Alright y’all, sorry if I’m forcin’ it with the title first of all. There’s just so much good stuff to talk about when it comes to Patricia Rose’s book. I want to focus first on something I brought up briefly in class, and that is the vast importance of mother-daughter relationships in navigating early sexual experiences and defining things like love, sex, and intimacy.
Let’s start off with periods. Not the kinds in sentences. Most of the women who told their stories came from households where their period happened, was acknowledged, and that was it, they kept it moving. So when it came to sex talks, they were rare. But if they happened at all, they were brief, not very explicit or informative, and the fathers of the young women were never involved. Overall, the message about sex was something along the lines of: “stay away from that until you’re grown, you don’t need to be having babies right now, so don’t let me see you around men.” This kind of message from a mother conveys that sex is not something that should be had with any hurry, but it doesn’t explain to the daughter why this is. I think a lot of early pregnancies occur because most teenage girls are curious, unlikely to cut off all contact with boys just because their mothers said to, and don’t necessarily know exactly how sex works or how one becomes pregnant. All of these things are pretty reasonable, so I think early sex talks need to be a bit more comprehensive. In Luciana’s case, she got pregnant after her first time having sex because it was unprotected and she did not think that she could get pregnant after having sex just once.
If sex is talked about a little, then love and intimacy are not talked about at all. Most of the women recalled that their mothers may have spoken to them about sex, but never told them how to define intimacy, how to express love, or what to look for in a man. I think this leads directly to the hyper valuing of sex and the devaluing of love and intimacy. For a lot of women such as Linda Rae, sex becomes a way to make someone love you. So I think there’s a huge lack of household discussion on love, sex, and intimacy, but especially on love and intimacy, and I think the fathers of young daughters are especially absent from these conversations.
Now to relate this to a couple song by Lyfe Jennings. The first is called “S.E.X.” I used to love this song and its message. I still agree with a lot of it. I think it’s absolutely true that a lot of guys manipulate young women’s conceptions of love and sex by saying things like, “If you really loved me you would give it up,” just like Lyfe points out. I also like the line, “Mama’s givin’ advice but she ain’t tryna hear that / Not because it’s wrong, just her delivery is whack,” as I think it speaks to the way in which a lot of conversations about sex and men are lacking. However, the problem I have with the song is the way that it plays heavily on the fear which a lot of young women have of giving up their virginity. I think Sarita’s friend, Jardah has the best response to this fear when she tells Sarita, “Listen to what you’re saying! Give it up to him? Give what up to him? You’re you — you’re a person. Just because you have sex, you’re not giving him anything. You’re sharing an experience with him, and if he disses you afterward, that’s his fault, but that has nothing to do with you as a person. That’s because he couldn’t hang.” I couldn’t agree more with Jardah. Why is it that when women have sex, they’re giving something up, but when men have sex, they’re taking something away from someone else? Nobody ever tries to frighten a young man out of having sex by warning him not to give up his virginity.
The next song is also an old favorite, but I now have mixed feelings on it as well. “Statistics” touches on a lot of experiences that the women in Longing to Tell have had with men : men who don’t practice safe sex, who are abusive, who cheat, who lie and deceive, and do any number of things to hurt the women who love them. I like that Lyfe uses this song to put those men on blast and expose their often abusive behavior. What I don’t like is that the song is being so one-sidedly directed at women. The video literally shows Lyfe holding a woman’s arm and telling her to get a backbone and stop feeling sorry for herself. This scene rubs me the wrong way. First of all, why the hell is he putting his hands on her? Second, why is he literally yelling at a woman to stand up for herself and leave her abusive man? Why can’t he make a song where he grabs the man and yells at him for being abusive in the first fucking place? Sadly, we have long excused the behavior of abusive men as though they’re mostly bad but they can’t help it because they’re just wired that way. Meanwhile, we yell at the women who suffer those abuses to stand up and do something about it. According to his statistics, 90% of men are undatable, so shouldn’t Lyfe focus on that as the main problem rather than tell women that they need to do what they can with the remaining 10%?