--Essence, January 1999
The Bluelight Corner: Black Women Writing on Passion, Sex, and Romantic Loveby Rosemarie Robotham
A collection of the very best writing by African-American women, The Bluelight Corner explores and reveals all the rich and varied dimensions of Black women's romantic lives. A dramatic, touching, lively, erotic, tender, tragic, fierce, bawdy, heartfelt, and utterly surprising collection of voices, this is a one-of-a-kind gem of fiction and memoir.See more details below
A collection of the very best writing by African-American women, The Bluelight Corner explores and reveals all the rich and varied dimensions of Black women's romantic lives. A dramatic, touching, lively, erotic, tender, tragic, fierce, bawdy, heartfelt, and utterly surprising collection of voices, this is a one-of-a-kind gem of fiction and memoir.
--Essence, January 1999
- Crown Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.75(d)
Read an Excerpt
From "Secret Pleasures"
An Excerpt From the Memoir Bone Black by Bell Hooks
Masturbation is something she has never heard anyone talk about girls doing.
Like so many spaces of fun and privilege in their world, it is reserved for the boy child--the one whose growing passion for sexuality can be celebrated,
talked about with smiles of triumph and pleasure. A boy coming into awareness of his sexuality is on his way to manhood--it is an important moment. The stained sheets that show signs of his having touched his body are flags of victory. They--the girls--have no such moments. Sexuality is something that will be done to them, something they have to fear. It can bring unwanted preg-
nancy. It can turn one into a whore. It is a curse. It will ruin a young girl's life, pull her into pain again and again, into childbirth, into welfare, into all sorts of longings that will never be satisfied. Again and again they tell their mother she does not need to worry about them. They are not sexual. They will not get pregnant, will not bring home babies for her to take care of. They do not actually say We are not sexual, for the very use of the word sexual might suggest knowledge--they make sexuality synonymous with pregnancy, with being a whore, a slut.
When she finds pleasure touching her body, she knows that they will think it wrong; that it is something to keep hidden, to do in secret. She is ashamed,
ashamed that she comes home from school wanting to lie in bed touching the wet dark hidden parts of her body, ashamed that she lies awake nights touching herself, moving her hands, her fingers deeper and deeper inside, inside the place of woman's pain and misery, the place men want to enter, the place babies come through-- ashamed of the pleasure.
When she finally has a room all to herself she can go there when no one notices and enjoy her body. This pleasure is her secret and her shame. She denies to herself that she is being sexual. She refuses to think about it.
Males are not the object of her lust. She does not touch herself thinking about their penises moving inside her, the wetness of their ejaculations. It is her own wetness that the fingers seek. It is the moment she thinks of, not as orgasm, for she does not know the word, but as the moment of climbing a tall place and reaching the top. This is what she longs for. There she finds a certain contentedness and bliss. It is this bliss the fingers guide her to.
Like the caves she dreamed about in childhood it is a place of refuge, a sanctuary.
Like all secret pleasure she finds the hiding hard. She knows her sisters have begun to wonder about the moments alone in the dark cool room, the times in bed reading when they are outside. They watch her, waiting. They open the door fast. They pull the covers quickly before she can free her hands. They bear witness to her pleasure and her shame. Her pleasure in the body, her shame at being found out. They threaten to tell, they can't wait to tell. She prepares her denial. She goes over and over it in her head. Like a party ending because the lights are suddenly turned on she knows the secret moments are gone, the dark, the pleasure, the deep cool ecstasy.
No one ever talks to her about playing with herself, touching her body, about masturbation. She does not know if they told her mother. No one says anything.
She is on guard, she is the watcher. She no longer touches herself. She does not like to mingle pleasure with fear. She does not like the smell of fear.
She reads with passion and intensity. When she has read everything in sight she goes searching for something new, something undiscovered. Books, like hands in the dark place, are a source of pleasure. In her search for new reading she finds books kept in her father's private space, kept behind his bed. She has never heard the word pornography. To her they are just books with funny covers. The people on the covers do not look real. They are all white women, wearing heavy makeup, tight red dresses revealing body parts, they are naked. She does not know that these books are not to be read.
She hides her reading of them solely because they can be punished for taking things from his private space.
In bed with her new reading she finds that the books are about kinds of sex,
not the sex married, religious people have, but the dirty kind, the kind people have for pleasure. Excited by the reading, by the coming together of these two pleasures, books and sex, she learns that sex does not take place solely between men and women. Sex takes place between women and women, men and men, women and men in groups. Sex takes place with people watching--with people masturbating. Sometimes people like doing things with the sex she thinks are strange--whipping, eating, swimming. She finds that while reading these books her body is aroused, she feels the mounting wetness in her panties. She had thought the wetness came with the hand movement. This new discovery surprises her. It makes the touching more exciting, bringing images and fantasies to what was once just a good, warm wet feeling. Sex in these new books fascinates her. There are no babies to be had through the excitement these pages arouse, no pain, no male abuse, no abandonment. She never thinks much about the roles women and men play in the books. They have no rela-
tionship to real people. The men do not work, the women do not have children,
clean house, go shopping. Sometimes the men make the women do sexual acts. She could never understand how the women did what they didn't want to do, yet felt pleasure in doing it. She never felt pleasure doing what she did not want to do.
It becomes harder and harder for her to take the books. She must wait until no one is watching. She must make sure she puts them back exactly as she finds them. She is caught creeping up the stairs with a book in hand. Her mother does not want to see the book, only for her to put it back where she found it,
only for her to stop reading them. It is her favorite book, Passion
Pit. It is the only book wherein she identifies with a woman in the one part where the man uses his tongue and fingers to sexually arouse his partner,
then withdraws, telling her if she wants sex to ask for it, telling her to beg for it, to want it enough to beg. She can understand the intensity of the woman's longing, her willingness to ask, possibly even to beg. She knows this affirmation of the woman's sexual hunger is exactly what would be denied her in real life. Long after the books are all destroyed she recalls the image of the sexually hungry woman wanting it, wanting it enough to ask, even to beg.
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