Me too

In this time of #MeToo being very much in the public awareness, what follows below are the shared experiences of one of BGIM Media’s contributors that illustrate how, unfortunately, the idea that sexual assault, rape and sexual oppression are just the doings of a tiny number of “bad apples” in a huge bunch of “good men” is not accurate. That isn’t to say there aren’t many good men who do right, but there still remain a huge number who do not, and think it their right to do as they will sexually without proper consent. – Shay, aka BGIM

Before I could speak, before I understood my body is mine alone, before I had the words to say stop, before my family caught him, I was molested by an uncle, in my bed, for years, less than two feet away from my twin.

First grade. A male teacher is inappropriately touching himself at his desk, fully aware that I see him. There is no one else there; my female teacher is outside for recess with the rest of the class. I never tell anyone. After that I never allow myself to be anywhere in the school with him alone. Over a decade later he is caught, in that school, with a child in the bathroom.

Sixth grade. The nicknames given to me by my peers—the “the coolest of the kids”—are prude and ice queen. I won’t drink alcohol, and I won’t have sex with boys. I wear those names as a badge of honor, externally. I never talk about how much shame I feel because of them, internally.

Seventh grade. A male classmate I like asks me to be his girlfriend. I’m elated; I say yes. We “date” for several months, attend a school dance as a couple, hold hands when all our friends are together, and giggle when we talk about kissing each other. Then the day comes, he asks “can I kiss you?” “Ok!” I say with a big smile, and close my eyes, happily waiting for what will obviously be the best thing ever!

As his lips press against mine, his right hand cups my undeveloped left breast. Before I can think I separate from him and punch him in his face as hard as I can. The blood pouring from his nose freaks him the fuck out and, he starts screaming, crying, calling me names, and runs off.

Freshman and sophomore year of high school. I find out, in my 20s from a male “friend” that there was a pact among several boys to “break René’s virginity.” One of the boys found the money and contacted everyone else to ask what they should do with it since “No one won.”

Freshman in college. My friends and I walking into the Shugga Shack in Boston. Small town kids in the big city, ready to be grown. Over the next two hours we are keeping men and women out from under our skirts, literally. Several men actually begin sexual play with their finger between my legs without my consent in the midst of dancing. Like it was normal for them to just pussy pop someone in the club. I was mortified.

Then seemingly out of nowhere, there is this flawless contempt and disgust with me the minute I push them off, the minute I advocate for myself and say no. By the end of the night, for safety we friends decide we are all coupled up lovers, just to get some dancing in.

Early 20s. First violent rape. I tell no one.

Mid 20s. Second violent rape. I tell no one, develop agoraphobia and a serious drinking habit. I attempt suicide for the second time in my life. I discover therapy.

Late 20s. I am seeing a guy. No titles, but we are spending a lot of time together. I’ve spent the night without sex for weeks; no issues. Nudging a little, joking about it a bit, but not pushing. Then one night, I’m ready for bed and climbing in to his and he is bottomless. No warning. We talk about my surprise, but I’m game. I appreciate the bold move in the language of building trust and healthy sexual report. In the dark we make out, I allow myself to explore his body with my hands and my body as he willingly explores mine. For sweet delicious moments we are excited and curious. I feel safe.

I perform oral sex, and enjoy watching my partner feel pleasure. I am excited to guide him through pleasing me, I think to myself. We take a quick water break, and I lay down on the bed. He wraps his body around mine and proceeds to penily penetrate me. I stop him and inform him kindly, gently, how painful this experience will be for me without proper internal lubrication.

He ignores me and continues to try to penetrate me. I no longer feel safe.

I squeeze my thighs together as hard as I can, keeping him out of me, while reminding him this is about both of us, not just him. He tries to whisper sweet bullshit in my ear like I haven’t told him I’m not into this. I tell him to stop and get off of me. He tries one more time to “calm me down.” I get louder, so he lets go of me.

