pursuing and receiving my advances in ways I had never expected.
The first kind were fairly innocent- they were just eager to compliment the darkness and “healthy glow” of my melanin and confess their “inexplicable attraction to men of darker skin” A few simple one-liners here and there – “is it true what they say about black men? 😉 😉 😉 😉 😉 ” or “mmmm nigger dick”. Then poured in some messages from the occasional seedy bastard desperate for “their first taste of black cock” A few were looking for a “hung thug” that was “420 friendly” and were desperate to find if I could fit that role for them, and in many occasions some would freely enquire about “the rates I charged for my services”. Much to my surprise, a few straight men had even approached me with their girlfriends’ in tow requesting that I “fuck her in a way that they never could”.
“This is just internet dating, Manny” I told myself, “maybe queer clubs and social spaces will be better”.
Naïve was a very adequate description. Visting my local bars and clubs it became very clear to me that the man I saw in the mirror was not the same as others were seeing on the dance floor. To them I was nothing more than 80kg of black meat attached to penis and firm arse they were desperate to unravel and sample for themselves. Men wouldn’t hesitate to grab my crotch or rear, lean in and whisper their specific and elaborate fantasies to my ears. In some cases freely attempted to undress me to witness if my “chocolate abs” were in line with their fantasies and preconceived notions of what black men should appear as.
“Perhaps its just the location Manny, I mean Norwich doesn’t even compare in diversity against London, it cant happen there right?”
Black men are seen as nothing more than bulked up hyper-masculine, big-dicked, high stamina breeding machines.
Naïve. Of course it happened in London…. and in Brighton…. and in Edinburgh and I slowly concluded that this would happen wherever I should chose to travel to. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fool, of course I took advantage of these advances whenever I felt like a few free drinks, a little bit of attention, or perhaps a one night stand to laugh about the morning after (and regret in the following weeks). While it is absolutely within my right to do so, those people who see no problem with the advances made in my direction need to reevaluate their stance. The problem here is that black men, (when seen as desirable), in both queer and straight dating scenes are fetishised and frequently reduced to no more than an enviable commodity. Black men are seen as nothing more than bulked up hyper-masculine, big-dicked, high stamina breeding machines. One doesn’t have to look far to question why this is as at all.
Here’s an experiment: click on the ebony/interaccial porn category of any porn website (I’ll leave the choice down to you guys, we all have our favorites.) and count how many instances you see a video without the mention of the words “beast”, “monster”, “thug” or “dominant” in the comments or tags. For queer men especially – who tend to rely extensively on sex education from erotic content, it is easy to see why this nature is prevalent across social spaces. The more worrying thing is that this attitude is seen all across our consumption of media, music and culture. Think of any film where a black man is even lucky enough to play the protagonist or love interest in the mainstream, the mandingo character archetype is seen again.
Anyone who knows me well knows I draw life from R&B and the odd melismatic display of excellence. Think to Usher, R.Kelly, or D’angelo, how many music videos can we think of where they somehow end up covered in glistening baby oil, or through some magic turn of events perform a dance solo in the rain, abs on show? How many black men are famous and successful without conforming to this imagery, or perhaps exaggerating their portrayal as a thug to adhere to the constraints of society?
Why are talented musicians of color in other genres less frequently seen? Why it is only through the perpetuation of stereotypes and laid out models and constraints we are able to be seen and succeed? Now of course fetishisation extends far past black men, look back at Kim Kardashian’s infamous “ break the internet” Winter 2014 cover and subsequent articles written surrounding the fetishisation of black women to prove the same faults in society.
Eastern Asian men and women, again through porn and our engagement in media, are seen as docile and submissive. Hispanic men and women undergo fetishisation similar to black people, though arguably perhaps the lighter skin shade affords them more humanity and less beast like features through their media portrayal. All points considered, it is clear to see that the fetishisation of people of colour is obviously a major issue in itself, but much like the issue of cultural appropriation, it is symptomatic of the much larger sinister system that upholds and structures the currently society we live in: white, cisgendered male supremacy, and I refuse to contribute to it.
I am not an exotic piece of fruit you just have to sample on your extended “gap yah” travels.
I am not an ultra-rare-super-gold-foil holographic Pokémon card you can show off and compare against your mates’ collections.
I am not the black boy you date to piss of your suburban conservative parents.
My black skin is not a canvas “your cum will look great against”
I will not be dehumanized, and my blackness is something I will not be made to feel ashamed of.