Feminista Jones Is Kind Of A Big Deal » VSB

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Feminista Jones Is Kind Of A Big Deal

Feminista Jones is kind of a big deal. So much of a big deal that, as a lead in for the @nbrbooks discussion of her new book (Push The Button) tonight at 9pm, I had to talk to her about sex, feminism, BDSM, erotica, and Black culture. Because we’re all adults here.

I hate myself for asking you this, because it’s so cliche, but what inspired you to write this book? How did you come up with the concept?

It began as a short story on my blog. I wanted to challenge myself to write erotica (I’d never written it before) and basically show that if you’re a good writer, you can probably do a solid job in any genre. This was around the time 50 Shades of Grey began buzzing and, having read it and deemed it trash, I wanted to offer an alternative that was actually about kink/BDSM and not about an abusive asshole.

Most of my writing about sex has been in essay form, so I wanted to try my hand at erotic fiction. I was going to end with one chapter, but readers kept tweeting and emailing me for more, so I obliged. I began releasing chapters on major holidays, over a two year period. When chapter 11 has 2,800 download the first day, I realized I could make it a book and maybe make some change.

So the synopsis for Push the Button says that the book explores a side of BDSM culture that often goes ignored — “the normalcy”. Why do you think the normalcy is ignored?

People don’t really have any idea what this about, lol. I hate to be so dismissive, but it’s true. This lifestyle is one of those things that you have to live it to even begin to get it, and even living it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll fully understand it. It’s a culture, a large community with different factions. It has its own language, dress, rituals, activities, guidelines, celebrations, etc. I think many people are drawn to the allure and mystery of it, thinking there is always some really wild, exciting things happening – no. Most of us are just trying to live life, be happy, and remain true to our preferences and desires, pretty much like anyone else. I think focusing on how “normal” those of us in The Life really are might kill the vibe for onlookers.

Our community is somewhat sexually repressed.

Oh, I agree. We’re among the most sexually conservative demographics!

I think a mix of religion and respectability politics have really impacted Black folks’ relationships with their sexuality. (I know I’m going to catch hell for saying so.)

You right, #doe.

Do you feel like BDSM is a practice that goes ignored in the Black community or is portrayed in a certain (negative) way?

We tend to write BDSM off as something that “White folks do.” Any time we encounter someone we’ve been taught doesn’t align with “God’s plan” or seems to deviate from the Good Book, we somehow decide it is something just for White people. Take mental health, for example, and how often we write off psychiatric disabilities and just being for crazy White people, or seeing a psychiatrist is for White people? BDSM represents a deviance from the “norm” and if there is ANYTHING Black folks strive to be, it is “normal” and accepted/respected as “normal” people, right? So when something like homosexuality, psychiatric disorders, good quality cheese, or BDSM comes along, we tend to reject or rebuke them as things that can make life even harder for us if we embrace them.

Do you think that the erotica genre has become mainstream? Obviously, Zane had a huge push, and there’s the cultural phenomenon that is 50 Shades of Grey. Is this something that audiences are becoming more comfortable with? 

Yes, unfortunately. I say it like that because I’ll be honest: Erotica is one of my least favorite genres to read mainly because soooooo many people are soooooo bad at it because soooooo many people ignore the humanity of the characters and ignore intimacy. I’m not the best writer and I don’t pretend to be some grand mistress of erotica. Push the Button is a demo book for me, my first dip into the life of a novelist. It’s fun, no doubt, and I really love letting the characters guide my pen; I’ve just been going along with wherever they want to go, really. My preference is for non-fiction and some of my best work has been literary critique, so that’s why I have these thoughts about erotica, in general. There’s always been a shitload of erotica and other types of sex stories available. Always. I grew up reading romance novels as a pre-teen and can appreciate the fantasy value of a well-written love story that included intimacy and maybe had a few steamy scenes. Most of it though? Crap.

You know what might have really changed the game? E-readers. You can read whatever book you want without people seeing the cover and catching you indulging in smut. You can also download directly to your e-reader and not get caught purchasing it.

You describe yourself on your site as a post-modern, sex-positive, Black feminist woman. I love this description. What does that mean to you?

When I use “post-modern,” I’m referring to the idea that it is healthy to challenge what is generally accepted as the standard and to be skeptical of what others try to suggest is valid and applicable to all people. “Feminism” is often associated with middle-upper class heterosexual, cisgender White women who have been able to write the rule books about feminism for entirely too long. I think modern feminism still centers their experiences and the post-modern approach calls them to task directly and by presenting my (our) own experiences as women who identify as feminist.

