Like a lot of Black girls growing up in the church, there were two sides of me. The girl who wanted to please God and the sexual being, who because of her love of God and some of the church’s teachings, felt like those two parts of myself were disjointed.
To be clear, I knew I was sexual but I was not having sex. I just recognized that I was curious for as long as I can remember.
At five, I was obsessed with watching people and even cartoon characters flirt and kiss in movies.
At ten, I was masturbating—an activity I thought only I alone knew how to do. I called it “humping the bed.”
At twelve, I would watch HBO’s “Real Sex,” on damn near mute, surfing between that and a more kid-friendly channel so I could switch back to it, just in case my parents happened to walk into the room.
I stared entranced at D’Angelo’s “Untitled” video and yearned to know the answer to that probing question.
But the extent of my sexuality started and ended with me. There was no way in hell, I was going to invite some of the ignorant boys around me to explore that part of myself. They were too dumb. I had a deathly fear of being played. And there were those pesky, lingering messages that sex could hurt.
I saw how Monica winced the first time she and Q had sex. I’d heard the phrase, “lay there and take it,” and cringed when Celie referred to Mister “doing his business.” I was so obsessed by this question about the connection between pain and sex that I sought anecdotal evidence.
I asked my mother, another Black church girl who was a virgin on her wedding night, whether she experienced pain the first time she had sex. She said she did not. But that my grandmother offered her a nerve pill just in case she might. My mother declined it. I learned two things from that little story. While that wasn’t my mother’s experience, it was possible.
And if my mother’s stories weren’t warning enough, there were the haunting words from another trusted source: R&B music.
R&B is my favorite genre. Not only because I grew up in the nineties, when it was at its peak. But also because so many of the songs were about what I was trying to experience. Flirting, kissing, dating, sex.
Ain’t no telling how those lyrics shaped and misshaped my view of what to expect from p in v intercourse.
My entire life was soundtracked to R&B and with no real world experience to glean from, I believed those lyrics. So in 2003, when Musiq Soulchild sang, “Now ain't no need to be afraid/ Cause I'll be as gentle as it takes/ To provide you with the right amount of/Pleasure and pain.”
I can’t tell you how I meditated on those words, like they were some type of omen.
I ask the question about whether or not y’all enjoy pain during sex because I do not. I’ve only had one sexual partner, for the reasons I mentioned above: (Church girl, stupid boys, not wanting to be played.) And I can say unequivocally, I don’t want pain to be a part of the equation. That’s not my jam.
But in the songs of today, “I beat the pussy up (up, up, up. up, up)” etc., it seems as if pain is to be expected.
What I didn’t take into consideration, was the fact that most of these songs were written and performed by men. And with the porn industry and misogyny being what it is, images of dominating and inflicting pain on a woman during sex is sadly glorified.
When women sing about sex, you get songs like Xscape’s “Softest Place On Earth,” which spoke so deeply to me that I cried the first time I heard it. That sounded good.
Now that I’m having sex with an actual person, years after D’Angelo’s, Musiq’s and Xscape’s lyrics found me, the words from an old beautician came back to mind. “I don’t want my pussy beat up. I’d like more of a…massage.”
When she told me, I didn’t know what my personal preferences would be. But now that I do, I wholeheartedly agree.
But I know there are more than a few women, whether they're having sex with a man, woman or someone else, who enjoy the duality of pleasure and pain.
Are you one of those women?