I get dressed, and start packing my things to go home. He begs me not to leave. He apologizes profusely as I tell him how fucked this whole thing is. He apologizes some more. I decide not to leave; I sleep on the couch that night. I don’t immediately leave him alone.

Thirty-three years old. I find out a male friend whom I trusted has been telling people in my city for years that I offered my naked body to him as payment for rent when I, for whatever reasons, couldn’t afford it. I was shocked—visibly shook—as my female friend informed me of her interaction with this man, just a few weeks back. It was her first time ever meeting him.

I called him and asked for a meeting immediately. When he said yes and he asked why, I told him, “I don’t trust you or feel safe around you any longer. I need you to know why so you will leave me the hell alone.” He denied everything until the very end, eventually apologizing for breaking my trust. I remember laughing at his pathetic apology text message the next morning as I happily deleted all digital traces of him from my universe.

He is a scumbag, a low-life, a criminal, a meticulous wolf in sheep’s clothing pretending to be a gentleman. Like every man who violated me before him, a coward who should fear the harm they have caused because it will come back to them. Know our names and our faces, the days of us keeping your secrets are over.


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Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

HIV/AIDS awareness for Black people…and all of us

Today is the 18th Annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. You might ask yourself, “Why do we need a special day just for Black people with or at risk of contracting HIV?” I ask you to consider the following:

  • In 2015, 3,379 African Americans died from HIV disease, accounting for 52% of total deaths attributed to the disease that year.
  • At the end of 2014, an estimated 471,500 African Americans were living with HIV (43% of everyone living with HIV in the United States), and 16% were unaware of their infection.
  • In 2016, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention predicted that HALF of all gay and bisexual Black men will contract HIV in their lifetime.
  • Young Black men between the ages of 13 and 24 face a particularly high risk, as they make up 54% of new infections among all men who have sex with men.
  • Black women account for 60% of new infections among all women and are 16 times more likely to contract the virus compared to their white counterparts.

In July 2016, Charlize Theron, who is UN Messenger of Peace and founder of an outreach project targeting South African youth affected by HIV, said something profound when speaking to a crowd at 21st International AIDS Conference. She said, “We value men more than women … straight love more than gay love … white skin more than black skin … and adults more than adolescents” and even though her frame of reference is based largely on situations in South Africa, it’s hard to deny the striking parallels between there and here in the United States. The risk factors for HIV/AIDS seem to be global.

With that said, there are significant geographical disparities within the United States. Even though it’s widely accepted that HIV is “no longer a death sentence,” that is not the case for many people, particularly those in the South. According to a New York Times article written in June 2017:

“2,952 people in the Deep South (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas) died with HIV as an underlying cause, with the highest death rates in Mississippi and Louisiana. Among black men in this region, the HIV-related death rate was seven times as high as that of the United States population at large.”

(Take the time today to watch this short documentary about young black men dealing with HIV/AIDS in Jackson, Mississippi, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOSN1bKG3zQ)

The so-called Deep South is ground zero for the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. Each of the states this region encompasses (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) share other notable but seeming related characteristics:

  • They all have public school curriculums that teach abstinence-only sexual education;
  • They are among the top 15 most impoverished states;
  • They are collectively the home of 47% of the total Black population of the United States.

Even though statistics provide a sobering glimpse into this devastating epidemic, at the end of the day the numbers represent real people with unique stories, experiences, and perspectives.

Properly managing HIV/AIDS requires regular medical appointments, medication management, diet control, and major lifestyle changes.

For many people with HIV/AIDS, they also struggle with substance abuse, mental health issues, homelessness, and food insecurity.

Compound those challenges with misinformation, stigma, and discrimination, and you can see that fighting HIV/AIDS becomes more than an issue that can be solved with medicine, clean needles, and condoms alone. Attitudes have to change, and education is at the cornerstone.

The sooner everyone understands the risk factors and how the virus is spread, the sooner we as a society will get from under this daunting but preventable disease.

