Most people would agree that there is a clear double standard in how being sexually active is viewed between men and women but what wider society needs to realise is that it also exists between white women and black women.
Actions which white celebrities or artists are applauded for are often the same actions that lead to black women being ridiculed. For example, Miley Cyrus can swing naked on a wrecking ball and be called an indicator of how far the women’s rights movement has come but Beyoncé’s feminist credentials come under scrutiny because she isn’t clothed enough? This inequality can be traced back to slavery-era theories on black sexuality and our supposed hypersexual traits, which can still be seen in modern society today (see: black men and the myths around their penises).
But respectability politics is complicated: sometimes a black woman that cannot be described as virtuous will be so brilliant that they cannot be dismissed. An example of such a woman is the late Maya Angelou: Pulitzer Prize winning author; Tony award-winning actor; three time Grammy award winner; Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient; and, what many people aren’t aware of, a former sex worker. In one interview concerning her second autobiography, Gather Together In My Name, Angelou says that she chose to include this in her book to make a point that no part of her life should be forgotten. Despite this, the vast majority of media outlets left this out of their obituaries as if it was a part of her life that she had always hidden or felt ashamed of when, in fact, it played an important role in her personal development.
Although the next black woman I am going to mention is very different, she shares both the experience of working in the sex industry and being unapologetically truthful with Dr Angelou: Amber Rose. To those who aren’t aware of my favourite (self-professed) #MILF, she’s best known for working in the music industry as a “video girl”, dating Kanye West for two years and being married to Wiz Khalifa, with whom she has a child. At the age of 15, she began to strip in order to support herself and her family, a part of her life she has never been ashamed of or kept secret though it has often been used to slander her. It was through this line of work she says, she learnt not to be ashamed, but to love her body and herself which can only be a good thing.
Using her massive social media platform she’s begun by organising the first LA SlutWalk which will, according to the official site, raise money for organisations that support women who have been victims of sexual violence and pay for onsite HIV testing. But, like most black women in the public eye who choose to embrace their sexuality, this will probably go largely ignored. If I was in LA, on 3 October, I would make sure to join Amber’s ThotTrot because being black shouldn’t mean that you need to be a nun to be respected.