trigger-warning

by Cherie Ann Turpin Creative Commons License
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trigger-warning:  50 years of rape culture/slut-shaming/misogyny/misogynoir that cannot fit into a tweet for the Washington Post
I can tell you what happened to me at Clark College when my first sexual contact with a man was being raped twice by a Morehouse athlete who thought he was scoring a new girlfriend

I can tell you about being plied with alcohol, then raped and threatened by a male roommate–then slut-shamed for it

I can tell you about the time a man giving me a ride to MARTA in Atl forced a kiss on me

I can tell you about being slut-shamed by a female relative who told my family I was a whore

I can tell you about the time five men followed me in Atl from bus to MARTA to bus with clear intent to gang-rape me–I rode that bus to the end of line and my flashpass kept me on that bus and they ended up stranded when I rode back to my stop

I can tell you about being sexually harassed–twice–by adjunct professors when I was an undergrad at UDC

I can tell you about being catcalled by a bunch of “bros” driving past me as I walked to meet new classmates at a pub in Burlington VT

I can tell you about being stalked and slut-shamed by the same person in grad school

I can tell you about being followed home by a man in a van in the middle of winter on a back road when I was at UConn

I can tell you about having my nipple bitten without consent by a man at a club while dancing–he did permanent damage and he smiled before I hit him back

I can tell you about being approached and catcalled by a man while walking in my corporate suit to a campus interview for a professor position at UDC

I can tell you about being stalked by some unknown man during my first year as a professor who thought it was okay to send flowers to my office and my classroom

I can tell you about being followed and secretly photographed by a fellow grad student in Saas-Fee for the purpose of slut/size/race shaming me by sharing his “art” with the other grad students on a dvd

I can tell you about being followed by a lurking man when I walked home from campus–and waited for me to walk towards my apartment, till he saw me with security

I can tell you that despite the scars from these cuts and gouges

my self-worth
my sexuality
my humanity
my womanhood
my spirit
my jouissance
my grace

shines
persists
heals

Prevails.

October 10, 2016

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Breadcrumb: “5 Brilliant Books on Black Women and Sexuality :: Books :: Lists :: Paste”

5 Brilliant Books on Black Women and Sexuality :: Books :: Lists :: Paste.

I’ll admit it:  I’m not familiar with one of these books: Recyclopedia: Trimmings, S-PeRM—K-T, and Muse & Drudge by Harryette Mullen. I have quite a collection of “brilliant books” written by Black women, and while most of them do not center just on sexualities, all of them touch on issues of the body and the sensual in one way or another.  So much of what has been and continues to be our experience in the West deals with the recovery of ourselves from so much pain, so much damage to our souls.

I’m ordering Recyclopediarose right after I finish posting this breadcrumb.  Guess I need to do my own list now, but do click and read the list.  Feel free to share your own list here!

 

The Deep End #14 by Cherie Ann Turpin (30 Stories in 30 Days) #30Days

The Deep End #14
by Cherie Ann Turpin
(30 Stories in 30 Days)
#30Days

pool
I occasionally did tarot readings for Tony and gave him advice on rituals, as he was a solitary practitioner, albeit on the sly because of his family, a large clan of Baptists and Pentacostalists with a smattering of Methodists.  His father was the head pastor of a Baptist church in Raleigh, North Carolina.  He was also nervous about his Christian fundamentalist boss finding out about his spiritual practices, for fear of losing or compromising his clearance as a defense contractor for NSA.  He came to me two years ago with a dilemma about a woman who seemed inaccessible, yet intriguing.

Tony met her at an Apple conference in San Francisco three years ago, a voluptuous woman with long, thick twists and rich, copper-brown skin who was almost as tall as him.   He imagined her full thighs matched against his slim frame as she walked towards him wearing a dark green dress and sensible heels.  When she smiled her face radiated warmth and a willingness to trust.  They exchanged phone numbers and email addresses over coffee and sandwiches before she departed to meet colleagues for a networking event.  After he returned to Baltimore, he only got as far as the one phone call to her that did not lead to a follow-up. She actually did call him back, but he was “unavailable,” or unwilling to return her phone calls. She did what most people would do–she moved on.

