Written by Cheryl Wischover for Cosmopolitan. Originally published on April 8th, 2015.
“My focus has always primarily been on Latino and black communities. It was really easy to get in and do workshops or have informal conversations and sessions around sexuality topics. There’s some mistrust of the medical field. You have people who are choosing not to go see medical professionals whether they’re mental health professionals to help them with addiction or trauma around sexual violence or rape, but also people who just aren’t going to see urologists or gynecologists or getting annual medical health care. We’re seeing an increase in black women who are dying of cervical cancer caused by HPV.
I would imagine that being a white educator and speaking to a group of black women in a church setting in the South, they’re not going to receive the information the same way as [if the presenter was] another black woman who shares the same religious beliefs as them and might be able to connect the information to different types of texts or experiences that resonate with that population. I think that being an insider in the group and having people trust you in a very particular way is important. I’m someone who doesn’t have children. Every time I talk to parents, one of the first questions they ask me is, “Are you a parent?” When I tell them no, they question whether I know what I’m talking about. I can imagine that would happen to other educators as well. I think also topics around outreach, whether it be testing for HIV or encouraging people to get screened for various types of infections and diseases, that there is going to be a disconnect for people who are outsiders. We also have anti-immigrant rhetoric in the U.S., period. That definitely impacts people’s perception.
When it comes to sexual pleasure — and this is one of the arguments that the authors of that book said — the color of our skin doesn’t impact whether or not we experience pleasure. And our argument was, “Heck, yeah, it does because some of us are murdered before we even get to experience sexual pleasure. Some of us are detained and assaulted and raped and incarcerated.” So there’s that idea, definitely rooted in this safe, white middle class space of, “I get access to the resources that I need and they’re accessible at the level I’m able to read at.” And that’s just not the reality for many under-resourced communities. It’s an error to think that our skin color doesn’t impact [how we feel pleasure].
I also think about how there’s shame around pleasure. This is something many people experience regardless of race, but there’s shame specifically for women of color because we’re either hyper-sexualized or seen as very virginal and pure. So that binary puts us in a position that we have to be forced to choose. We don’t want to be name-called and isolated as a “slut,” or stay married to a man and perpetuate the misogyny that men are supposed to know and teach women and women aren’t supposed to know anything. If I ask you to tell me what you think a Latina looks like, people have a very specific image. It’s very much rooted in a specific idea. That to me is a problem. We want people to imagine us with variety versus only having one or two stories that we create in our minds about who we are and what we do.
I’m pretty optimistic right now. I’ve chosen to focus in my professional work specifically on communities of color where I know I’m embraced and supported and have the connections that I need. But I also recognize that nationally there are people in our communities that definitely want a different type of connection. They want a broader, larger connection of educators to reach out to. And I also recognize that we can learn from people who are different from ourselves.”
Head over to Cosmo and read the rest of this very important article about why we desperately need more non-white sex educators!