It’s November of an election year. And not just any election year, but perhaps the most vitriolic, divisive, and ugly election year ever. Well, except for 2016. As I’ve stated before, this sacred, sexy space of ours, this small column in the vast expanse of contemporary writing, steers clear of politics, except for the fact that nothing is a-political anymore. Writing about sex, celebrating sexuality, and depicting a strong, independent, sexually explicit woman like Lola Down is itself a political act.
But in this very politicized climate, it is nearly impossible to provide a playground where the ubiquitous partisan battles don’t bleed over the boundaries we have created. People on the right have appropriated the term “cuck” as a pejorative for the left. Queer men on the left have appropriated “Proud Boys,” to the consternation of that far-right group. Just beneath the surface of these slogans and slurs is a swirl of sexual energy, frustration, confusion, and subliminal eroticism misdirected and perverted into hatred and violence.
Misogyny, racism, sexism, gender identity politics, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, and politization of polyamory are all interrelated issues, impossible to easily separate into isolated questions.
We live in strange times; times I never thought I’d see. The President of the United States is a man married (his third marriage, mind you) to a woman born in a different country who had a career as a model, occasionally posing nude and with other nude women in homoerotic images. And yet, he’s not a radical leftist liberal, but embraced by the conservative Christian right! He has had numerous affairs with porn stars and other women, yet that hasn’t prevented him from gaining the backing of the Bible Belt. But his exoneration by the religious right has not been equally applied. Those who work in the sex industry were not similarly embraced or given the same shame-free-pass as the President.
In 2016 the first female presidential candidate was eviscerated, mainly for wearing a pantsuit. Yet, in 2020, between Hope Hicks, Kayleigh McEnany, Ivanka Trump, Omarosa Manigault Newman, Mercedes Schlapp, Lindsay Walters, Zina Bash, the First Lady, and others, it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the White House and the Playboy Mansion. Perhaps that is Trump’s appeal to many; he fills the void left by the death of Hugh Hefner.
And all of this tumult and turmoil, not coincidentally, floats to the surface in the wake of eight years of an African American man occupying the White House.
I mention our current and past political theater as a preamble to confronting a porn/erotica trope as ubiquitous and with as long a history as that of the “Lolita” nymphomaniac figure. I speak of the so-called “Mandingo Myth.” This deep-seated belief, whose pedigree can be traced as far back as Ancient Greece and Egypt, holds that African men wield sexual appendages that dwarf those of fair-skinned Europeans. Throughout the ages, the image of the hugely hung black man has been perpetuated as well as perverted in order to promote a racist agenda: The longer the penis, the more bestial the sex-drive, the less human the man and thus the greater the threat to white society, especially its womenfolk. (See A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis, by David M. Friedman, chapter III, “The Measuring Stick.”)
Over the centuries, the long black appendage has been compared to a Priapus (that is, the male fertility god), a donkey, stallion, buck, and even a pre-Adam serpent of the Garden of Eden responsible for Eve’s seduction and the Fall. Throughout the ages, but most prominently in America from Reconstruction onward, this archetype of the African American man’s exceptional endowment has been the focus of white fear and fetish, engendering multiple myths, none of them ending well for the African American man. This theme is almost comically depicted in the various King Kong films, but most explicitly in the 1976 version. Plot: The Petrox Oil Company seeks to plunder a remote island of its oil. They find no natural resources to make their venture profitable, but they do find and trap King Kong, a preternaturally large black ape. They return to the U.S. with their unusual cargo. However, Kong has fallen in love with Dwan (a scantily clad, blonde woman played by Jessica Lange). Unable to allow such an unfathomable relationship, Kong is killed. (In the original 1933 version, he climbs the giant phallus, the Empire State Building. In the ’76 remake, he climbs the World Trade Center buildings, thus doubling the phalli.) The allegory is quite transparent: white colonialists set out for raw materials, they return with slaves from Africa whose unusual size threatens their white women and must be killed.
A year earlier, in 1975, the same myth was played out, only without the allegorical trappings, in the film Mandingo, based on the 1957 novel by the same name, from which the “Mandingo Myth” gets its label, though its predecessors in white Western mythology predate it by millennia.
Unfortunately, today we still find this trope used as both the focus of taboo fetishes (“Blacked” porn, which fetishizes both black men with large cocks and white, usually blonde and petit, women) and phobias for political ends. For instance, in 2017, Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, posted a tweet in which he asked if white women would be more willing to donate $20 to Trump’s campaign or walk past a group of black men while wearing a sundress. (The Daily Mail, 10/1/2020, “Leader of the Proud Boys is the State Director of Latinos for Trump”)
In today’s tribal public sphere, there is little we can agree upon, but one thing that is unimpeachable is, as David Friedman says, the one place where race and sex (and we can add politics) converge is the black penis.