Meanwhile, he began seeing a woman from his office, almost as a consolation prize for what he described to me once as “another humiliating rejection from a sister.” The relationship with his second choice did not last, no surprise to me or anyone else who knew him. He saw the first woman again in Vegas at another conference, only to discover that she was involved with and engaged to an attorney.  Her smile, according to Tony, was just as warm, but less trusting of him.

He decided to try to get her interested in calling him again by using love magic. He spent hundreds of dollars on Come to Me incense, Love oils, red and pink candles, not to mention the readings he received from me. I started charging him a minimal fee because of the energy he was draining from me. No results.  He began to consult with a spirit worker less inclined to maintain ethical boundaries.

He appeared at my door one night, haggard and somewhat jittery.  I sat him down and listened to him confess to stalking her.  He began spying on her social media profiles and her email. She had been talking about him, wondering whatever happened to him, and the unreliability of men who couldn’t deal with women who actually say yes to them. Her fiance had mysteriously broken up with her and eloped with someone who seemed to appear almost out of the sky as “the love of his life.”

I looked at Tony, expecting him to say that he finally talked to her, that he had stopped using magic to make his decisions for him.  He stuttered as he explained his latest surveillance trick to discover more information before making the phone call to her.  In other words, he squandered yet another open door.  It was just as well.  This was a poorly gained opportunity that had all the signs of an impending disaster of his own making.  In his current state of mind, he could be downright dangerous to her.  Come to think of it, he could be dangerous to me.  I needed to find a way to amp him down from the ledge.  He was my spiritual child, and I sensed him looking for a way out of his self-made trap.

I wondered why it had not occurred to him that he was probably in danger of losing his clearance due to his gross misuse of surveillance tools, as well as being arrested for stalking.  After making him some green tea, I pulled out my Crowley deck and did a three card pull:  the ten of Wands, the Devil, and the Hanged Man.  My task was getting Tony to understand what just happened, and how he needed to fix what he damaged within himself through his obsession.

I looked into his dark eyes now glazed with tears. For the first time in months I saw genuine sorrow and guilt wrapped up in rage.  I heard myself say, “You’ve tortured yourself for over a year because of your own pride and your own fear of rejection. You didn’t need magic to fall in love, you never did. But this is not love.  Your fear made you turn your soul inside out just to control her.”

This was not quite me coming out my mouth.  Uh-oh.  She was nudging me to stand aside so She could come through and speak.  I felt the tipsy feeling flow through my mouth as Spirit began to speak through me.  My voice deepened and I saw myself rise up as Spirit rode me to speak to Tony.  He could not hear me tell him the complete truth of what he had done, and what he had to do to make it right.  He had to hear it from She:

Perhaps you could be a couple.  Perhaps not.  You cannot not make her do anything.  No candle or spell will make her love you.  You have to start over at the beginning from honesty and truth, or nothing at all.  

Starting over from scratch is not an easy choice to make.  He had to deal with the reality that she could say no, and he had to accept that risk as a part of accepting her as a free, sentient being with her own voice and desires.

Then I heard/felt She say to him in a loud booming voice:  You’ve got to learn how to swim in the deep part, at the deep end.  You’ve got to get your head wet, boy. 

I fell back on the couch, and I looked up at him.  His face was frozen in shock.  I slowly sat up and reached over to his lower jaw, and gently pushed his mouth shut.  This was his first time seeing Spirit ride me.  He silently pulled on his suit jacket and walked out the front door of my house.  I wrapped up my Tarot cards and watched him stumble on my driveway into his Mercedes SUV.

A natural fool coming to his senses almost too late.  Almost, but not quite.

He stopped talking to me for several months.  It was just as well.  It was not my business or task to intervene, at least not that point. Spirit warned me to avoid him for a time. Last I heard he’d started seeing a therapist for his obsessive personality issues, and was looking into making a career switch.  His manager discovered his off-the-clock surveillance activities, and would have fired him had his unit not been reorganized as a result of a seemingly unrelated upheaval in structure due to the Eric Snowden incident.  Tony escaped a disastrous descent into legal purgatory by virtue of a sudden shift in the dimension all of us happen to share.

