Nia Green & Young Black Femme Sexuality
A few weeks ago, the internet was ablaze with a video of a black mother beating and publicly shaming her teenage daughter. The girl was Nia Green and she was being reprimanded for creating and sharing a sexually explicit video.
It is unclear to me if Nia privately sent the video directly to the young man that it was intended for and he later disseminated to the public, or if she shared it on a public platform herself - the latter seeming less likely. Regardless, Nia’s mother saw the video and decided to take action by filming her physically beating her daughter and publishing the video to Facebook.
After watching the video there were a lot of emotions for me to unpack. I empathized with Nia. I understood the Mom’s anger and frustration. I reflected on how young black femme sexuality is one of the most complex, guarded, and criticized matters in the world.
Nia Green is a teenager. More importantly she is a young woman. A young woman who has very valid sexual urges. There is a curiosity in teenagers and much of it revolves around sex. The world that we live in is not a safe space for young women to explore their sexuality. They can be demonized for engaging in any kind of sexual activity by being branded whores, sluts, and thots. Rape culture allows men and other people in power to take nonconsensual advantage of young women with little to no repercussion.
Nia Green took a chance by creating a sexually explicit video, but in her mind she wasn’t taking a chance at all, she was responding to her own needs and desires. Something that she, as long as she is not hurting or exploiting anyone else, should be able to do without question.
When watching the video, it is clear to me that Nia’s Mom is hurt. She wants the best for her daughter and, in her eyes, that means what she deems to be innocence and virtue - two qualities that she has assigned to her daughter’s sexual activity. When we assign characteristics of what it means to be a “good person” onto our sexuality it creates arbitrary negative attitudes about what is appropriate sexual behavior.
Inherently, there is nothing wrong with having sex before marriage, or having sex with multiple partners (regardless of the span of time between them) just as long as all parties involved are being healthy and honest. Even more so, there is nothing wrong with a young woman exploring her sexuality however she sees fit as long as all interactions are safe, consensual, and honest. Just because Nia is young does not mean that her taking sexually explicit photos and sharing them was wrong. If anything, it was a valid expression of her very real and sexual self.
I feel like Nia’s mom and many other black moms place their daughters sexuality and innocence on a very high pedestal. This protective attitude comes from a place of fear. The black mother knows that the world will look at her daughter, and exploit and try to profit off of her daughter’s sexuality and almost immediately turn around and try to shame her for it. This not only happens at a large institutional scale like with the media, but also in interpersonal interactions.
For instance, a young woman could be walking down the street looking aesthetically pleasing. A guy will see her and potentially cat call her and try to approach her. This interaction could be solely to fulfill sexual desire. Typically the young woman does not have the space to solicit sex from the opposite sex. If the young woman chooses to affirmatively respond to the guy’s advances and have sex with him, the young man now views her as a conquest and not an equal partner in a sexual encounter. Once the act is said and done,he guy may look at the young woman as a slut - a woman who has little self-respect simply because she had sex with him when they first met. Since she exercised her autonomy and sexual independence by choosing to have sex with another person, this experience can lead to the young woman being demonized, ostracized, and bullied in the community - a community that now sometimes extends to social media.
Nia’s mother probably experienced all of these things while growing up. She knows how emotionally draining and damaging it can be to experience the less than savory outcomes that arise when you are a young black woman exploring your sexuality. Not to mention the troubles that can stem from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
In the video, Nia’s mother is shown beating her child and expressing how Nia was not raised to send nudes to boys and that she works too hard to provide her daughter with a good life for her to wind up naked on social media. While I understand the hurt and fear that the mom is experiencing, I believe that such an extreme and public reaction is going to cause Nia to have a very narrow and slanted view of her own sexuality and the sexuality of other black women.
I often think about how I will raise my future children, more importantly, how I will raise my daughters. I want my daughters to grow up knowing that their sexual feelings are not wrong. I can not wait until they are teenagers to talk to them about their sexuality. It will start from the moment that they are able to express their likes and dislikes to me. Outside of warning them about how people may potentially try touch their private parts, I will allow them to express their autonomy by letting them decide when they want to be touched, even in a kind and innocent way. When they start exploring their bodies I will not shame them for it. I will encourage the act but in the privacy of their own space. If and when my daughters choose to involve others in their sexuality I will not shame them for who they choose to have sex with and I will try to help them identify the aspects of a healthy sexual lifestyle.
Like Nia’s mom, if I ever become a mother to daughters, I know that I will want to protect them from any harm. Sometimes I will feel like I will need to take preventive measures like telling them to dress more “appropriately” so no one attacks them. I will try not to do that as much as my mother did. I will try my hardest not to sexualize their self expression. To avoid the pitfalls that may arise when raising a daughter, I will warn them of how cruel of a place the world can be. I will tell her how society treats a young black woman who chooses to live in her truth and who owns her sexuality. I will warn her of what could happen if she chooses to do certain things, but I will try my hardest not to police her identity and to let her make herown decisions. I know that will be hard but as a mother my job will not only be to protect my daughters but to encourage them to be well rounded and honest people - to be themselves.
After Nia’s photos became public, her mother decided to publicly embarrass her. Its safe to assume that this young woman was already being teased and bullied because of the photos. That is enough stress in itself. Instead of publicly punishing her, I believe that her mother could have tried to console and talk to her about what went wrong. This action did not create a safe space for mother and daughter to explore what sex can and should be. If Nia is anything like I was, I would be terrified to even bring up the topic of sex to my mother. At the age of 25 I have never actually told her that I lost my virginity.
I grew up being told not to have sex. That was my birds and the bees talk. Just get an education and travel the world. Sex was a no-no. There was no talk about clits or the G spot. No info about female pleasure or foreplay or what to expect once it happened. Just don’t do it. I lost my virginity at the age of 14, but it took me nearly ten years to learn that my pleasure was important and that sex does not end when the guy you are sleeping with ejaculates. I know my mother has her own baggage and I understand why she tried to protect me. I understand that since black femme sex is so stigmatized that a lot of our elders may not be fully informed on the matter. But, unfortunately for me, what I learned about sex and how I learned it, gave me an unhealthy view of the activity. For years I wasn’t having sex for me.
My mom and I have always enjoyed watching movies together - action movies especially. The level of violence did not matter (except for straight gore), I could watch it all. I wasn’t told to cover my eyes during shoot out scenes, but soon as a pair of tits appeared her hands were over my eyes. We can say that breast are not sexual objects, but that is not entirely true, they can be tantalizing and they are super sensitive to touch - breasts are in some instances sexual objects. These two round sexual object scared the shit out of my mom. It was as if she thought a pair of boobs would float out of our television, grip me up, and singlehandedly entice me to have buttloads of sex.
Being a fearmonger about sex is not going to keep our daughters safe. A honest and open dialogue about sex will do a much better job of that. Our daughters are going to do exactly what they want to do, and sometimes those things are going to make us uncomfortable because of our own values. But I truly believe that if we create honest and free-flowing dialogue with our children they will be equipped to make the best decisions for them.
Melissa "Lissa Alicia" Simpson is a 23-year-old freelance journalist, media & marketing specialist, event curator and amateur model. Her interests include binge watching Dr. Who, writing creative nonfiction and street art. Find out more about Lissa at lissalicia.com.