Sometimes Sorry Isn't Enough

I low-key wish I had a better, more legitimate, reason as to why I’ve been gone for so long, but the truth is that the past few months have really put me through the wringer emotionally and I couldn’t focus on repairing myself and my relationships and function as “Sexology Bae”. It felt disingenuous.

Instead of spending 18 paragraphs going into detail about everything that has gone wrong in my life recently, I found it better to welcome myself back into the blogosphere with a reflection and unpacking of the lessons I’ve learned over the past few months. My general goal as a writer is to write things I’d want to read, and this is something I really need to hear right now.

In relationships, romantic, platonic, or whatever, we’re bound to do things that hurt people we care about. Sometimes it’s by accident. Other times it’s an intentional lashing out because of our own pain. And occasionally it’s that fucked up I-know-what-I’m-doing-is-wrong-but-I-don’t-want-to-consider-consequences-right-now-because-I-think-the-short-term-benefit-is-worth-it. It might even be a combination of the three, but the point of it is that the result is the same—someone you care about is hurt and it’s almost completely up to you to fix it.

Image of the author, 2018.

Image of the author, 2018.

I don’t believe in taking complete ownership over anyone’s healing but my own for a myriad of reasons, but we have some measure of accountability to people we’ve hurt. It’s hard to process when you’re as apologetic as can be but that isn’t enough. Vowing to change your actions—and actually changing them—might not be enough. I’ve had to sit with this feeling for a while now, and let me tell you, it’s not fun.

What do you do when you’ve done all the “right” things and still get hit with “i’m good luv, enjoy” or the more timely “thank u, next”? If you’re me, you wallow in self-pity, completely isolate yourself, and pray that the other person (or people) comes around and doesn’t leave you hanging. And then you eventually face reality and start to move on with your life knowing that you’re the friend/ex/lover/whoever that someone thinks about when they have a flash of emotional pain.

Not owing anyone forgiveness is a very powerful sentiment and one that I agree(d) with, until I was on the receiving end of it. Don’t get me wrong, I still agree with it now, but it SUCKS to move on and take your L knowing that there’s a very good chance someone you once had an extremely strong connection with wants absolutely nothing to do with you ever again, and it’s your fault. We want to believe that we’re fundamentally good people and because we’re good people, our mistakes can and should be forgiven regardless of their actual impacts on another person.

This may come across as me trying to position people who hurt people as the true victims. Let me clearly state, I am not trying to do that at all. If you’re an abuser or otherwise intentionally cause people harm you can go straight to hell. What I am saying though, is that we are all people, capable of very genuine and very horrible sometimes-unintentional mistakes.

No one should feel obligated to hold grace for someone who caused them harm, though, and that’s a very painful lesson I think we all learn at some point or another in our lives when we’re the offending party. Right now is that time for me.

As someone who’s caring to a fault and more often than not puts the needs of others ahead of my own, I’ve mostly been the injured party in my dealings with others, not the one who caused hurt. But I’m on the other side of the fence now and working to heal the pieces of myself that were broken enough to allow me to hurt others and find comfort in these lessons. It’s easy to go on an apology tour with the people you’ve hurt and run down the list of ways you can (and have) change(d) in order to convince them you’re worthy of being part of their life again. It’s harder to do that and live with knowing that, at least for right now, it’s not good enough. And very well may not ever be.

Yes, time heals wounds and changes our perspectives, but I’m not banking on that. There’s always a chance it might not and I’ll end up in a worse situation than before trying to make amends with someone when I spent months or years refusing to confront myself and my actions because I thought it would all turn around for me.

I’m coming to terms with being okay with not being okay with what I’ve done and the resulting fallout. It’s something I have to carry with myself, and much like accepting any other flaw undoing the shame and stigma of being a kind of shitty person is sticky because it’s new territory for me. But I’m back, as much as I can be, with new perspectives and a lot of growth I’m ready to share with you all.

"My White Boyfriend" YouTube Videos and Self-Fetishization in Interracial Relationships

Talking about relationships has always been weird for me. I’m very private about my personal life--as much as someone who talks about their relationship and sex life on the internet can be. When my high school boyfriend and I broke up, because we were so public with our relationship, our breakup played out for the world to see and it was not pretty.