If he wanted to be with her or anyone else, he would have to journey beyond the comforts of fear and obsession, beyond his narcissism, and beyond his own fear of the unknown.  That may take more than one plunge into the deep end.

The Extinction Level Event Has Not Happened Yet #12 by Cherie Ann Turpin (30 Stories in 30 Days) #30Days

The Extinction Level Event Has Not Happened Yet #12

by Cherie Ann Turpin

(30 Stories in 30 Days)

#30Days

I should have kissed him yesterday.
kiss
I think I still hold onto my mother’s advice to let men pursue me, rather than being more assertive in matters of the heart and body.  She thought it was too pushy and too forward to show too much interest or to reveal desire to men.

I think it’s a shitty way of dealing with men, especially the ones who go overboard to be gentlemen, but I ended up almost by default complying with her vision of proper female behavior, which, of course, resulted in long periods of sexual dry spells.  I burned out about four different vibrators during my long wait for the “right one.”  When the aliens came I was almost six years without a long-term partner or a casual lover.  I’m too old to keep waiting for him to make the first move, and since the aliens devastated our planet, I guess I should try to ignore the rules and show some moxie before we die from the coming second wave.

He was right there, standing next to me, talking with me. He really paid attention to what I had to say, and I didn’t mind us walking fifteen blocks to the nearest charging station to get our laptops and phones charged (yes, we still have WiFi and cell phones–we just don’t know how long they will last).  He looked into my eyes as he shared his stories of finding and losing love, how when he first moved here he couldn’t seem to find anyone who really understood him.  I felt my tummy quiver, slightly.

We talked about our families, who we resembled, why we both happened to be living in this part of the city.

We talked about the restaurants we grew to love as a part of city living, and how neither of us really liked to cook as a daily habit, and how our career schedules did not bide for long periods of cooking prep or clean-up.

We didn’t talk about the invasion, or the semi-permanent federal state of emergency, or the abductions by the alien hunting squads who snatched up unsuspecting humans for experiments and other purposes which usually resulted in bloody piles of limbs and entrails.

We didn’t talk about the fall-out shelters our military built to keep the remaining humans safe, or the fact that the empty streets we walked once packed with a sea of citizens in a city that boasted a population of well over 4 million people.

We didn’t talk about how we watched cities around the world crumble and burn, wondering when ours would be next.

We talked about finding love in the fury of apocalyptic ruination, and holding fast to what remained of human civilization.  We hugged, and walked back to our respective shelters just below the streets.

If we still exist tomorrow, I’ll kiss him before we go scavenge for food.

Feminisms Roundtable: Women of Color in Solidarity 01/29 7 pm EST

Feminisms Roundtable: Women of Color in Solidarity 01/29 by At the Edge An Afrofuturist Salon | Women Podcasts.

In this virtual roundtable organized by me, Kathryn Buford, and Suey Park, we invited Kathryn-Headshot-Small-2-221x300Park_Suey_Crop2women of color to discuss coming together to consider #solidarity and feminisms across communities of color, as well as recent issues and challenges we face as women of color dealing with racism, colorism, classism, sexism, heterosexism/homophobia, and transphobia.  What does solidarity mean to us, and what does feminism mean to us? How do we build a united front ready and able to support each other across cultural communities?

Kathryn is a writer, and sociology PhD student at University of Maryland, College Park. Her current research explores social entrepreneurship, women’s art and emancipatory knowledge across the African diaspora.

Suey Park is a free-lance writer from Chicago who now lives in Colorado. She is the organizer behind the Twitter hashtag #NotYourAsianSidekick.

Cherie Ann Turpin is a writer and an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of the District of Columbia.smiling

THIS AINT I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE: Rape in Black Speculative Fiction! | chronicles of harriet

THIS AINT I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE: Rape in Black Speculative Fiction! | chronicles of harriet.

