A Lady in the Street and a Freak in the Bed

Feminista Jones asks in Ebony if women can be respected while embracing their sexuality.

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Rihanna in London in March (Stuart Wilson/Getty Images)

Rihanna has declared herself to be a good girl gone bad, and when Beyoncé has wanted to be fierce, she has used her character Sasha. But does there have to be such a "Madonna/whore" separation? asks Feminista Jones on Ebony

The idea of women being open about their sexual desires and behavior continues to make people uncomfortable, and women are often castigated for asserting themselves as being in control of their bodies and sexuality. In the Black community especially, this idea that a woman should be a "lady" in the streets and a "freak" in the sheets is pervasive, and I wonder if it harms us more than it helps.

Shaming women into silence has discouraged many of us from asking important sexual health-related questions and talking about some of the bad experiences we’ve had. According to two studies, between 40 and 60 percent of Black girls have experienced sexual assault before age 18. We tend to discourage any talk about what happens sexually with Black women and girls, and too often blame them for what happens. We often call sexually active teen girls "fast" and blame them for leading men astray, without considering their behaviors might be a result of sexual trauma. Then, Black girls and women categorized as either ladies or freaks are often assigned long-term relationship value accordingly.

What is a "lady" exactly, or a "freak" even? Part of the issue is that we ascribe almost mutually exclusive characteristics and attributes to our understanding of the lady and freak archetypes, categorizing women as one or the other and assigning polarizing values. Sigmund Freud described the "Madonna/Whore Complex" as a condition in which men can’t allow themselves to feel certain sexual attractions or do certain sexual acts with women they loved and married (ladies), preferring to only participate in such behavior with women they deemed worthy of sexual degradation because they were akin to prostitutes (freaks).

Read Feminista Jones' entire piece at Ebony.

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