I’m more mature now and my current boyfriend is an incredibly private person so we both feel comfortable keeping our relationship business to ourselves. It doesn’t bother me when a couple likes to share details about their relationship, it just doesn’t appeal to me. Interestingly enough, I’ve had people tell me they thought my boyfriend wasn’t real until they met him because I don’t talk about him much on social media and almost no pictures of us together exist publicly. For context, two of the five pictures of us on my instagram have been posted in the last year, and we’ve been together for five years.

That being said, I love love and seeing happy couples warms my heart. I’m a huge fan of “relationship youtube”, the genre of videos about couples sharing their experiences, advice, or participating in different viral challenges. However, the videos of interracial couples (WoC/white men specifically) almost always make me very uncomfortable.

It sounds hypocritical to say that as a Black woman in a relationship with a white man, but the way those kinds of videos are marketed and find popularity in certain corners of the internet reveals something about the way that marginalized people in relationships with more social power than them can feel compelled to justify their existence. Most of the time, these videos are used to demonstrate how normal this relationship is, that ultimately love is love and skin color shouldn’t matter when you care about someone. That perspective doesn’t personally resonate with me, but I understand the logic.

At the same time, it comes off as if these couples are trying to demonstrate how unique and special their love is because it's different, which creates a contradiction that is off-putting to me. More than anything though, I find it annoying that were I not in an interracial relationship myself, I'd probably come across as a hater or a bitter bitch for critiquing how people express their love (I still might come off like that anyway). 

I think my discomfort is rooted in how in a lot of these videos, the women (mostly Black) seem obsessed with pointing out that their partner is white, almost as if they’re seeking validation from others? That’s an assumption of course, and probably isn’t the real intention of the videos, but that’s how it looks to me.

It seems counterintuitive to constantly point out how irrelevant race should be in a relationship and in the same breath exclusively make content that points out the differences between you and your partner. Filming yourself holding a sign that says “my partner is white and that’s special so you should pay attention to us” would have the same effect as far as I’m concerned. I’ve heard people in these videos claim they’re just trying to spread understanding of the challenges that interracial couples face, which I can understand if you believe there's a market for that kind of thing (I don't) but I don’t agree that parading yourself as some sort of exotic "other" is the way to do that.

16.4 MILLION results. 

16.4 MILLION results. 

There's so much to unpack about why people choose to invest in romantic relationships with people of other races. Be it a way to seek acceptance from the majority, preconceived notions about that race because of stereotypes (see: Fetishization 101), or whatever, the rationale unfortunately does not negate the social reality of that relationship. These relationships can't be seen as just love because we don't live in a world that sees people as just people, for better or worse. Navigating the world every day is a political statement for some of us, and our relationships reflect that. My relationship is not "just love" when people tell me that "mixed babies are the cutest ones" or ask me how my boyfriend feels about my natural hair.

This is an unpopular opinion, but I think its irresponsible to create content from a "we're all human" mindset when it's almost guaranteed that it won't be seen that way. To you, it's a cute video about sharing some aspect of yourself or your culture with your partner. To some of us, it looks like we're supposed to be entertained that your boo is looking at you like a sideshow act.

But I get it, I really do. For many people in interracial relationships, owning that and claiming it for others to see is a big deal, which I respect even if I don’t feel the same way. The landmark Loving v. Virginia case was only 50 years ago, and I’m not so naive to believe that there aren’t people today who oppose interracial couples solely because they believe that races shouldn’t mix. I know they exist, so I understand feeling like you have to defend your relationship.

On the other end of the spectrum, I've had to defend myself and my relationship because I've been accused of self-hate. That in and of itself creates so much insecurity, I used to obsess over proving to people how "woke" my boyfriend was, how much he "gets it". I don't do that anymore because i learned that people who are going to have an issue with your relationship, regardless of their reason, are probably going to do it anyway no matter what you do. 

Even in those moments where my commitment to Blackness was challenged, my response has never been to show off how my partner loves me even though he’s never seen my real hair before or eaten some food from my culture. At that point, all I would be doing is reducing myself to the things I think people want to see from me because I’m Black in an attempt to normalize that. I'd be fetishizing myself for who's benefit?

