Note from BW of Brazil: I often enjoy the comments people leave either via this blogs social network profiles or the blog comment section itself. The comments give me an idea of whether people are connecting with the material, feel it, agree or disagree with it. I don’t always have a chance to even respond but I at least read them. I try not to censor anything anyone writes unless the comments border on disrespectful or too aggressive.
There’s only been one time that I’ve had to completely block someone from leaving comments because our debates simply got out of control and I simply decided that we should agree to disagree. I don’t have a problem when people disagree with my opinions but there comes a time when debating conflicting opinions simply isn’t worth the time anymore. One comment I read a few days ago doesn’t fall into that category, but I think it warrants some sort of response, even if only a brief one.
A few days ago, I posted a story that was actually from 24 years ago, but that I found very relevent still today as it deals with the sexual image of black Brazilian men. I decided to post it after reading about how some white women were fetishizing African-American men on the app known as TikTok. Wherever in the world you find black men and sexual relations across racial lines, you’ll generally find the same stereotypes. Whether we’re discussing white women traveling to Haiti as a destination for sexual tourism, as portrayed in the film Vers le sud (Heading South), or news reports of older white women in Kenya for the same purpose, we know that to some degree, the image of the black male plays a role in why these women are choosing to travel to these countries.
So when I read a comment a few days ago suggesting I should “stop problematizing EVERYTHING!”, I thought, that’s all you got? I discuss topics on this blog because I find them intriguing and, often times, they are subjects that others find interesting, thought-provoking or something worth discussing or debating. For me, if my presence as a black male automatically conjures up certains thoughts, beliefs or stereotypes, this in turn will affect how people treat me society. It can also go as far as to influence my success, failure and even life expectancy. If society labels me as one thing or another, particularly if these label are negative, THAT is a problem. So if problematizing it is a problem for someone, perhaps they are not the one affected by the negative image.
I’ve often heard that there is always a little bit of truth buried in a stereotype, something I agree with to a certain degree. This becomes problematic when it is assumed that the stereotype is 100% accurate. And from what I’ve seen over the years, it seems that the prevailing stereotype about the black male “package” and sexuality remains as popular as ever.
As the LGBT community has carved out its own role and place in society, reading about the juxtaposition between race and sexuality in the gay world can add valuable information to the discussion. Below is what some black gay Brazilian men reported about the intersection of race and sex. Sounded pretty familiar to me.
Eleven black men share stories of racism in the gay community
“When we left together, I realized that he didn’t want to appear together with me.”
by Victor Nascimento
1. “An ex-boyfriend told me that he just walked hand in hand with me to show others”.
“I realize that in my circle of friends, those with lighter skin or whites are grabbed by the guys at parties and I am alone. On the other hand, there is the cliché of a ‘rola grande’ (big dick) and even cases like that of an ex-boyfriend who told me that he only went hand in hand with me to show others that he was dating a handsome black man, like a trophy. In the first two dates I had, I didn’t understand this racism and I thought they were just bad jokes.”- Rodrigo Oliveira, 26 years old.
Note: What I find intriguing about this situation is how it compares to how black women say they are treated. Many black women complain that black and white men will get with them sexually, in secret, but refuse to assume them publicly in a relationship, while black men specifically will flaunt relationships with white women as if they were trophies. Here it appears that black men are being flaunted in the gay community as if to show, “Look what I have here”, as if they are showing off the assumed sexual satisfation they will receive from a black sexual partner.
2. “They have already forced anal sex on me several times and said that ‘blacks can take the pain more'”.
“Some whites say that they don’t like ‘morenos’ due to the question of taste or because ‘morenos’ (this term is terrible) has a very big dick for them. Some friends have gotten with me thinking only about the possibility of finding a big dick or having the imaginary that the black is better in bed. They’ve already straightened my hair and ‘complimented’ me about my sexual performance because I’m black. They have also forced anal sex with me several times and said that ‘blacks can take the pain more.'”- Rafael Porto, 25 years old.
Note: This idea of “blacks being stronger” is something that is very common in the medical industry where the black population is thought to be more resistant to pain and better able to cope with disease, which in turn leads to black Brazilians not getting the same degree of health treatment as whites. Here, it is apparent that this belief in black strength also applies to sexual relations in the gay world.
3. “I received several lines and jokes related to the size of my penis”.
