But it was one year at the American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors & Therapists (AASECT) conference that I realized I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. At the conference, there was a total of 18 black people, including me, and naturally we gravitated toward each other. Here, we all learned that we were having the same issues finding work and being seen as an expert, so we decided to do something about it. It was there where some of us co-founded WOCSHN, with the goal of supporting each other through job opportunities and just keeping our sanity in this white-centric field. But overtime it turned into something more. We are now also invested in transforming our field, ending white supremacy and finding white people who are down to do the hard work with us.
I’d like to switch gears a bit, and get some of your thoughts on sexuality and Latinas. For starters, do racialized sexist stereotypes, particularly the spicy Latina myth, affect our sex lives?
Definitely. These stereotypes are one-dimensional, and they’re not about us being spicy and sexy for ourselves but rather for the pleasure of the person objectifying us. It’s not respecting how a woman of color can devour a room. Instead, it’s just not seeing her as a human being. Our pleasure is never centered.
Moving beyond media representations and stereotypes, the bodies of real-life black and brown bodies, especially queer ones, are under constant attack, whether through mass incarceration, police surveillance or death. Does violence against black and brown bodies impact our sexual experiences?
Absolutely. Many times, older white sexologists will say that race doesn’t play a role in sexual responses, but that couldn’t be anymore untrue. If we are incarcerated, paralyzed or killed – as we are in great numbers – then we cannot have that liberatory sexuality; we don’t have the permission or the safety to have pleasure. Or, let’s say we survive these violent experiences, then we are dealing with historical trauma that impacts our relationship with our body, spiritualty and with other people. This has a lot of ramifications, and some manifest in our sex lives.
How might the current state of xenophobia in our country impact Latinas’ and immigrants’ sexuality?
In our current political climate we are hearing more conversations on anchor babies, incarcerating undocumented people and detention facilities, and all of this adds layers on how a Latina body is constantly surveilled. It’s another level of marginalization and oppression. For example, if we are dehumanizing the people who are fleeing civil wars, some that this country had a hand in creating, then we also aren’t thinking about how these young people are captured and held against their will. What if they’re menstruating? What if they’re living with HIV? What if they’re raped, as most women who cross the border are? What if they get pregnant? These are all sexual health conversations that are dismissed because we are not centering immigrant stories, because we are dehumanizing immigrant people.
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