I don’t take this position because I want us to adopt a race-neutral perspective when talking about relationships. In fact, I think that the healthiest relationships are those where all parties are able to acknowledge their privileges and empathize with the other’s marginalizations (if they’re not the same). To me, being in an interracial relationship should go beyond acceptance or tolerance. There is an extra layer of complexity when it comes to navigating our race-conscious world with a partner who's different from you. But if love is just love, we should be able to talk about our relationships without trying to justify their existence or prove a point to others.


Valentine's Day: A Sex-Postive Advocate's Worst Nightmare?

This post was originally published via the Sex-Positve Blog, run by the Houston-based adult retailer Mystiq. Check them out on Medium and Twitter @MystiqStores!

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alentine’s Day is one of those holidays that attracts as much controversy as it does celebration. Every year, people take sides in the great debate about the usefulness of a holiday whose only purpose is to celebrate romantic love with gifts, flowers and candy.

The obligation of celebration — or the amplification of exclusion for people who don’t have someone(s) to celebrate with — tells us a lot about who we are as a society and what we value. Is Valentine’s Day just harmless gift giving and extra appreciation for those we care about, or is it an indicator of our outdated views on love, sex, and romance? Can someone be sex-positive and still celebrate Valentine’s Day?

It’s hard to discuss Valentine’s Day without acknowledging the hierarchy of relationships that exist in society. Valentine’s Day celebrates straight, monogamous, romantic love, and it always has. That’s because in our society, straight relationships are valued more than queer ones, monogamy is valued more than polyamory, and romantic love is positioned as more important than other kinds of love. It’s not like there are billion-dollar annual holidays celebrating friendships, parent-child relationships or other kinds of relationships. Where they do exist, they’re dwarfed by the scale of Valentine’s Day. Monogamy is so common in our society that I’m sure my use of (s) in the context of special someone(s) above threw some of you off. As a note, I will use it at other points in this piece and do my best to remain neutral when it comes to discussing gender and number of romantic partners.

I think there are major issues with the way that Valentine’s Day is marketed and celebrated in our society. I don’t think it’s inherently bad to celebrate romantic love or its role in our world. With creative reframing, there are ways that Valentine’s Day can be beneficial to personal relationships and society at large. But in order to comprehend the phenomenon Valentine’s Day has become, we first have to to understand its roots.

The true origins of Valentine’s Day are not clear. What we do know is that the holiday most likely evolved from the Roman feast of Lupercalia, which took place between February 13th and 15th every year. During this time, priests of the Luperci order would sacrifice a goat and a dog for purification and fertility, strip their hides, dip them in sacrificial blood, and then run through the city slapping women with the bloody hides. The sacrificial blood was believed to make the women more fertile. The next portion of the celebration was for all of the young women to put their names in a big jar, and the single men of the area would draw names. The woman whose name they picked would be their boo for the rest of the year (and maybe forever if they liked each other enough).

In the 3rd century, Emperor Claudius II executed two different men named Valentine — both on February 14th of different years — and their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church: St. Valentine’s Day. It gets more complicated in the 5th century when Pope Gelasius combined St. Valentine’s Day and Lupercalia to undermine the paganism of the celebration. Through the centuries, the holiday gained popularity and eventually found its way to the United States. The industrial revolution spurred the creation of factory-made greeting cards in the 1800s, and Hallmark made the first mass-produced Valentines in 1913, the birth of the billion-dollar holiday we know today.

If Valentine’s Day is the descendant of a festival where women would embrace their fertility and potentially find a partner to spend their lives with, then the focus on sex, romance, and love is just continuing the tradition. But the modern world sees these concepts differently than our ancestors.

Reckoning with what Valentine’s Day was, could be, or should be is what creates conflict for so many people and gives it such a bad rep. Reevaluating our personal thinking around just two pieces of the Valentine’s Day puzzle can lead to major social shifts that completely change how we celebrate the day.

On Valentine’s Day, the pressure is on to give your loved one(s) the most expensive jewelry, the biggest bouquet of flowers, the fanciest chocolates. Companies that sell these items spend millions on marketing campaigns designed to convince people that their special someone(s) is/are worth the expense, and that expense translates directly to love.