“In apps, I try to talk to people and I’m simply mistreated or blocked saying they don’t like black people. I have also received several lines and jokes related to the size of my penis because people have this idea that black men are gifted, they have a bigger penis, which is not always true. The gay community says it fights for equal rights, but in reality, people only think about themselves, mistreating gays who are not normative and white.”- Rafael, 20 years old.
Note: Countless black Brazilian men have spoken on how it is assumed and even expected that they would have larger penises than their white counterparts. As this is a stereotype that widely believed throughout society, naturally, it would also be assumed within the gay community.
4. “At the time of oral sex, they showed disgust that my anus was black.”
“They say they find me interesting or that I am ‘different’. But I’ve already had three boys who, at the time of oral sex, showed disgust at my anus being black. They didn’t even want to touch me. Because I have an athletic body, it seems that I have a license to be the gifted top. Like, it’s impossible for me to be passive, too, because apparently a gay black man only serves to be a big dick.
I never managed to have a long-term relationship, really for the reasons mentioned. I think the view that most gays have of relationships is very ‘instagrammed’ and ‘Americanized’, you know? One thing I heard once is that I should trim the hair on my stomach because, according to the person, ‘a man who is blacker isn’t cool with hair.'”- Leonardo, 19 years old.
Note: Again, in this man’s comments, we see a similarity with the experiences of black women who often complain of the difficulty they encounter in securing long-term relationships although plenty of men are willing to have sexual relations with them.
5. “When we left together, I realized that he didn’t want to appear together with me.”
“I realized that a white man I went out with looked at me and praised me for being ‘exotic’ and was surprised when we talked because I had some content. It was a strange sexual experience and after a while I saw that he got with me just because of the different experience of me being a black guy. For example, when we went out together, I realized that he didn’t want to appear next to me, that this would only be possible later, in intimacy. Today I know it was racism.”- Anonymous, 33 years old.
6. “Although we studied at the same college, he insisted on fetishes that made me poor and uneducated.”
“There was a white guy that I had sex with at times who always asked to call me ‘negão’ during sex. Despite studying at the same college and being of the same social class, he insisted on fetishes that made me poor and uneducated. He also always fought if I didn’t want to be the active one, because for him that was the role of black people in sex.”- V., 21 years old.
Note: Here we see that sexually, as in the society as a whole, black Brazilians are seen as occupying a certain “place” and play a certain role that has been so naturalized that people don’t see this assumption as racist.
7. “I started to straighten my hair, when what I would like is someone to stand up for me.”
“Countless times they use the ‘not my type’ excuse with me. I’ve heard that so much that I’ve lost count. But being black is not being a type, it’s not something I constructed or can change. Being communicative, funny or athletic is a type. But being black is definitely not a type. And when a white gay man has an interest in relating to me, the relationship never becomes public, always hidden from friends, family, social networks. Obviously it’s not just homophobia, since some of them were assumed.
In all the approaches that I receive, both personally and through social networks, either people refuse you because you’re black, or they seek you out for the same reason. Gay men always approach me using my physical characteristics and belonging to the black race such as plump lips (I hate that they praise only my mouth, I am much more than that), my big body, my penis (which for some reason everyone thinks is gigantic). I feel that objectification goes beyond the physical and even reaches the behavioral, that is, I MUST act like an alpha male, be strong, brave, a bad boy and sensual. If you escape from the ‘you’re a negão, at the drop of a hat, I can’t go soft, if you don’t believe it’ you’re overlooked, ignored, left aside.
An ex-boyfriend of mine laughed when his friends made fun of my hair being curly. I thought it was okay, I’d play along so it wouldn’t be irritating, but then I saw that it hurt. And as a result, I started to straighten my hair, when what I’d like is someone to stand up for me.” – Bruno Barroso, 24 years old.
Note: Here, Bruno’s experiences run the gamut of what black Brazilians go through daily due to racial stereotypes. It’s the classic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario in which, if a black Brazilian is not rejected for something outright, he/she is accepted to full a certain “place” that is reserved for people of their race. Recently, we learned of the experiences of actor Babu Santana, who, while having appeared in more than 70 TV and film productions, most of his roles fulfilled a stereotype of the roles Afro-Brazilians are known to play in the media.
