Bootylicious(ish): Black & Brown BDSM Sex Workers And The Quest For Empowerment And Agency

Image:  Mic

Image: Mic

The body-positivity movement — a central part of contemporary feminist theory — has dried the “heartwrenching” tears of a fair share of conventionally-unconventional white femmes; while their newfound affinity for nonrestrictiveness and unconditional admiration of all sizes, shapes, and gender expressions has been applauded by mainstream media conglomerates (i.e. those who elevate any acceptably-defiant white cishet woman with a buzzcut, overdramatized, kitschy, and pomegranate-colored Revlon eyeshadow, and Goodwill-thrifted chartreuse checkered flannel to the heights of social justice stardom because they co-opted the verbiage of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), it leaves us BIPOC — in specifically, marginalized black & brown femmes — feeling unsynchronized and underrepresented. Our worth, measured in respect to the perverse and nonconsensually-sadomasochistic terminologies and tendencies of the (vampiric) economic system called “capitalism”, is correlated to our acts of self-preservation — all configured to fit within the box of fictional autonomy that the male gaze, and, by extension, the machinations of white supremacy, has imposed with an undiminishing force.


This chauvinism, this unrepentant persuasiveness, this meticulous gaslighting is perceived to be done for our benefit; however, sexual exploitation, fatphobia, and the hero-worship of TERFs and SERFs has gaslit black and brown communities — especially black and brown transfemmes and sex workers — to believe that whiteness — particularly its omnipotence, authoritarianism, and acrimoniousness — is the default. Idealizing the default, which is an intergenerationally black-and-brown reinterpretation of escapism, is a way of making them feel, psychosomatically and conceptually, “human”; as we’ve seen in history, however, “feeling something” that is unattainable did not save countless Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous folks from having the sanctimoniousness of whiteness universalized and seen as a benevolent entity meant to redirect, reorganize, and reconceptualize their culture, their extermination be gleefully licensed, and — despite the persistent mental laboriousness of finding your way back from intraracial strife and diaspora wars — their mental being and physical body from being delegitimized, reappropriated, and slaughtered: pre and postcolonial society’s way of saying “Felicitations!” and “Welcome home!”.

Home, however, is not where the heart is; my heart, tethered to my ancestor’s experiences and expectations as well as my identity as a teenaged Afrolatinx femme-presenting genderqueer, has been buried and untombed for whiteness’s hyperconsumption and possessiveness. My acquiescence has become an exhibit and fascination, a source of comfort for well-intentioned white idealism and irrationality. My disappointment with the current dialectic of sex has been perceived as malevolence to my white counterparts; used to our accommodation and gratification, albeit from a place of subservience rather than interpersonal relations, they have become no better than the “handmaidens” — composed of asinine observations, a Brobdingnagian-sized credulousness, and an unthreatening, maternalistic, and puritanical persona than arouses the male disinclination for resistance as well as their libidinousness towards vanquishment and forceful, unsequestered occupation — who provide appeasement for battered white male consciences. That servility — that automated desire to conform, to placate, to influence and astonish and impress within reason — is the indisposition that beleaguers third-wave feminist thought, deradicalizing a movement — meant to deconstruct and obliterate the preconceived (and prehistoric) ideas of male domination and indubitability, femme weaknesses, and the censoriousness of the malapportionment and distortion of psychosexual relationships between femme maneuverability and identification as well as politeness and reproduction — that has become one beacon of enlightenment and political and ideological insubordination: foundational elements of the revolution.

We — Black & brown femmes — are challenging you to acknowledge and decriminalize our sistren, the foremothers of modern-day feminism: Black & brown sex workers and, contingent upon that, professional Black & brown BDSM workers. Discussions surrounding sex and sexuality are not only crucial to the development of feminist thoughtfulness and effectiveness but also to cultivating an environment in which Black & brown sex workers can express their sentiments about issues pertinent to them as individuals and as a collective. Encouraging Black & brown BDSM sex workers to explore the bandwidth of their agency and disrupt a venue of power that has long abetted the expansion of the powers of white maleness, accompanied by sexual overlordship; without the normalization of black & brown reclamation, deconstruction of the “aesthetic” and “acceptably-hypersexual” paramountcy that white men use to gauge the sexual appetite of Black & brown femmes/trans/GNC folk, and the unanimous upheaval of discriminatory laws that penalize consensual adult sex workers, the sex trade and the (unadventurous) power dynamics characteristic of it, Black & brown sex workers will continue to be stigmatized as “undesirable”, franchising their dehumanization and near-pornographic victimization.

However, as with all topics that involve hypervisibility and the reconfiguration of an already insidious and apprehensive power dynamic, there must be clarification; because Black & brown sex workers have been continuously and rigorously sexualized by their white counterparts, they have often been likened to little more than adornments that are devoid of the capacity to counteract or disabuse the imperviousness of white sensibilities and sexual entitlement. Add in the near-universal acceptance of encumbrances that disproportionately affected Black & brown lives (i.e. socioeconomic disparities, racism, transmisogynoir/misogynoir, and gender stereotyping), and you have an exhausting cocktail of interracial and intraracial impediments that prevent Black & brown sex workers from asserting their sexual agency, debunking the disingenuousness that has become intrinsically-attached to professional BDSM, and appreciating their bodies’ capacity for physical empowerment and mental regeneration.