Sex-positive feminism is important to me because I believe so much of the oppression women experience is related to the regulation of sex and the removal of agency and choice. In my opinion, in order for women to be free, we must first be able to own the rights to our own bodies, complete with decision-making privileges that benefit us first an foremost. Taking the sex-positive approach means embracing sex and sexuality as positive things for women which increases enjoyment and agency, which in turn removes the power from men by denying them control of our bodies and sex.

And. I’m Black.

I want to ask this question because I think men, in particular, get tripped up in understanding this aspect of feminism: How does feminism relate to, or inform, a woman’s sexuality?

Feminism allows women space to figure it all out without seeking permission from others. Feminism supports women’s rights to explore and experiment, take their time, say “no”, say “yes!”, walk away, stay, etc. It encourages women to set their own standards based on what works best for them and to not settle for allowing others to dictate how they should feel about sex. Feminism makes us better lovers, too, because it seeks to destigmatize sexual expression and remove the shame cast upon women who like to practice, which makes perfect, yes?

My very progressive Sex & Sexuality course instructor used to pose this to question to us in high school, and I think it’s fitting here: What does “good sex” mean to you? How can one achieve “good sex” with their partner?

Good sex is when you walk away from it feeling no regrets or doubts and you feel fulfilled, even if it is only for 12 minutes. I think the goodness of sex relies on how you end up feeling about the experience. For me? When my mind hasn’t wandered, when my partner is thoroughly satisfied, when I’m happy that I had it, when I tingle, and when I wish my mama was still alive to tell her about it :)

***Again, for more discussion on Push The Button, follow @nbrbooks (and use #nbrb and #PTBBook) and join their chat at 9pm tonight. ***

Maya Francis

Maya K. Francis is a culture writer and communications strategy consultant. When not holding down the Black Girl Beat for VSB, she is a weekly columnist for Philadelphia Magazine's "The Philly Post" and contributes to other digital publications including xoJane, Esquire, and EBONY.com. Sometimes TV and radio producers are crazy enough to let her talk on-air, and she helped write a book once. She cites her mother and Whitley Gilbert as inspirations.

  • CrayolaGirl

    thanks for this interview. I kept hearing about the book and forgetting to look it up.

    I’ve read other books with BDSM elements and really enjoy them. Hope Push the Button is a good read!

    • IsitFridayyet?

      It’s a decent read with an interesting ending. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free.

      • CrayolaGirl

        Thanks! I have Kindle Unlimited.

  • YasiinYasiin

    HA.

  • Good for her.

    • Wild Cougar

      umm…..

      • I’m not in the parade raining business

        • Wild Cougar

          I’m working on being nice in writing, like I am in person for 2015, so…..

  • “I think a mix of religion and respectability politics have really impacted Black folks’ relationships with their sexuality. (I know I’m going to catch hell for saying so.)”

    You may or may not, but I certainly agree with you. Respectability politics really is an albatross when we talk about sexual expression and sexuality among Black folk. I hadn’t heard about her book, but I’m curious about it now.

  • Only thing I knew about her is that she got jokes. Funny woman. I’ll pass on the book because bdsm isn’t my wheelhouse and isn’t incorporated into my sexual language at all.

  • Animate

    So many gems here! My personal favorites:

    1. “Our community is somewhat sexually repressed.

    Oh, I agree. We’re among the most sexually conservative demographics!”

    2. “In my opinion, in order for women to be free, we must first be able to own the rights to our own bodies, complete with decision-making privileges that benefit us first an foremost. Taking the sex-positive approach means embracing sex and sexuality as positive things for women which increases enjoyment and agency, which in turn removes the power from men by denying them control of our bodies and sex.”

    3. “Feminism allows women space to figure it all out without seeking permission from others. Feminism supports women’s rights to explore and experiment, take their time, say “no”, say “yes!”, walk away, stay, etc. It encourages women to set their own standards based on what works best for them and to not settle for allowing others to dictate how they should feel about sex.”

  • looking forward to a good discussion tonight.

  • Charlisia Nwachukwu

    I love her and I totally agree with her perspective on a a lot but especially the following…

    1. I HATE the term “White People do” … I have heard it both ways. As a “White people do this”.. referring to white people as an all knowing and smarter example I should strive to emulate. And “that’s white people stuff” as if I have some how lost myself by doing a certain activity.

    2. In my opinion, Many (not all) black people are so tethered to religion and wanting to show a perfect and glossy image.. they cannot have a healthy relationship with sex. IE our issues with homosexuals, transgender and sexually liberated women.

    3. “Feminism” is often associated with middle-upper class heterosexual, cisgender White women who have been able to write the rule books about feminism for entirely too long.” PREACH!!! – That lean in movement was evidence of this.