Also in Bruno’s comments, we see the conflict that Brazilians of African descent experience when trying to accept the texture of their hair in a society that sees it as unattractive. It seems that Bruno would probably accept his hair as it is if he were to receive some sort of positive re-enforcement. Instead, receiving such negative responses, he resorts to straightening his hair like many Afro-Brazilian women choose to do. As such, what we see here is that, in the gay community, where there is a daily fight for acceptance and intolerance, the very same rejection homosexuals experience in society is reproduced in their own community.
8. “When you look in the mirror and see that your nose and your face are not within the standard, it gives the impression that you were not made for that space”.
“I often see that, because I’m black and gay, I’m seen as an exotic option, but never pickable. And with that, I’d end up comparing myself to white men and wonder why I was like that, or how it would all be easier if my skin was a little lighter. It hurts a lot because it’s hard enough being gay, and when you look in the mirror and see that your nose and your face aren’t within the standard, it gives the impression that you’re not made for that space, that you don’t belong there.
I like to dance a lot, I’ve always been extroverted since I was a kid. Everywhere I go to dance I always notice the boys looking at me, but every time I go in or want something warmer with one of them I always hear a ‘you’re not my type’. It’s something I understand, but at the same time it’s extremely painful.” – Pedro Silva, 17 years old.
Note: Being gay, one would assume that the homosexual would find acceptance in the LGBT community, but as in other scenarios, black gays feel as “out of place” in a community that one would assume would accept them as straight black people in mostly white environments.
9. “The day before we met, I told him I was black and he said he wasn’t attracted.”
“Once, in the days when mIRC was popular, I fell in love with a boy. We exchanged a lot of messages and always talked on the phone, but there were no digital cameras. The day before we met, I told him I was black and he said at the time he didn’t feel attraction. We met and he was extremely cold to me. It’s bizarre how white normativity is the standard to be followed by most of the gay community. If you’re distant from that pattern for any reason, you’re already out of the cards in several sectors. It’s exhausting…” – Anonymous, 34 years old.
Note: Here we see a situation that reminds me a previous article entitled “‘You didn’t say you were black”: Structural racism and sexism lead black Brazilian women to the routine of romantic exclusion” in which a black woman was also stung with this same rejection upon a prospective date discovering her race.
10. “He told me, ‘I don’t like black people, I can’t stand black people.”
“At a party where we were, iot was me, two couples and a guy friend of theirs I didn’t know. My friends started to play indirect games for me and this other guy, since we were single, so we could start talking and get to know each other. I was already starting to get interested because he was so beautiful, but he totally shut himself off and didn’t want to start a conversation with me at all. So I asked him why and he said: ‘I don’t like black people, I can’t stand black people. I was very sad and hurt and I left that party as soon as possible. I cried a lot when I got home.” – Yago, 23 years old.
Note: I’ve said it numerous times; racism has ALWAYS existed in Brazil, but it seems that recently the gloves have come off in the sense that, previously, most Brazilians would hide their heads in shame, not for actually saying or doing something racist, but rather for being caught doing such. These days, it seems more people are willing to say what they really feel. This is not new, but it does seem that fully acknowledging racist sentiments is becoming common these days.
11. “I got with a white boy who would only get with me hidden or at the end of the parties.”
“Most guys just get with me hidden, never introduce me to friends or take me to public places (cinema and snack bar, for example). I always get invitations to meet in hidden places just for the purpose of sex. When I have a sexual relationship I feel that the guy treats me like a fetish and soon I am discarded.
When I was 19 (in 2008), I would get with a white boy who only got with me hidden or at the end of the parties. I deluded myself and thought that I could evolve my relationship with him, but in a certain event he stopped being with me to get with another white boy who claimed to be my friend. I was very angry and when I went to call him out, the guy I was with threw in my face that ‘I would never date a black man. – Eziquiel, 28 years old.
Note: That last part sounds pretty cruel, but I’ve always said, I’d rather a racist speak honestly about how he or she feels so I know exactly how they feel and there is none of this confusion as to whether someone was being racist or not. Perhaps hearing these sorts of thoughts is exactly what black Brazilians need to hear so that the idea that Brazil is somehow less racist that other countries can be discarded once and for all.
And what of this talk of “diversity” and “tolerance” that is so often used to promote more acceptance of the LGBT community? Well, like the society at large, I guess that only applies if you’re the right color.