I’m reblogging Balogun Ojetade’s essay because it’s sticking to my brain and my heart right now with a certain urgency, like it carries some very painful but needed knowledge to those of us who write and read speculative fiction, as well as to those of us who are survivors.

“Manly Voice: Gabriel Byrne at Symphony Space” by Cherie Ann Turpin

“Manly Voice:  Gabriel Byrne at Symphony Space

by Cherie Ann Turpin

I had a really difficult time writing this guest post [this post also will appear in Byrneholics.com] for a variety of reasons, most of which involved me coming to understand what sort of response I wanted to give to readers with regard to my take on Gabriel Byrne’s reading last week.  The following essay is not so much a review as it is a slight critique and a partial analysis of his performance.

2013-11-06 19.31.13

On the one hand, I was pleased to see Gabriel Byrne set the mood of the evening with his reading of Roddy Doyle’s tongue-in-cheek contribution to the anthology.  Byrne’s dry, humorous style of reading matched Doyle’s sardonic wit in engaging the following question: “how does one be[come] a man?”  Byrne captured the intensity of discursive tension between women and men embedded in Doyle’s untitled short story (none of the stories in Colum McCann’s collection were titled).  Further, Byrne effectively connected with the audience as a reader, suggesting either a return to familiar ground or signifying a transformative phase in his artistic career.  All new beginnings, however, come with caveats. Byrne’s appearance at Symphony Space for “How to Be a Man” on November 6, 2013, produced more questions than answers about overarching themes of this program, not the least of which is the yet to be answered question: what did hosts Colum McCann and Terry Tempest Williams mean by “radical empathy,” and “diversity” within the context of such a provocative title as “How to Be a Man?”  I came away from this performance with some mixed feelings about what I saw on stage.

McCann’s work as host of this program and his work as editor of the anthology The Book of Men that inspired last Wednesday’s program, demonstrates a commitment to bringing writers from a variety of communities around the globe into an ongoing conversation about perceptions and experiences of manhood and masculinity.  The idea of stories to be performed by actors and writers certainly has an appeal that draws a diverse audience coming from a variety of communities.  However, I was perplexed as to why more of the contributing writers could not have been invited to appear in this program to perform their own works, especially those whose voices and perspectives speak to cultural perspectives and experiences different from most of the performers on stage.  Diversity and empathy, both concepts which were discussed during McCann and Williams’ introductions, were presented as driving forces behind Narrative Four (the literary salon sponsoring the event) and behind the organizing principles of the anthology The Book of Men, but with the exception of the host B.D. Wong (who did perform one piece but whose work does not appear in the anthology), the three men who spoke were white, male, and heterosexual (McCann, Byrne, and the actor Corey Stoll).

Of the three women who performed in this program, only one had actually contributed to the anthology, rising literary star Tea Obreht.  To the credit of the organizers, Rebecca Naomi Jones, an African-American woman, also performed, as well as Stockard Channing.   Both women are accomplished and respected performers known for their work in theatrical productions on Broadway, as well as for their work in film and television. Given the theme and sub-themes of this program, as well as the proximity of the venue to Black and Spanish Harlem, how difficult would it have been to invite more men of color to participate in this performed conversation? I ask this question not to tear down the efforts of McCann, Williams, or even Byrne, but to further the conversation and to challenge them to engage in a more rigorous discussion as to what “diversity” means to them and even more importantly, to understand what “empathy” means to them.  To me, an artistic collective sensitive to the political baggage these words carry would have been more inclined to sharing the stage with young and older men of color who have been challenged with that question of “how to be a man” in a city with a justice system that views them as criminal by default, and therefore subject to frisk-and-search, and in other regions of the United States murdered without penalty through stand-your-ground laws.   Indeed, the question of “how to be a man” takes on a more ominous tone when one’s existence is challenged by those vested in the hegemony feeding institutional racism and classism.