The assumption that a romantic relationship is stronger because people spend more money on each other is flawed. In fact, the opposite might be true: the amount of money spent on an engagement ring and wedding ceremony is inversely correlated with marriage duration. In layman’s terms, couples who spend more on engagement rings and their wedding ceremony are more likely to get divorced. Spending a lot of money on a ring and a wedding isn’t a direct cause of divorce, but can contribute to marital stress.

Last week, I asked some of my friends about their their feelings towards Valentine’s Day. Some are single, some are in relationships, and some are just dating casually. All of them said that they felt the pressure to give gifts even if they haven’t been with the person very long, didn’t want to, or didn’t care about receiving gifts themselves. The knowledge that their partner’s feelings might be hurt is enough to motivate them into buying something.

How I want my house to look after Valentine's Day.

How I want my house to look after Valentine's Day.

Not simple gifts either, but extravagant ones that are instagram-worthy and will invoke jealousy in other people. One of my friends remarked that it can make the whole gesture of giving a gift feel empty because it’s being done out of a sense of obligation or to prove something to others. Removing this pressure within your relationship can be as simple as opening the lines of communication. Talk to your partner(s) about the expectations of gift giving on Valentine’s Day and be honest about your own feelings — it’s not helpful to anyone to keep up the charade if it’s not what you want.

But before you even broach the conversation with someone else, start undoing these expectations within yourself. I’ll share some personal perspective. My 5th anniversary with my partner is February 15th of this year, and I’ll admit that I had a twinge of disappointment when we agreed to forgo giving gifts for Valentine’s Day and our anniversary in order to save money for a trip to Hawaii this summer. I know that our relationship is valid without the expensive gifts, and saving money will pay off in the long run, but I already know I’m going to have to avoid social media on the 14th because I’ll feel left out. Even though I know I shouldn’t base the value of my relationship on how much I can show off on the internet, I’ll feel left out.

Even for those who are able to curb the desire to participate in gift-giving oneupmanship, the expectation of sex that comes with gift-giving adds an additional layer of pressure to celebrating Valentine’s Day. For women (and other marginalized genders) in particular, the idea of having sex as “thanks” for someone who has given you something is unfortunately normalized. If we believe that one of the core tenets of sex-positivity is consent, then I cannot in good conscience encourage people to buy gifts or shower others with affection on Valentine’s Day if it means expecting sex in return. That does not establish a healthy or completely-consensual sexual experience.

I’m NOT advocating for abstinent Valentine’s Day celebrations. But reconsidering the role of sex in your celebration might avoid undue pressure or crossed wires when it’s time to get down to business. Consider having sex or fooling around before going to dinner or whatever you do to celebrate. That way, everyone has gotten what they want AND it’ll prevent disappointment later if someone eats too much at dinner or gorges themselves on candy and isn’t feeling well afterward.

If the mood strikes again, by all means go for it — this concept is just an insurance policy in case “later” never comes for some reason or another. Feeling pressured to try something new in the bedroom since it’s a special occasion? Don’t do it if you’re not ready! Go at your own pace, regardless of what the calendar says.

Despite my issues with the way Valentine’s Day is celebrated, I don’t think it’s as insidious as some people make it out to be. The worst parts of celebrating Valentine’s Day can easily be turned into positives with reframing and creative thinking. For those in long-term relationships, Valentine’s Day can be a litmus test for your relationship and show you shortcomings in communication or misplaced priorities. For those in newer relationships or ‘situationships,’ Valentine’s Day can reveal things about your relationship that might not have made themselves evident for a while. For everyone, Valentine’s Day can help you get a good sense of what that special person (or people) values in your relationship, and whether that bodes well for your future.

No amount of disruption can change Valentine’s Day’s position as a capitalist behemoth — for the time being. Instead of digging in our heels and railing against people who want the gifts, jewelry, and candy, turn the lens inward. Use it as a day to share fantasies with your partner, try something new in the bedroom, or recommit to each other! If you don’t have a traditional, heteronormative partner, celebrate the other loves in your life.

Celebrating love on Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to mean embracing capitalist expectations. Finding a way to make the day work for you and your special someone(s) is valid. At the same time, you’re not a heartless monster for treating it as any other day. Sex positivity is about choice, and doing what is best for you and your partner(s) is the most romantic way to celebrate every day.