(This #TBT post originally premiered on Write For Your Life in Sept. 2015.)
Black Girl Moan by Eliza David
It is an intriguing responsibility to write erotic romance in this post-Fifty Shades of Grey era. Your readers value you as an expert in the art of writing sex in all of its beautiful forms: straight, BDSM, gay, lesbian, group, etc. They expect to salivate as they read about ‘pulsating centers’ and ‘throbbing manhoods’ (FYI: both of these terms combined be the title of my personal memoir. Original, right?). They crave descriptions of beautiful bodies, writhing and sweating on top of one another. They devour your words in anticipation of a ‘happily ever after’ between two characters who happen to be very good at banging each other’s brains out.
When you add the element of race or ethnicity to a love scene, the weight seems heftier. The stakes, higher. At least that’s how I felt when I wrote the first book of my series, The Cougarette, during NaNoWriMo 2014. In detailing the affair between fortysomething CeeCee Banks and her younger lover Jay Weston, I never shied away from their Blackness. My main motivation behind self-publishing the series without initially considering traditional publishers was because I wanted CeeCee and Jay to remain Black. It was important to me that my readers experienced something they may not have been privy to in other reads: a Black woman engaging in sexual behavior and not being maligned because of it.
~ In detailing the affair between fortysomething CeeCee Banks and her younger lover Jay Weston, I never shied away from their Blackness. ~
African American writers have taken control of the sexual narrative and produced some of the greatest novels of the twentieth century – most of which cast a Black woman as its’ central character. From Janie Crawford (Their Eyes Were Watching God) to Zoe Reynard (Addicted), the sexual nature of Black women in fiction has been portrayed in a variety of aspects that go beyond the media’s stereotypical image of the wanton sex freak. Don’t get me wrong: being a wanton sex freak surely has its advantages. In my opinion, however, there is more fullness to the essence of the Black woman than a big butt and a smile.
One of my favorite literary characters is Sula Peace, the namesake of the classic Toni Morrison novel Sula. Sula was eccentric, cunning, and unapologetically sexual. She defied the status quo, a life her sister Nel fully embraced. Since I’m certain that you will drop everything and buy Sula as soon as you finish reading my piece, I won’t give away the book. What I will say is that I adored the cognizant portrayal of Sula because of Morrison’s innate ability to draw out the character’s sensuality. Yet, as the reader, you don’t end the book hating Sula because of it. She was imperfect (conniving, even) and did bad things, but you understood her prowess. You appreciated her sexual freedom. Like many of Morrison’s works, it is a novel I go back to time and again – if only to make myself a better writer by absorbing her words.
~ [Toni Morrison’s Sula Peace] was imperfect (conniving, even) and did bad things, but you understood her prowess. ~
I am currently in the middle of writing the fifth and final book of my series. My main character CeeCee and her many romantic missteps are coming to a head. As much as her life frustrates me at times, I strive to avoid victimizing her when I build her story. No woman – regardless of race, fictional or otherwise – should apologize for being horny. There should be no ‘I’m Sorry’ for aching for the touch of another person. When it comes to sensual characters, boundaries must be broken. Systematic sexuality must be shattered. From Zora to Zane, giving a voice to the oft-silenced erotic woman of color remains a work in progress. I hope that my scribbles are even a small contribution to the mission of making Black girls moan.