    4. “Feminism makes us better lovers, too, because it seeks to destigmatize sexual expression and remove the shame cast upon women who like to practice”
    Agreed here as well. When you can free yourself from all the institutions aimed to control female sexuality, sex becomes something you can enjoy without guilt.

  • uniquebeauty79

    Our community is somewhat sexually repressed.

    Oh, I agree. We’re among the most sexually conservative demographics.
    These two sentences are not even close to what the real is. People act like they don’t are sexually repressed out in the open. If we were so repressed why are HIV/AIDS so major in our community. I don’t think they are conservative more like hush hush about what it is they are doing….
    Anyway, I look forwad to getting this book as well. Bought and read the last artist you interviewed (Roxanne Gay) Loved it!!!

    • Because we enjoy trying to pull out.

      • HeyBooHey

        …..sir…..

        • I do my best.

          • HeyBooHey

            *starts walking into this reply…walks right on out*

      • uNk

        emphasis on “trying” lol

        • MeridianBurst

          Pulling out is offensive.

          • for who, #doe? lol

            • MeridianBurst

              Seriously. Face all up in my neck and go all the way in. Breathe me in and stay close. Tuh.

          • Wait, ma’am?

            • MeridianBurst

              I was making a joke but I’m somewhat serious. If I was in the moment with someone (considering the level of relationship we’d have for this kinda thing in the first place, probably talking about a husband here), I would be offended if he pulled out.

          • HeyBooHey

            o_o

            • MeridianBurst

              #MarriedLife

              • HeyBooHey

                #NoPullOutZone

                • MeridianBurst

                  #BallsToTheWallsAndJustLetYourSoulGo

                  • HeyBooHey

                    #JustStraightBustinOutTheBandoAndLettingHerSoulGlow

                    • MeridianBurst

                      #ButHeInItAndHeCantGetOut

                    • HeyBooHey

                      #HesFallenInItAndHeCantGetUp

                    • MeridianBurst

                      LOL. You are so stupid.

          • uNk

            Is this what I should tell my future children? lol
            “you guys were not really mistakes…i just did not want to offend your mother at the time” haha

            • MeridianBurst

              Yep! Gotta tell em you loved their mother so much and she had you feeling so good, you didn’t even bother to pull out because you knew she wanted you to enjoy the moment with her. Especially if you have sons. You have to troll them and tell em how good mom was.

      • uniquebeauty79

        Ricky, no sir.

        • I am an expert. Trust me.

          • O_o

            • 0 babies.

              • Lea Thrace

                You should not be proud of this!!!!

              • HeyBooHey

                For now. It’s not 100% effective, I got a niece & nephew to prove it

                • miss t-lee

                  Yep.
                  You’re only 100% until you’re not…lol

                  • HeyBooHey

                    Yup, leading to a convo & Ricky looking like o_o

                • I mean I use condoms now because I found some that fit nicely.

                  • Bruh…*head desk* WHY DID YOU WAIT SO LONG????!!!!

                  • Rachmo

                    BOL @ now. SIR

                    • Life comes ma’am. Life comes at all sorts of speeds. I was a little slow in this arena.

                    • I’d rather wear a polar beat suit during $ex than slang that D raw dog. I stay strapped with mine. You’re a bit too nekkid…

                    • You already where a 4 piece suit. How much more dressed could you be?!

                    • Lea Thrace

                      triple entendres!

                    • HeyBooHey

                      Well we applaud you catching up and finding a fit for your equipment sir *claps for Pretty Ricky*

                    • uniquebeauty79

                      I see y’all just had to have a “come to condoms moment” with Sir Ricky huh, lol…

                    • HeyBooHey

                      Sir Ricky definitely needed that prophylatic encouragement and we were more than happy to help lol

                    • Gotta carry that weight.

                    • uniquebeauty79

                      considering what this whole conversation has been about that statement is definitely a double entendre, lol

                    • I do my best lovely. :)

                    • uniquebeauty79

                      I need you to change your name to Sir Ricky, that has been replaced as your first name as of today,lol

                  • HeyBooHey

                    I……wish I had words for this……

                  • MeridianBurst

                    Some that fit nicely? I see what you did there.

                    • Naw, just a lot are just too tight to be pleasurable, but I’m not pr0n star so I don’t need the XXL wide ones. So yeah gotta find a middle ground.

                    • HeyBooHey

                      ……Ricky out here alluding like a mofo…..

                    • MeridianBurst

                      The rim part?

                    • Rim?

                    • MeridianBurst

                      Of the condom. Does it squeeze too tight?

