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So What You Saying?
In the past few months, we’ve seen Empire’s stand-out character “Cookie” (played with flair by the multi-talented Taraji P. Henson) allowing her security to be breeched by Derek Luke’s (of Antwone Fisher fame) character, “Malcolm Deveaux”. We’ve also seen Scandal’s “Olivia Pope” (played by the beautiful Kerry Washington) getting her groove on with “Russell” or “Franklin Russell”, or whatever his fine-ass’s name is. And we’ve watched the incomparable Gabrielle Union in the title role on Being Mary Jane having steamy relations with her gorgeous, football playing “Cutty Buddy”.
My response to all these gorgeous grown folks having casual sex outside the confines of a committed relationship? HELL YES! It’s about damned time!
That’s, right. I’m thrilled that popular shows with Black women in lead roles are showing the Friends with Benefits (FWB) phenomenon in a positive light. It’s awesome that self-loving, emotionally healthy women can engage in these kinds of relations without the usual repercussions. Okay, maybe calling these characters emotionally healthy is a stretch. I mean, have you met “Olivia Pope’s” crazy ass parents? But still …
It’s high time that Black women’s sexuality is depicted as something other than exploitive, painful, and resulting in unplanned pregnancy or disease … or only existing within marriage. We’ve got a long way to go. But at least we’re slowly moving away from being depicted as one or two-dimensional people on one extreme of the sexual continuum or the other. Traditionally, we’ve either been whores (literally and figuratively) or sexless Mama figures, married and nurturing to everyone but ourselves.
Black women are as three-dimensional as everyone else, even when it comes to sex. And that multiple dimensionality is finally being shown on television! Fist pumps and high fives to everyone! Yes! Yaasssss!
I know that a lot of folks will cringe at showing sexually liberated Black women on television or anywhere else. And I don’t blame them. Fears that such honest portrayals will take us back to those tired stereotypes of us being insatiable, lusty animals are real and justified. But I still welcome these new narratives.
Wait, let me qualify that. I welcome these modern portrayals as long as they’re on OUR terms. Let me be very clear: I do not support, condone or advocate for misogynistic, exploitive depictions of ANY women, especially Black women!
That said, I do want our narratives shared in ways which reflect the truth of our textured, layered lives. And I’m all for images and stories of our sexuality being part of those narratives where appropriate. But I want those stories, like all our stories, to be told on our terms, from our own perspectives.
I know. I know. I may be asking for too much. After all, these are perilous times for women’s liberties on all fronts, especially globally. Rampant rape, extreme violence, exploitation and sexual repression seem to go unchecked worldwide. And the notion of women living sexually liberated lives is perceived as a threat to the patriarchal power structure, even in the good ol’ U.S.A. And that’s for all women. When you introduce color, race and ethnicity into the equation, the news is even bleaker.
And yet, we’ve had some victories in recent years. They’re few and far between, especially in the current climate where Black lives seem to mean so little. But in the midst of all the cruelty and unjust death, there are little rays of hope. Women and girls are pushing back, often at great personal risk, against the violent waves of oppression sweeping across the world. Whether fighting for the right to an education or a voice in government, women continue to resist those forces which are determined to drag us back into the dark ages.
We can see the fruits of these hard-won battles in the wonderful world of American television. Sort of. Sometimes. In a few instances.
Like I said, we have so much more work to do.
Still. I’m going to count these recent portrayals of consensual sex outside the confines of a committed relationship as a “win”! Because for so many single Black women, the FWB phenomenon is real. There are a lot of single Black women who, like their counterparts in other races, engage in safe, responsible, and consensual casual sex. And they do so without the stereotypical fallout that popular culture usually ascribes to such relationships.
That’s right, we Black women have needs, too. And while we wait for Mr. Right, we have absolutely no problem having those needs met by Mr. Right Now. Keep in mind that the FWB, or Cutty Buddy, isn’t some random, meaningless one-night stand. On the contrary. The operative word in the moniker “Friend with Benefits” is “Friend”. These are guys whom we respect and who respect us right back. We have genuine and often loving feelings towards them and enjoy their company. They make amazing sexual partners because while there are actual emotions involved, there isn’t the kind of emotional baggage that accompanies most romantic relationships.
And can I be honest? Over the years, my FWB relationships have often been the healthiest relationships I’ve had with men. Don’t judge me.
The beauty of having a Cutty Buddy is that you get the perks of having a man in your life (awesome sex, decent conversation, true friendship) without all the hard work and headaches. It’s a no-muss, no-fuss way to keep your sanity while navigating these crazy dating streets. Because let’s face it. It is crazy out here in the dating world.
FWB relationships aren’t meant to be everlasting. They have a definite shelf-life because if they last too long, someone involved may “catch feelings”. They’re meant to be temporary stop-gaps, designed to keep us sane until our next committed relationship comes along. Cutty Buddy relationships usually end amicably when one or the other person enters into a monogamous relationship with someone they see has long-term potential.
And don’t get it twisted. These relationships have rules, too. Some, like the characters on Being Mary Jane, agree to keep each other “in the loop” about any serious relationships on the horizon. Some FWBs agree to only sleep with each other for the duration of their relationship. Again, these aren’t random, fly-by-night rolls in the hay. They are legitimate, caring relationships in their own right.
Cutty Buddy’s aren’t for everyone, though. Not all women are wired for these types of casual, no-strings-attached relationships. For many women, sex without a commitment (or even marriage) is a huge no-no. Like one close friend told me “If we sleep together, we go together!” And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, I admire that. And I’m glad that there are numerous portrayals of these kinds of Black women on television, as well.
But I’m also glad that the Black woman who willingly engages in Cutty Buddy sex is portrayed in a positive light. Because we’re out there, too. And we’re not hoes or loose women out to steal your men, either. Nor are we lonely, miserable old spinsters. We’re women from all walks of life and faith who choose to engage in consensual, mutually satisfying sex outside the parameters of a committed relationship. It works for us. And there’s nothing wrong with that, either.
Photo Credits: bet.com, dates4usblog, thisisyourconscience.com