I have been a symbol of sex my entire life. As a black woman from a poor, single-parent household, I know the script that is written for me far too well. Black women are always more appealing as strippers or “hoes.” Before I even hit puberty, this script was shoved in my face and I was forced to memorize it.
When I was 11, I lived in a predominantly underprivileged, black neighborhood in Houston, Texas. Everyone knew each other. My mom worked nights at the local hospital, so often I was home alone with my brother, sister and an older cousin. My mom thought the high fences that surrounded our complex kept us safe from what was on the outside. Little did she know, what was on the inside tormented me daily.
Occasionally, I would make trips to the grocery across the street. On one particular evening, a group of older men — probably in their 30s and 40s — were standing near my house. A screwed/chopped version of The Hot Boys’ “I Need A Hot Girl” was blasting from a minivan parked up near the curb. As I approached, they waved. I could name every individual in the group.
“Hey girl, come on over here,” one of them called out to me over the music. He was a dark, tall man with huge brown eyes. I walked over quietly.
“I always see you going to school,” he said.
I nodded, but remained quiet.
“You like school a lot, huh?” he asked.
I nodded again.
“I could school you,” he said with a smirk. “There’s a thing or two I bet you don’t know yet.”
The crowd of men erupted in chuckles. I gave a weak smile and turned to walk away.
“You know where to find me if you change your mind,” he yelled behind me as I sped home.
Tears welled up in my eyes, not only because I didn’t understand the joke, but because I couldn’t understand why they were all laughing at me. On my way back home, I ran into my neighbor, a 17-year-old brother of one of the men who had just laughed in my face.
“Don’t pay them any attention, my brother and his friends are just stupid,” he assured me.
I didn’t say anything, but looked up at him with an appreciative smile.
“I got some new, cool movies,” he said. “You should come by tomorrow and we’ll watch one.”
I accepted his invitation. The next day I showed up to his house, three doors down from my mine. The bass from his music was making the front porch rattle.
“It’s open,” he yelled from inside.
I opened the door to find him sitting, completely naked, with his penis in hand watching pornography on mute, with Juvenile’s “Back That AZZ” pounding out of the speakers. He gestured for me to come closer. I closed the door and shamefully walked back home. I saw him, not too long after, by our neighborhood pool. We both avoided eye contact.
My best friend and next door neighbor, a white girl whose mother was a drunk and father permanently absent, was only 13 years old — two years older than me — when she became known as the neighborhood “super head.” I remained naive about her reputation, until she begged me to come over to the house of another boy who lived in the neighborhood. We were all sitting in his living room alone (his mother worked two jobs and was never home) when he pulled down his pants and she got onto her knees in front of me.
“You should try it,” she urged me.
I couldn’t find it in myself to. I went home and we never spoke again.
By the time I was 13, I was completely desensitized to the onscreen bouncing asses on BET Uncut. The women were only distinguishable by the color of their G-strings and the amount of dollar bills stuffed into them. I was numb to the men who measured their manhood by the number of women in their front pocket.
When a message came down the wire that the neighborhood drug dealer was shot and killed in front of his four-year-old child, part of me was glad because he had been making sexual comments to me for months every afternoon on my way home from the bus stop.
“I bet you got a fat coochie,” he cooed while riding behind me on his bike. I could barely understand his words through his gold-plated grill.
For months, I smiled at the thought of his death, even knowing that a little boy would grow up with no father. I figured the kid was better off that way.
That smile signified the loss of my humanity. I wore it throughout my life. I plastered it on when I started having sex and the men who sought to please me only knew how to stroke their own egos.
“I really just want to make you cum,” was always the supposed objective, yet none of them cared to listen when I tried to explain that a penis was not necessary for that.
I smiled through the “make that ass clap” through the “slow motion for me” and the “how many drinks will it take you to be with me?” through the “get out your seat hoe” and the “hoes,” “bitches,” “mollies,” and “pussies.”
I understand the circumstance of my childhood. My mother was a single parent who was rarely at home. We were poor and black. This is a fact. And no, I can’t say that solely blame the Rihannas, Lil Waynes and Rick Rosses for the perpetuation of the myth that black women are merely sexual play things to be bought by the highest bidder. But I can blame a supposedly powerful society for not comforting its poor, fatherless, colored girls. For constantly diminishing our value. For having us believe that the only thing of worth lays on top of us or between our legs.
This is an indictment of the many who reap the benefits of the dehumanization of millions of black women. And I am no longer smiling.