For more information about HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention in Southern Maine, contact the Frannie Peabody Center—the largest community-based HIV/AIDS service organization in Maine, providing prevention services for at-risk groups and direct services for people living with HIV/AIDS. They also offer free, confidential HIV testing every Wednesday and by appointment.

Get Tested. Know your status. End the stigma.


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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Black Women and Sex…oh no!

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who met a boy, a boy who made her very happy. The girl was so happy that when the boy suggested that they get married because they were in love, despite the fact that she was only 18 and he was only 20, the girl said yes. The girl said yes because she felt deep shame over the fact that she and the boy had been doing sexual things.  She was the daughter of a man who was strict and in the process of becoming a minister, she knew sexual things were bad, very bad…at least that is what she was told. So the girl ran off and married the boy, they were so broke that they didn’t even have enough money to live together. They spent the first two months of their marriage living at home with their respective parental units and didn’t tell anyone they were married. Finally the secret was too much to hide and they told their parents and the boy’s mother let the young couple live at her house until they could save enough money to get their own place. By this time, the girl realized maybe marriage had been a bad idea after all. Unfortunately just as the girl realized this, she also realized she was pregnant. In the end the marriage barely lasted two years, though it did produce a son who is now a magnificent young man.

After that marriage ended, the young girl spent a few years doing things that young adults tend to do and once again she lived in a state of angst because it was deeply ingrained in her that having sex with anyone other than a husband was just wrong. Eventually the young girl would marry again and unlearn all the rules of respectability that made pleasure seem so wrong. Now the young girl is a not so middle aged woman who thinks that the appearance of respectability is a great way to keep women from being in touch with their true nature.

In case ya didn’t figure it out, that young girl is yours truly. Today’s post was inspired by this piece, which is well worth the read. It does a great job of explaining the whys of why Black women are not likely any time too soon to claim the mantle of sluttiness. Or as I would rather say openly embracing and claiming our sexuality, I am not a fan of the word slut because historically it has been used as a pejorative.

Speaking as a Black woman, I will say that the politics of respectability run deep in the middle class Black community. To quote a piece from Bitch Magazine that sums up the game of respectability politics “Respectability politics work to counter negative views of blackness by aggressively adopting the manners and morality that the dominant culture deems “respectable.” The approach emerged in reaction to white racism that labeled blackness as “other”—degenerate and substandard—with roots in an assimilationist narrative that prevailed in the late-19th-century United States. Black activists and allies believed that acceptance and respect for African-Americans would come by showing the majority culture “we are just like you.”

All of this need for respectability means that more than a few Black women grew up with certain notions around sex and for many of us we carry those notions into adulthood. Even certain sexual acts in the Black community carry the connotation that only certain types of women do those things.  As a result many of us live our lives at half capacity when it comes to our sexual selves because in many ways the cost to embrace our full sexual selves and fly our freak flags is too damn high.

A few years ago, I wrote a few pieces about polyamory and non-monogamy which I admit is a fascinating concept to me since truth be told, most us just aren’t winning at the monogamy game. Almost immediately I had several Black women question me on why I would write such a piece, after all that is just nasty. Really? Says who. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea and while I admit the logistics seem pretty hard to navigate in my head, it does seem to work for some.

By the same token there are more than a few white women who are openly living non-monogamous lifestyles and even earning a living sharing their tales with others. It seems not a week passes where a piece isn’t making the rounds talking about non-monogamy in one form or another. The media portrayal of these women is hardly salacious but when a Black woman openly embraces a non-standard and/or open sexual life style she is portrayed as off, or put in one of the boxes only reserved for Black women. We aren’t allowed to be multi-dimensional women in general and when it comes to sexual matters it seems the only boxes that exist for us are uptight or other…and no one wants to be put in the other box.

However the gift of having spent a few years on this dusty rock is that I have learned that begging others for acceptance and denying oneself is a great recipe for regret and bitterness. Like the author of the Racialicious piece, I want Black women to have the same freedom for sexual experimentation that white women have. However I don’t think that will happen until we make that choice for ourselves. Audre Lorde once said For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”