Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tales from the Thot: The Objectification of Black(female) Sexuality

I can remember the first time I heard it.  It was a few weeks into the Fall 2013 semester.  I was doing my routine 3-5 minute ice-breaking monologue for one of my classes.  Asking students about their weekends and giving them a detailed yet graphic description of mine.  Ala Arsenio Hall (in the 90s) or any other network talk-show host you may or may have fancied.  And one student mentioned a party they had attended, and if you knew anything about collegiate parties or gatherings, particularly HBCUs, you know they can run the gamut from lame to no-holds-barred cage match type gatherings to all out pseudo strip clubs and grind fests.  Anyway, the student was giving a brief outline, if you will, and stated, “It was plenty of Thots, Mr. Joyner.’  Then, another male student chimed in, “It was a thotfest out there, man.”  I stood befuddled, bewildered, even ignorant.  Female and male students alike burst into laughter and full-toothed grins.  So, I asked, embarrassingly, because I knew, due to the context, I was losing touch with the millennial generation, even though I consider myself pretty cool, hip, and “with it” because I have always been cool, hip, and “with it” as far as Generation X’ers are concerned and because I have the cache of mingling with the youth of today considering my occupation as a professor, “What is as Thot?”  In unison, half of the class replied, “That hoe over there.”  I inadvertently laughed and lowered my head.  I love acronyms.  And this acronym shook me to the core, yet me thinking I’m still cool, chose not to expose it to my students.  I was laughing and smiling, but to me, the “term,” or acronym-turned-noun (synonymous with whore) wasn’t funny whatsoever---it was disturbing. 
Since the beginning of recorded language there have been many words used to describe a sexually promiscuous woman: harlot, trollop, whore, slut.  So, I guess it is only right that the 21st century colloquial lexicon, just as its predecessor popularized the slanguaged term hoe, a derivative of whore, would introduce another disparaging piece of language to further demonize the sexual freedom and frequency of intercourse of women, particularly the Black female.  But the dilemma lies in the idea of judgment, personal freedom, and morality.  And all of these three tenants in which women and their sexuality and their usage thereof exist under a microscopic lense of subjectivity.  Who is to say what morality is and whether or not a woman is cognizant or unaware of what it is she is doing or attempting to do when it pertains to her nether regions?  As far as Thots are concerned, this new terminology has replaced hoe, even though hoe is represented by one of the letters in the acronym, and is not only synonymous with a promiscuous woman but it is also connoted with a woman who seems to be irresponsible and unaccomplished, be she a negligent mother, an untrustworthy friend, a cutthroat criminal, or an occupier of a dead-end job.
But why is the Thot so castigated?  Because she utilizes her looks or her physique or feminine wilds to get what she want?  Money, housing, attention, or a mere sexual satisfying of her pleasure principle.  Possibly.  But, what is ironic is the fact that both women and men alike seem to detest a woman who chooses to occupy the space that men, both Black and white, have occupied for so long-- a space of patriarchal prestige, power, and entitlement.  A space where one’s superiority in a particular discipline or occupation or physicality affords them the opportunity to dominate another.  So, are Thots to blame for creating a space that defines them as superior, or, at the least, getting what they want in a given situation vis’ a vis the tools that they were given or capitalizing on what society as a whole wants?  In graduate school, as a graduate assistant, I wrote a headnote for a Norton Anthology on the late June Jordan, famed author, feminist, and social activist, and in doing my research, I came upon a quote by Audre Lorde that has stuck with me for the past 13 years and aided in making me comfortable in what I was and am trying to do as far as my own artistry.  She stated, “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.”  Maybe the Thot has a freedom that those of us that glare and condemn her do not understand.  Maybe we are the one’s enslaved to the worry of judgment and marginalization and ostracization.  If we really think about it, haven’t we all been a Thot, both male and female, for someone?  Just a piece of meat or a piece of sex or something to pass the time while the person we performed for waited for a better man, woman, or thing to pin there hopes upon.  Shirley Chism famously said, “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It's a girl.’”  That’s funny, yet true.  We all must revisit, deconstruct, and reconstruct the way the vagina, and the woman it is attached to, has been demonized for wanting and doing what it and she wants to do.  Double Standards are a bitch, but you better not call a man one.

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