The long black dong is the symbol of white, male fragility. It signifies the fear of masculine inadequacy and the homoerotic desire for sexual prowess. Both symbol and signifier are pointers and the thick, strong, dark schlong is frequently depicted as pointing at the helpless, weak, innocent white blonde. Copulation by contrast. This ubiquitous trope penetrates deep in the psyche of our culture.
Just as black men are often reduced to their primal virility as exemplified by the penis, so too women are subtly and explicitly made into a medium for the message communicated by the patriarchal culture. In recent memory, the collective unconscious probably recalls images from silent black-and-white films of a damsel-in-distress tied to the railroad tracks by the sinister mustachioed villain. This image is emblematic of an archetype that transcends time and space: the bound female. Ancient stories span the globe of women tied up — as sacrificial victims, concubines, slaves — from the abduction of Sita in the Ramayana to the afore mentioned Dwan of King Kong and, of course, Princess Leia in her famous Jabba the Hut scene in Return of the Jedi (1983) — project and perpetuate the idea of women as victims in need of a hero.
From nude or nearly nude women dancing in cages at clubs, raves, and music concerts, to Taylor Swift reenacting the railroad scene in “Mean,” this trope is conspicuously depicted and sexualized, but there are far more nuanced ways of sending the same message. What is the message? Women are weak, needy, helpless, and their power, like Prometheus (an example of gender inversion of the architype) is under wraps. Notice, if you will, women’s fashion, from undergarments to gowns. What is a recurring theme? Straps, bows, knots, strings, and all manner of imagery suggesting restraint while simultaneously revealing skin. Beyond that, almost every article of clothing is designed to depict weakness, vulnerability, and impotence. Watch your local or national news, for instance. How are the men dressed? Buttoned up shirts, ties, long sleeve jackets revealing the least skin possible. They are formidable, as if wearing body armor. And the women? Blouses cut at the shoulder, plunging necklines, form-fitting soft colored tops. Imagine for a moment what you would think of a male news anchor reporting in a halter-top made of thin, silky material.
Beyond the blouses, there are the skirts. Dresses were, perhaps, originally designed to conceal the shape of the woman hidden beneath all the folds and flourishes. But today, dresses and skirts are designed to inhibit freedom of movement, conceal as little as possible, and leave the woman wearing them vulnerable to the inadvertent upskirt.
Working our way down, we next arrive at women’s footwear. High heels keep a woman off balance. Not only do they prevent any aggressive action, they inhibit flight. Women’s dress shoes, for the most part, make them a helpless victim in the face of any danger. Beyond that, they continue the ligature leitmotif. Straps, bows, chords, all depict the female foot in a shibari shoe.
It’s important to recall that liberating oneself from the cultural baggage one inherits by virtue of merely being born into a particular time and place is not accomplished by merely adopting the opposite position. In the dialectical structure, inhabiting the antithesis merely reaffirms the thesis. It does nothing to diminish the power of the thesis. Rather, twisting free of the rigid and possibly oppressive cultural constraints is a tricky and subtle art. It requires first understanding the nature of one’s servitude and then becoming master of it.
Lola is by no means exempt from our culture’s conventions any more than you or I. However, she does like to play with the tropes and taboos just the way that a good composer doesn’t merely adhere to the rules of the times, but will surprise and delight by contorting them in unexpected patterns.
Of course, in our relationship there is the patent hotwife — cuck/stag — bull roles to be played. But we emphasize the play of that is inherent in any roleplaying. Lo has her soft spot for knots (of all variety) and strappy heels, dresses, bras, panties, and even corsets. She also has her wet spot for BBC. But it also delights her to wear her strap-on, to wield her cock, and to fuck like a man. Call her a switch if you wish. She also oogles and drools over the many fan photos she gets from black bulls endowed with length, girth, and heft she has rarely met in the flesh. But she also loves her male trans fans who send photos of themselves in their wives’ panties or cumming in their pantyhose. For, when it comes to sex, the one rule that holds is that nothing is essentially anything. Existence precedes essence, as the Existentialists mantra goes, meaning, before we had determined male/female, man/woman, straight/queer, black/white, there were just people doing stuff. Their names, definitions, categories, and expectations of norms all came later.
These observations are meant neither to condemn nor condone the complex cultural code with regard to BBC or BDSM as it manifests in veiled, seemingly innocuous symbols such as popular movies and fashion. Rather, this thought piece is more along the lines of semiotics (the study of signs and symbols in culture) than a cultural critique. Signs and symbols perform a function; they point at something. In this piece, the sign/symbol with which we began was the black penis, which is, innately and ironically, also a pointer. Perhaps it is pointing at our radical possibility for the future. I simply wanted to point that out.