[Content Note: Discussions of sexuality and consent.]

So, there's one more thing I want to say about the release of Beyoncé's new album and video, with my thanks to Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) for inspiring me to tease out these thoughts.

There has been, already, a fuckheap of feminist and unfeminist criticism directed at Beyoncé because of the way she expresses her sexuality in the video portion of the release. It's described (shittily) in the LA Times thus: "Beyoncé vamps as the trophy wife to her lust-filled husband, Jay Z, in the video to 'Drunk in Love,' does a steamy striptease for him in another clip."

I won't rehash the criticisms, because they're exactly what you'd expect them to be.

Here's the thing: I am a survivor of sexual violence, and the particular way in which Beyoncé is sexy with her partner feels to me like a demonstration of sexual trust. That's something I had to work for so hard, and it is profoundly compelling to me to see images of a woman in a sexual context who clearly feels safe. That's powerful.

Those sorts of images of women are so rare. Utterly in control. Not in imminent threat of being exploited. Respected in a sexual context.

I don't know if I'm a sex positive feminist, because I've seen that defined a lot of different ways, some of which resonate with me and some of which don't, but I am without question a consent positive feminist.

Feeling safe with and trusting one's sexual partner(s) is central to meaningful consent, and it seems to me like it ought to be central to any definition of sex positivity.

Not every human is a sexual being, but lots of us are, and many of us are women whose sexuality includes sexual interactions with men. When I see images of women partnered with men expressing their sexuality, what I want to see is a woman who feels safe with her partner.

Of course I can't know whether Beyoncé is truly safe, any more than I can know it about anyone else outside my own intimate partnership. But I'm not asserting to know. I'm suggesting that there is another way to view images of female sexuality. I'm offering that maybe the most important thing isn't assessing the act itself, but the interaction creating the space in which it happens.

And maybe it's worth questioning what ends it serves to engage in criticism of a woman of color being sexy in this way or that way, while casually eliding evidence of her being loved and safe and in control of her choices.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus