We will use an intersectional lens to address the racial and ethnic bias that has historically been used to reinforce the stereotypes of ethnicizing the sexuality of women of color. The connection between race and sexuality is known as ethno-sexuality. Sexuality is an aspect of our identity that is shaped, manipulated, and transformed continuously by our encounters with dominant cultural forces, public policy, and the law.
In this way, the ideas of sexuality, identity and nationalism are connected. We see them in the literature as cultural pluralism, multiculturalism or diversity, identity politics, and minorities. In some of these concepts race is at the core, while other concepts emphasize ethnicity. Nationalism is understood as a particular type of ethnical, social identity, often rooted in claims of cultural distinctiveness and ethnic or racial purity that shapes the notion of who is a citizen and who belongs. The consequence of nationalism is a fight over the definition of the “nation,” especially over who counts as a member of the nation.
The media, and the movie industry in particular, is a significant contributor to the sexualization of girls and women based on their ethnicity. The results are stereotypes like Latinas are spicy and Asians are submissive. The implications of these ethno-sexualizations are many. The representation of a female character (Disney princess) combined with a more sexualized portrayal (Pocahontas, Esmeralda, Jasmine) may increase the internalization of sexualization as normative for young girls. Because of this, many girls/women are pressured by their families, and their communities to downplay the stereotype by being innocent of sexual desire (the virginity trap). Or, on the opposite end, women of color are seen as always sexually available.
Reflect and Act
As you explore the resources listed below, analyze the connections between race, identity and sexuality, and nationalism. What will be your first action step?
- The article Sexual Assault Programs Must Address Racial Power Dynamics explores the importance of understanding the intersection of race and ethnicity.
- Watch this interview with Jaclyn Friedman on power, privilege and pleasure: How to Stop Letting the System Screw Us All.