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“Insecure” on Black Sexuality


Many of us are still in shambles with the season finale of Insecure. And while you may be #TeamIssa, #TeamLawrence or even #TeamTasha (yes, she has her stans, too), one thing is for certain; Insecure has opened up a much needed dialogue for black millennial sexuality that is not too often found on cable.

For the record, I’m #TeamLawrence and will fight anyone who wants to challenge me on it. Come at me.

For those who don’t know, Insecure’s writer, actress, and comedian Issa Rae’s breakout series on HBO is loosely based off of her popular web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, or Awkward Black Girl for short. The premise of her web series and HBO show is how her eponymous character navigates through her work and personal life as an awkward, generally uncomfortable, yet relatable twenty-something.

Insecure, ran essentially by an all-black cast and crew, creates believable characters and abandon the tired archetypical depiction of black female sexuality on the screen à la Jezebel, Mammy or Vixen. Issa and her friends Molly, Tiffany and Kelli are all complex women with different needs and desires in their sexuality and relationships. Her boyfriend, Lawrence isn’t the stereotypical hyper-masculine man, cold and removed from Issa’s needs, either. We meet him while he is in between jobs, obviously growing more defeated interview after interview but he never stops caring for her (which is why i’m getting heated all over again) and his sensitivity is even something Issa is beginning to grow tired of.

Black sexuality is often a taboo. Religiosity, culture, and respectability politics often govern our bodies and it isn’t common to see Black women especially, openly discussing their sexuality without condemnation. The pilot episode features a scene where Issa and Molly discuss their inability to find the perfect partner (Issa dissatisfied with her’s and Molly annoyed of the dating scene). Issa then suggests Molly’s vagina needs a break from dating as well until Molly finds the ideal person. They discuss Molly’s vagina at a restaurant, and facetiousness and wry comments aside, their conversation is rooted in sexual empowerment.

In a later episode, Molly starts seeing a man who confessed to having a sexual experience with another man when he was younger. She also brings this up to her friends, who all have varying opinions on whether Molly should stay in the relationship. Double standards with men and women exploring their sexuality exist in many cultures, and while the black community is no different, our heightened homophobia at times can discourage men and women from feeling safe enough to open up about our own identities for fear of being judged.

Throughout the season, we see very explicit sex scenes that aren’t shot from the male gaze per se, but in a way that shows both characters enjoying one another, and no fixation on a particular body part. Nothing about these scenes were sleazily shot, although that doesn’t mean you should necessarily watch them with Grandma, either.

Toward the end of the season, we see two sex scenes which change the trajectory of Issa and Lawrence’s relationship forever. While we often hear about men cheating on women, we don’t frequently see the flip side of that. Even though a good many of us are in our feelings about it, this narrative of a woman betraying the relationship still needed to be heard. And of course, the conversations of what is a “good man” and was Issa justified are now coming out on black Twitter, so there is healing in this. This strikes many chords because many of us can relate to this very thing.

Insecure, which has been renewed for a second season, is definitely the love letter to black millennials that we needed. Was it always pretty? No. Was the main character always the hero? Definitely not. But it was always real. Something most of us always wanted.

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