Photo: Love Fola
Occasionally, I get a question from a reader that is compelling enough to become its own article. This is one of those questions.*
I love my natural hair and I don’t even mind how it looks when it’s wet out of the shower or after I’ve just gotten out of the pool. It’s very kinky and shrunken up and I don’t have curls that bounce around. With that, I feel some kind of way with my hair looking this way while I’m having sex with my husband.
After a romp, the heat and sweat does a number on my fro and I feel like I lose my sexy with matted hair. It’s interesting that I feel this way and I don’t know where this is coming from. Any advice?
I can absolutely relate to this, and I know a slew of other naturals can. The transition back to our natural roots is so much more than simply chopping off the relaxed ends of our hair (or using clippers to cut it all off and start anew). It’s about rewiring our brains, reconciling with our new reflections, re-establishing our confidence levels, and unlearning everything we thought we knew about the standard of beauty. When going natural, we prepare ourselves for new hair growth, but never for the grueling, emotionally taxing kind of personal growth.
If I had let it, feeling sexy—or lack thereof—in an afro would’ve deterred me from going natural in the first place. We just don’t often see black, afro’d naturals in the mainstream media. What we see most frequently is a very specific standard of beauty that seems to go across the board: light-skinned, straight- and long-haired, light-eyed, thin-framed beauties. Anyone else that goes outside of that box is considered an anomaly.
Even our own supposed black role models easily fit into this overplayed template of beauty (Rihanna, Beyoncé, Jordan Dunn). And don’t even get me started on the absence of accurate portrayals of black women/men in porn. It’s true that we can watch two relatively attractive blacks get hot and heavy on screen, but the female star is often weaved.
So thank goodness for Solange, Esperanza Spalding, Folasade Adeoso, Yaya DaCosta, Grace Jones, Lupita Nyong’o, and the many, many other black, afro’d beauties we see outside of the mainstream media and inside blogs, YouTube videos, and Tumblr accounts. Without them, I would’ve thought that sexy afro’d women didn’t exist.
When I first BC’d (big chopped), I had steady knowledge that depictions of black afro’d women were rare, so I told myself, “Well, I’ll just create my own standard of beauty, then!”
Now, I’m not saying that my outburst of inner rebellion wasn’t a noble cause. It was. But my therapist once told me that you can’t be what you can’t see. And she’s right.
If there are no consistent images of faces, curl patterns, skin tones, and noses that look like mine, the harmful assumption is that it’s because that’s not what “sexy” and “beautiful” is.
A tough outer exterior and confidence in one’s self is not enough. One needs positive, unabashed reinforcements that their body, their hair, and the expression of their sexuality is as beautiful as it is important.
One needs proof. One must go a step or two further.
So I began to make it a mission to surround myself with images of sexy, afro’d naturals, pushing aside the falsehood that they don’t exist. I had to dig, sometimes tirelessly, for healthy depictions of afro’d beauty. I also had to make a conscious effort to truly see those images and those portrayals, and in doing so, put it in my head, loud and clear, that it was beautiful/sexy.
That, and being armed with some helpful indie media depictions, helped me to find my sexy as a bushy-haired black woman.
Want to find your sexy? Here are 7 tips to help preserve (or provoke) your natural-haired, erotic self:
(1) Ask yourself what it means to you to be sexy. What qualities does a sexy person have? What qualities does a sexy person not have? Many of us agree blindly to the terms of “sexy” without actually reading the contract. Remember: You can define what sexy is and isn’t.
(2) Devote a few hours to taking some sensual, sexy selfies. You control the shots, the angles, how much skin is showing, etc. Use a self-timer and go at it. Keep only the pictures you like, or destroy all of them. Absolutely no one has to see these images but you, but you can absolutely share them if you’re feelin’ yourself.
(3) Ask your significant other what it is that makes them sexually attracted to you as a natural. If they say, “I love your hair,” ask them to articulate what they love about it. Have them go into a little detail so you get a clear idea of your sex appeal in their eyes. Their answer(s) will certainly give you a new perspective on yourself as a sex symbol (because you are one in your own right).
(4) When you catch yourself coming out of the shower (or even just walking past a mirror), sit with your reflection for a few seconds longer and admire yourself. See if you can pinpoint features (or an essence) that you feel is sexy. If you can’t think of anything, try harder. If you want to look away, keep your eyes fixated on your body, your curls. This won’t be easy, but it’s needed for you to realize the sex goddess you are.
(5) If you know a romp in the sheets is in your future, plan for it. Braid or twist your hair and pin it back gracefully with bobby pins before bed so that you won’t worry about your man messing up your ‘fro during coitus. I do this myself and feel 100x more confident when I know my hair is out of the way, but is still being showcased beautifully.
(6) Set boundaries. It’s 100% OK if you have to tell your lover to keep his hands out of your hair while you’re getting it on. And this doesn’t have to be forever. Just at least until you feel comfortable with who you are as a sexual woman and what that entails—frizzy hair and all.
(7) When you see a black, natural woman, rather than think, “She’s pretty,” go further. Shift your thoughts to, “She’s sexy. She’s sensual. She’s erotically beautiful.” Admire her body, her skin color, her curls. Soak in her essence, and try to remember that what she’s got, you also have within you, too.
Bonus! A few films and sites that helped me find my sexy as a black kinky-haired woman:
(Some of these sites/videos may not be safe for work.)
Kwensi Abbensetts (photography): A talented photographer with an eye for black, unadulterated beauty. Most of the models are natural, afro’d, and sexy. Check out one of his most frequent muses, Folasade Adeoso.
Arielle Loren’s CORSET, issue #1 (magazine): Arielle’s first, inaugural issue featured her own sultry, sensual, nude photoshoot. The pictures of her chocolate skin and gorgeous afro gave me goosebumps. It was one of the first times I saw myself in a form of media.
Who Is Amanda James? (web series): I was turned onto this newly created web show by its director, and even though there’s only one episode so far, I was hooked. Mostly because in the first 10 seconds of the show, the afro’d star exclaims that she “loves sex!”
A Good Day to be Black and Sexy (film): An independent film that features several vignettes of black men and women on the topics of sex and love. I appreciate this film because it shows an array of diversity amongst black women, not just in how they express their sexualities but in the way they wear their hair: braided, afro’d, weaved, and relaxed.
Black Girls R Pretty 2 (Tumblr): A gorgeous collection of sensual, sultry photographs of black women all over the world.
The road to true sexual awareness, regardless of who you are and what you look like, is an arduous one. It’ll take years—perhaps even a lifetime—to fully reconcile with yourself as a sexy woman.
It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.
*This post originally appeared on KISFORKINKY in 2012 and was reposted here with their permission. It’s been reprised and updated just a little.