                    • Ah yes, absolutely. It’s cool if you want to have the bulbous look the entire time. Not pleasurable in the slightest though.

                    • SweetSass

                      A normal condom fits on elephant penis. It’s marketing.

                    • I could fit myself into middle school clothes if I tried hard enough. Wouldn’t be comfortable though. Not the mention all the ripping.

                      I COULD HAVE AN ELEPHANT PENIS TOO SWEETSASS! YOU DON’T KNOW

              • SweetSass

                That you KNOW of… DUN DUN DUN…

          • LMNOP

            My daughter’s father still swears by the pull out method.

    • menajeanmaehightower

      We aren’t open about it which leads to dangerous chex (not using protection, not using contraceptives not allowing people to be without judging and so they have to do things in the dark). Yes, we are conservative and close minded to be quite honest.

      • I don’t see us as being conservative in this arena. I think we are very vocal about the stigmas we attach to people who do things. But we all still more or less do the same things as white people.

      • Word. I have a few thoughts on this that I need to get out. I understand where it comes from, but that doesn’t make it right…

      • uniquebeauty79

        I don’t hear conservative and dangerous sex in the same sentence often. well never. they don’t mix. hence things that are not conservative being done in the dark… I wouldn’t equate people not being open about to conservatism. That, to me, is blatant dishonesty.

    • Andrea

      I am hopeful she looked at research on polyamory/sadism/maschoism for example and race before writing a book. I know from my brief google searches and research. It does seem we are underrepresented in terms of those types of sexual identities.

      • Yes….and no. It’s more of a class thing than anything else. While White folk in all demographics function within the scene, BDSM is definitely a bougie thing.

        • Andrea

          Ohhhh yesss! I guess if you are of a certain socioeconomic status…you can’t afford some of the equipment. Kind of like kids who can’t take polo lessons. I think that was a bad analogy. But yes. I have read and it would seem logical that a lot of these non-normative identities are for the economically privileged.

          • ” Kind of like kids who can’t take polo lessons. I think that was a bad analogy. But yes. ”

            I yelped at this whole thing. lol

          • Feminista Jones

            I’d argue that most of the people involved in these dynamics don’t engage in much activity that requires spending much money on anything, really. I’ve been with my Sir for 3 years and we haven’t spent a dime, really lol

            His hand is strong and there are spatulas in the kitchen.:)

          • Please do not believe the hype. Being into kink has precious little to do with all the pagentry and “stuff”. Trust me, you can do quite a bit with common everyday household items. Ahem.

            O.

        • Feminista Jones

          “Definitely”?

          Interesting.

      • Feminista Jones

        Thank you for your feedback. I’ve been studying my Lifestyle for about 15 years and have written on various aspects of The Life on a number of platforms. Here are 3 pieces I wrote for Ebony that might add some context.

        http://www.ebony.com/love-sex/talk-like-sex-race-play-aint-for-everyone-911#axzz3RNabw9Jk

        http://www.ebony.com/love-sex/talk-like-sex-from-slavery-to-sexual-freedom-777#axzz3RNabw9Jk

        http://www.ebony.com/love-sex/shades-of-black-bdsm-482#axzz3RNabw9Jk

    • Feminista Jones

      HIV is major because our “repression” doesn’t encourage open conversations about safe sex and doesn’t allow for us to provide those in need with barriers and support around testing. Also, rape.

    • Goodietwoshoes

      “…If we were so repressed why are HIV/AIDS so major in our community. I
      don’t think they are conservative more like hush hush about what it is
      they are doing…

      Booom, Bam, Bop! You just won the internet! Carry on please!

  • menajeanmaehightower

    The healthy relationship is key. I will never speak with my future kids about chex the way my mom did with me which was one filled with fear.

    • MeridianBurst

      Word. I imagine the way my mother was about it kept me out of trouble and a lot of heartache, but I think as an adult it seems very laden with fear. Like she scared me straight and now I’m stuck like that. Having a healthy relationship allows the space and freedom to work through things. Comfort and safety. I’m not sure I’ll take the same approach with my kids because I want it to be fluid for them when they’re ready for such things, not jarring.

    • Charlisia Nwachukwu

      Agreed. I have the same intentions.

    • HeyBooHey

      I’ll actually SPEAK about “the secks” with my kids, unlike the way my mom did with me lol. She walked in the room and handed my sister a coloring book about it when she was 16. Told my sis to flip thru it, asked if she had any questions. Turned to me and said, “did you hear all that? Good.” End of the secks lesson.

      Now I’m real with my niece about it. She can’t even say the word but my sis & I are very open with her

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