A few years ago, I was on a date with this pretty, young girl. She had winked at me from across the table and with a cheeky smile said:
"I know you have a baby mama."
I smiled at her and, in a playful tone, I replied:
“Maybe I do, and maybe I don't, so what?”
By the way, I didn’t have a daughter at this point in my life. I was newly single after ending my three-year relationship with my girlfriend I had met and dated at Uni.
This girl I was on a date with laughed at my response and we continued the rest of our evening, talking very casually about our past sexual experiences. I don’t need to spell out what happened after we got the bill.
A year later, I recall speaking with a close friend of mine about a young woman from Liverpool that he had met in Bournemouth. They had slept with each other. I was sitting in the passenger seat of his car when I asked him:
“Bro, what happened to that nice girl from Liverpool you were kinda seeing? She was alright?”
A wry smile formed on my friend’s face.
“She didn’t want to date because I am a black guy and she thinks I’ll cheat on her. Can you imagine.” His tone was thick with mockery. Of course, he would.
Looking back at these two exchanges from my past, it got me thinking. Why is it that many heterosexual, westernised women and men think black men are cheaters? The word ‘player’ is synonymous with the phrase ‘young black men" but why is that? Why do many black men feel like they are supposed to be very sexual? Are infidelity and sexual prowess somehow innate within the DNA of black men or is this a myth perpetuated by western culture and the media?
I love girls, girls, girls
Most heterosexual men love women. Most heterosexual men are capable of cheating. Infidelity is universal across all types of men and women as well (but this post is not about that). But yet, I’ve heard many women tell me they would never date a black guy because they honestly believe nearly all black men are players. To them, white men are more loyal. More faithful. Whenever I hear it, I always roll my eyes. Where does this notion come from? It must be from black culture of course.
Culture is like an invisible language that we all understand. It gives us a common reference point in which to provide some meaning to the things around us. Hip Hop and R'n'B culture is arguably the most visible black culture across western society. And in this culture, men portray themselves as highly sexual and highly promiscuous. Listen to Jay-Z's "girls, girls, girls," for example. Listen to almost any song by Trey Songz. Watch most of the rap videos from the 90s and noughties. Heck, even the recent furor around Offset cheating on Cardi B. Black male rappers are singing about cheating on women (and doing it), sleeping with an abundance of women and boasting about their unrivalled sexual prowess under the sheets. A lot of women have swallowed this image of black men whole and therefore view them as highly sexual and highly promiscuous.
Now, if you look at music genres dominated by Caucasian men such as rock or pop music, their subject matter is rarely about how many women they have slept with or how many times they will make a woman orgasm. If they sing about women, it’s in a way that is admiring and rarely misogynistic. David Bowie never oversexualised himself the same way R Kelly did.
Over the years, with the introduction of more sensitive and less sexual rappers like Drake and Kanye West, we have seen this oversexualised image of black men diminish in Hip-hop and R'n'B music and culture. But still, the legacy of hypersexual black male rap artists and singers from the 90s and 2000s still lingers.
Are some women oversexualising black men to their detriment?
Going back to the scene of the date I had years ago, would my date had made a joke about me having a baby mama if I was a white man? Even though I had been coy about it for humorous effect, what if I did have a baby mother I wasn't taking care of? Would she have cared? A big part of me doesn't think she would have because to her "black men have baby mamas" and this is what she expected from a black man.
I am not saying black men don't leave a trail of women with their children behind. But this is not a behaviour typical to only black men in the way society and our culture continuously perpetuates. And I'll concede that absent fathers happens more in black communities but this is the result of a lack of education and not because "it's what black men do."
The myth that all black men have the biggest penis (I've spoken to a few girls who have told me this isn't even true), is another way that women overly sexualise black men. I remember the first time sleeping with one particular girl, and she said to me:
"I hope it doesn't hurt. I know what you black guys have down there."
At the time, being in my late teens, this inflated my ego but, looking back at it now, it irritates me. To be reduced to the size of my penis.
On another occasion, following a holiday fling in Ibiza in my early 20s, the girl who I had slept with, while putting on her clothes, had said to me:
“I thought you’d be more aggressive in bed?”
“Really? Why?” I asked.
"Because black men are usually proper aggressive in bed, right?" She told me that she had only slept with three black guys, which included me, so how could she make such a wide-spread statement about how black men are 'supposed to be' in bed?
What some women are inadvertently doing is giving some black men a free pass to cheat on them without even realising it. When women tell black men “I know you have a big dick” or “I know you’re a player” or “I know you’ve slept with so many girls” and yet still sleep with him, she’s objectifying him by sexualising his blackness. What happens when they do this? Many black men think that because these women will still sleep with them anyway because they like the fact he behaves in a very sexual and promiscuous way, they continue acting like this. Simply put, these women don’t expect any other standard from black men and black men know this.
A caveat though. This objectification and over-sexualisation of black men are often carried out by women who aren't black. In my experience, black women don't examine black men the same way. Of course, they too can find a black man attractive because he has a nice body that is appealing and he looks like he might be good in bed (I still don’t understand how a woman can tell), but this is rarely assumed just because he has black skin.
We need more representations of black men that aren't hypersexual or hyperaggressive
As I touched on earlier, if there is one development that I am thankful for in Hip Hop and R'n'B culture, it's that black men are no longer portraying themselves as hypersexual and hyperaggressive. There is more humanity in black popular culture. Citing examples such as Kanye West, Drake and Kendrick Lamar, these rappers speak more about their emotions rather than just their sexual dominance and sexual exploits. Even films like the Academy-Award winning Moonlight, directed by the talented Barry Jenkins, are deconstructing this stereotype, portraying the sensitive sides of black men rather than only showing our sexual or aggressive sides as was the case in the past.
" When women tell black men “I know you have a big dick” or “I know you’re a player” or “I know you’ve slept with so many girls” and yet still sleep with him, she’s objectifying him by sexualising his blackness. "
One of the main reasons I wanted to become a writer on the side was because I wanted to write stories which portray black men as flawed, complex, funny and multi-faceted humans. I want to move away from this caricature of black men as overly sexual and overly aggressive.
Promiscuity is not something that occurs mostly in black communities. Watch an episode of Jeremy Kyle, and you will see stories of white men cheating as well. It’s not a black man thing.
Lastly, black artists have a responsibility not to oversexualise themselves through our art by only talking, writing and rapping about sex with women. That's so 90s, and we must continue to move past that.
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