Moreover, the significance of the celebrity persona cannot be ignored as a contributing factor to Byrne’s presence on stage.  After all, his name and face became the marketing lure to encourage the audience to fill the seats, which says something about celebrity and masculinity, though Byrne was also faced with the vulnerability of being “that guy,” the famous person headlining an event who does not read his own work until the end, thereby risking a very big fail after producing audience anticipation and longing to hear his work.  Although Byrne is not known for publishing fiction, he is known for publishing nonfiction, including his memoir Pictures in My Head (1994), essays in various magazines and newspapers, and several book reviews. McCann’s praises of his fiction writing during the program leads me to ask why more of his writing was not featured in this event, and further, why we have not seen more of his creative writing published as of late, save for the Esquire piece. His memoir is now out of print, and except for the recent book reviews, he has not consistently published poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction.

It is not unreasonable to expect that someone being featured in an anthology with well-known and respected authors would have significant works to present to an audience more accustomed to seeing him perform other people’s works as an actor.  Byrne is a writer to watch, but one expects to see much more coming from him as a writer.  Given his recent challenges to  established social institutions, he is more than capable of challenging socially dominant notions of masculinity through his writing.  That means writing about those childhood traumas he mentioned Wednesday night with a certain clarity and a refusal to equivocate or mask the impact those traumas made on his ability to understand or perform masculinity, especially within the context of celebrity culture.   In other words, the audience needs to see and hear more of his writing.

Significantly, Byrne’s reading of Vanessa Manko’s story came across as his most significant and subversive performance of the evening, possibly coming closest to dismantling his own celebrity persona, and at the same time offering a glimpse into his challenges as someone whose body is often hyper-sexualized and objectified.  Here, McCann introduces Byrne’s reading Manko’s story by informing the audience that she wrote it in a “man’s voice,” describing the story as “naughty.” The story itself describes an encounter between an unnamed narrator in slightly ambiguous terms that could be construed as somewhat more sexually intimate than what turns out to be: it is a story about a tango dance routine, albeit one curiously absent of the sexual tension and erotic battle for dominance between the male and female partners—none of the pull or challenge from the female partner to take over the lead occurs in this story [credit given to artist and student F. Steven Kijek for pointing out the erotic subtext in tango during a discussion of this post in my Celebrity Culture class November 13, 2013].  After watching Byrne read and listening to his version of the “man’s voice,” I felt that McCann calling Manko’s story “naughty” seemed a bit dated in perspective, and somewhat retro with regard to gender roles.  Is it naughty because a woman wrote it, or because she’s writing about longing from a man’s perspective?

Again, questions arise  regarding how a possibly subversive perspective becomes muted and contained when a man reads the “naughty” text. As Byrne completed his reading with the climactic revelation that the story was an  elaborate description of a tango dance, he abruptly walked off the stage with the audience reacting enthusiastically and perhaps with relief that the story did not cross over into being truly transgressive.  But could it be transgressive? A woman writing about a dance routine from a man’s perspective  regarding his female partner constructs not only a male gaze, but also a female gaze, which in turn  was presented to the audience with a male voice by Gabriel Byrne, who is, as the featured performer, presented to a largely female audience to be objectified as a stand-in and embodiment of  “naughty” “male voice.”

What we attempt to encode with gender signs becomes a series of performances, expectations with the inevitable repetition that fails to meet the ideal. Was the narrator a man’s voice, or was it a woman idealizing a man’s voice?  Traditionally, we are instructed to not mix the author with the narrator, but since we were offered the small cue  that the author was writing in a man’s voice, I wonder if that means the narrator is a man’s voice, or the author is writing “like a man.”  Whenever I hear someone claiming a voice to be understood as one gender, I tend to read against the grain, and I listen and gaze against the grain because  the imposed exclusion tends to invite subversion of that reading or assumption.  As an audience member I “forgot” the author/narrator taboo and discovered a much more subversive and perhaps more useful way of understanding what Byrne was doing with this seemingly tame story on stage.

