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SOCIAL INEQUALITY AND BLACK SEXUAL PATHOLOGY: THE ESSENTIAL RELATIONSHIP

Robert Staples
The Black Scholar
Vol. 21, No. 3, BLACK SOCIAL ISSUES (Summer 1990-Summer 1991), pp. 29-37
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41067697
Page Count: 9
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SOCIAL INEQUALITY AND BLACK SEXUAL PATHOLOGY: THE ESSENTIAL RELATIONSHIP
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Abstract

Sexuality, in a historical and biological sense, was the tool by which Homosapiens reproduced their species. There is evidence that in its original form, there were few regulations or controls of this powerful drive when property was held in common by human tribes. Only as the concept of private property developed did sexuality become a part of property relationships in Western society. The female body was objectified and bartered as a commodity among men of the bourgeoisie. However, black women in the United States, always fell under a special set of rules. As true of black males, they were used primarily for their labor value. Because the could not legally enter into a legally-recognized contractual marriage except in rare instances, sexuality was not a commodity to exchange for the frequently given-and taken-by the physically superior males in her environment. Where possible, during slavery and immediately afterwards, she tried to stay in monogamous relationships. However, the social and legal sanctions for her sexual exclusivity were either absent or weak in the post-bellum South. Positives can come out of negatives and the result was a healthier articulation of the sexual impulse for black men and women. Yet, the sexual ideology of American society, which was puritanical and restricted sexual activity of women, had the effect of conservatizing the black females sexual activity and behaviors, as Afro-American women took on the sexual values of Euro-Americans. Bargaining became common in the working class as women sought the exchange of their sexuality for the meager material and psychic rewards in the black community. Men, in turn, used the weapons of physical force and social coercion to elicit sexual compliance when their carnal desires were unrequited. The effect of this internecine conflict about sexual access, rebounded to the power elite, as men and women organized into separate interest groups over the availability of sexual congress. The laissez faire period of the twentieth century unleashed the female sexual instinct, as the industrial revolution and numerous wars made them less dependent on marriage for a decent standard of living. Since humans are capable of a variety of sexual permutations, a range of sexual behaviors evolved when women were unshackled from their sexual straight jacket. Still the dominant sexual motif was the treatment of women as organic property and a number of sexual pathologies developed therefrom. Because blacks had the fewest resources of all sex-race groups, they were most likely to be the victims of those sexual pathologies. White males, in control of everything, were the biggest benefactors of a system that devalued women and pitted them against men. While the battle ostensibly, was over control of her body, in reality, the sexual conflict has been a war for access for society's material resources. Black male sexuality can only be understood in the context of race and class constraints on the expression ofthat sexuality. Because other avenues of mobility have been blocked by the persistent racial barriers, sexual expression has taken on a status beyond mere fulfillment of physical desires. Sexual competence becomes a status enhancing value, which is often translated into hyper sexuality on the part of black males. However, such perversion of a “normal” or healthy sexual appetite seems largely confined to lower class black males, and only a minority of men in that class. Only through the elimination of poverty and the provision of adequate employment opportunities can we hope to avoid the use of sexuality as an instrument of domination and control. Once sexual expression is freed from its link to definitions of masculinity, both men and women can develop healthy modalities of sexual communication and interaction.

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