Being non-white in the field of sex work serves as a double-edged sword; on one side, you are a distinguishment — new in directionality, personalization, and experience. On the other more unforgiving and less ameliorating side, you are separated from the predetermination of attractiveness: whiteness. Whiteness in sex work is seen as a reassurance — a commodity — that the acceptable psyche of femininity is still operating smoothly and, by far, whiteness is considered to be the zenith of faultlessness, immaculateness, and the enchanting elusiveness of sexual je ne sais quoi.

As Mistress A., a professional Black dominatrix, says: “I feel the push to pander to a certain audience. A certain audience that wants me to look the way, they feel, a black dominatrix should. They want this caricature of a woman, all neck-rolling and finger-snapping, it’s part of their kink, and they want the extremity. ...Our sales-pitch is our skin color.” Black & brown BDSM sex workers are forced to exaggerate the notions that enfeebled white men fantasize about: built out of a boxy and superior emotional and physical strength and unable to possess the same trademark characteristics of femininity, a privilege — the privilege to exist without having your being be a point of contention in digital sociopolitical forums — that white womxn are able to afford. This forces black & brown professional BDSM & sex workers to impose restraints on their imaginativeness, to be unable to explore their boundaries without overstimulation or ridicule, and to practice the exercising of their autonomy — a eucatastrophe that many, engaged in constant backpedaling and the sexuality-based laboriousness of postcolonial contemplation, have made monumental and occasionally self-destructive strives to attain.

To do things more determinedly is a massive stepping-stone that aids Black & brown sex workers in their quest for sexual liberation, and, by distribution, the self-reinforcement of their own confidence. The emotional investment characteristic of Black & brown professional “domme” womxn allows them to explore themselves outside of survival sex and the need to finance their expenses; not only are these Black dommes the supervisors of their male clients, but they are also privy to witness the way the patriarchy expedites the devolution of male self-aggrandizement and ownership. These men come to dominant sex workers in order to fully experience and revel in the brattiness their submissiveness allows, leading to them loosening the barricades they have set up regarding their expression of shamefulness, emasculation, and revitalization in the wake of sexual suppression.

Many Black & brown sex workers use this newfound reversal of traditional power dynamics and sexual play to be individualized repatriation of their autonomy (historically and presently repressed and violated in order to compound the proliferation of male despotism and the dictatorship of pleasure and eroticism. The emotional, mental, and social benefits cultivated in a space where a Black & brown femme is dominant over a white man are indescribable and soothing; Black reconstruction of a predominantly-white framework allows black & brown femme sex workers to be more adamantine and uncompromising with their desires for sexual, emotional, and physical fulfillment — a basic component of respect that has been denied from them since the establishment of postcolonial identities and inconsistencies.

The pride that Black & brown sex workers feel has allowed the professional BDSM to offer them its greatest gift: learning what healthy boundaries look like, what recognition and attentiveness to those boundaries looks like, and what outspokenness — one of the most disadvantageous, burdensome, and back-breaking acts of resistance that Black & brown femmes bear — and learning to be unapologetically you, no matter if your preferred avenue of expression is lightheartedness or staking your claim in the world of sexual fetishism and dispensation.

“This work has just really taught me everything about not only myself, but that shame that I used to have, “oh I’m so big, I take up space”, now it’s like, “fuck yeah, I take up space — and I’m going to take up some more! Shit.” Said Karmenife X, an artist, writer, stand-up comedian, connoisseur of Black Thot supremacism, and professional Dominatrix in an interview with Wear Your Voice magazine. “...As a dominatrix, I am the one in power, you have to really believe, ‘I am this powerful goddess. Look at my chest, worship my body, worship my brain. You’re grateful to even fucking look at me. You are grateful that I am even giving you the time of day.’”

The dynamics of power and powerlessness are in constant motion, changing the relationship between what is safe and what is beneficial and what is exhilarating and what is self-sabotaging; however, in light of that change, one truth will remain constant: that sexual freedom is a consequential and reaffirming subclause of liberation. It is not as simple as revoking all self-preconditioned inhibitions and limitations, cracking open a manual, and binge-watching melodramatized dom-sub porn. Vocalizing one’s disempowerment and tapping into the positivity and psychosexual chemistry, unmistakable and representative of proper BDSM work, are extraordinarily-difficult milestones of this to reach. Despite this, in this tumultuous time of feminine rising, Black & brown sex workers — with all of their pulchritudinousness, impressiveness, and perseverance — have made significant strides in healing the wounds of their mental, physical, and sexual deprivation and becoming cognizant of the transformational power of consensual sexual healing within sadomasochism.

Their healing is our healing.

Zoe Rivera Comment