The erasure/negation of a woman’s voice here as a way of doubling or amplifying a so-called man’s voice also amplifies the false notion of the imposition of a man’s voice as a singularity, as if there is only one way of performing within a heteronormative framework.  With the woman’s voice unleashed, then we hear a multiplicity of voices, or heteroglossia, where an unfolding reveals yet another mask:  that mask (or “performative,” as  exhaustively teased out by Judith Butler in Gender Trouble) is of “the man’s voice” in exaggeration:  “the drag king.”  In other words, this ideal of the man always leading, always “on top” or “the top” is itself  an impossible ideal that is at best  a  repetition that is imperfect and, at its most earnest, farcical. If  the author is in drag, textually, then Byrne speaks in parodic doubling form as faux king, his swift departure off stage after delivering the lines “but with the tango, you just never know” abruptly shifting out of one male persona and into another.  Perhaps the question of “how to be a man” is not an answerable one,  no more answerable than  the question of “how to be a woman.”  As seen in this reading, there is no singularity or permanence of gender.  In short, Byrne “embodied” this process with the professional flair I’ve come to expect from his stage presence.

My overall critique of Byrne?   He needs to read his own work, and in fact, given McCann’s endorsement of his fiction and nonfiction, the absence of his creative work is now much more apparent.  Byrne would have been even more authentic in voice and in emotion had he shared something that had not been included in the anthology.  He spoke of being moved as a writer by certain traumatic events during his childhood; why didn’t he share more his work drawn from those emotions?  His slight stammer as he introduced his untitled short story came across as an emotional cue, as if he were inviting the audience to become engaged in an intimate process of sharing something that came from within himself.  I suspect him to be aware and perhaps concerned that the celebrity persona used to create access to that audience may change or even fade as he becomes more engaged as a writer.  On the other hand, Byrne demonstrates much less concern about his image in his public stances on social justice.  Perhaps a similar stance would help him become much more provocative as a writer. His work would benefit from an infusion of that anger and passion that inspires him to continue speaking out against sexual exploitation and sexual repression in the Roman Catholic Church.

Perhaps Byrne would benefit from sharing his work with audiences unfamiliar with his movie presence or work on behalf of the Irish Diaspora.  That word “diversity” comes to mind.  As part of my Celebrity Culture course this semester, my students read Byrne’s memoir and were mostly impressed by what they saw as an independent voice committed to art.  Considering the fact that I teach young adults who are mostly people of color unfamiliar with Byrne and more familiar with Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Miley Cyrus, that’s impressive.  Possibilities for Byrne reaching new readers beyond his movie star fan base exist, but he must push past the comfort of familiar faces and settings.  A Twitter account and a blog would help.  Reading women and men writers of color would also help, especially with regard to embracing “radical empathy” and “diversity.”

Most of all, Byrne needs to write and publish.

Cherie Ann Turpin is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of the District of Columbia. Dr. Turpin’s research areas include African Diaspora Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, World Literature, Multicultural American Literature, Popular Culture, and Film Studies. Her publications include the book How Three Black Women Writers Combined Spiritual and Sensual Love: Rhetorically Transcending the Boundaries of Language (Mellen 2010), as well as articles in Feminist Teacher, Bodily Inscriptions: Interdisciplinary Excursions into Embodiment, and Diaspora: Journal of the Annual Afro-Hispanic Literature and Culture Conference. Her recent poetry appeared in the Fall 2010 edition of Reverie: Midwest African American Literature. Her creative nonfiction essays and poetry appeared in three issues of Corset Magazine in 2011-2012.  Her upcoming article “Hard Men of the Street: Black Masculinity and the City in Kenji Jasper’s Dark and Seeking Salamanca Mitchell” will appear in the anthology Street Lit: Popularity, Controversy and Analysis (Scarecrow Press).  Her article on Afrofuturism and Black Studies will appear in an upcoming anthology on Black Literary Traditions in 2014.  She will present her essay “Reimagining Gabriel Byrne: Heteronormativity, Irish Diaspora, and Celebrity Culture” as part of her upcoming book on Gabriel Byrne’s work for the 2014 PCA/ACA Annual National Conference in Chicago, April, 2014.  As a member of Irish American Writers and Artists, she will be appearing at The Cell in New York to present her latest fiction and poetry November 19.  She also has an ongoing radio show on Blogtalkradio.com:  At the Edge: An Afrofuturist Salon.  She is also on Twitter: @drturpin.

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