She Can’t Win: On Black Women’s Reproductive Choices and Sexuality

*Originally published at Palava Sauce, written by me*

She can’t win.

If she’s a virgin, practices celibacy or makes a man wait a set amount of time to have sex with her, she’s accused of being a stuck-up, uptight prude.

If she’s sexually active and comfortable expressing her sexual desires and wants, she’s branded a whore, slut and jezebel.

If she chooses to use birth control and plan when she becomes a mother, she’s going against her ‘God-given role’ of bearing children.

If she does NOT use birth control she’s irresponsible.

If she conceives out-of-wedlock and does not have an abortion she’s harshly condemned for bringing a child into the world under such circumstances.

If she feels she doesn’t have the resources to become a mother and has an abortion she’s labeled an baby-killer who was too weak to face the result of her sexual activity.

If she doesn’t demand financial support and involvement from the father of her child and resolves to do it herself, she’s told she is too haughty, strong and independent.

If she DOES demand financial support and involvement from the man who willingly ejaculated inside of her and expect him to do his part, she is condemned as a golddigger out to ruin a man’s life, accused of turning him over to the ”white man’s” judicial system.

 If she sets and adheres to high expectation for potential suitors, she’s told she is being too “picky” and demanding.

If she relaxes her standards, chooses a man who doesn’t fall in line with all her needs and is later left divorced and/or a single mother she’s told it is her fault, as she should have picked a better man…

I know all too well how she feels. At various points in life I’ve been in her shoes. I’ve been the virgin, I’ve been branded the whore and I’ve walked the road of unplanned pregnancy, marriage, divorce and single motherhood. Many of my sisters can relate to various aspects of that journey and what I’ve discussed. As Black women we must navigate through the rocky terrain of our sexuality and reproductive choices in a society that is both deeply patriarchal and white supremacist. It would seem that the only way we could please our critics is to live lives of fairytale perfection, with no rocks and thorns along the path. But in the real world that does not happen. Whatever choices we make with our lives and wombs SOMEONE will have something to say and judgment to pass; we will not be able to please them. So do not work to get the thumbs up or approval of others.  On her song ‘Appletree’ Erykah Badu states: ‘I work at pleasing ME ‘cause I can’t please YOU’. These are wise words. When it comes to our sexuality and our wombs black women should heed them.

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A native Seattleite and East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been.

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