What Beyoncé’s Sex Life Has to Do with My Marriage

Let's stop policing black women's sex lives

by Jareesa Tucker McClure, Contributor

This month, Beyoncé shocked America with the release of “Formation.” In the song, she proudly proclaims, “If he fuck me good, I take his ass to Red Lobster”.

The first time I heard that line, I had to stop, rewind, and listen again. Did she just say that? Why yes, yes she did! My surprise was not at the idea that Beyoncé would talk about sex; I was just surprised that Beyoncé and I have something in common. I have been known to treat my husband to Endless Shrimp at Red Lobster.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Beyoncé has alluded to the fact that she gets down with her husband. On the night of December 13, 2013, Beyoncé shocked the world and dropped an entire album, complete with videos. After we all got over the idea that Beyoncé just dropped an album out of thin air, we started listening and watching. This wasn’t the “Crazy In Love” Beyoncé, or the “Get Me Bodied” Beyoncé. This was someone new. A woman who embraced her new life, as a mother and a wife, but didn’t let her life be solely defined by those roles. She could sing about the love of her child on one song, and on the next, sing about smeared lipstick and ripped blouses in the back of the limo with her man.

Then she doubled down on it with her visuals. We all got a little hot watching the videos for “Partition” and “Rocket.” The final kicker was her Grammy performance of “Drunk in Love” with her husband. Immediately afterwards, conservatives were decrying her “raunchy” performance, and wondering how a wife and mother could be so overtly sexual in such a public way. We were flooded with thinkpieces and Facebook statuses wondering why Beyoncé couldn’t put some clothes on and be a better parent for her daughter.

Yeah… forget all that. Beyoncé made a bold, radical statement, and I’m here for it. And we need more of it.

Why Beyoncé is More Than Just Pop

Pop stars are no strangers to sexuality. But for Black women, the concept of sexuality is complicated by the Jezebel stereotype. During American slavery, Black women were viewed as hypersexual and promiscuous, in contrast to the modest, chaste White women in society. This image of Black women as insatiable sexual sirens served as justification for the rape and sexual assault of Black women by their slave owners, while simultaneously blaming Black women for the assaults they endured. This stereotype of the Black woman as wanton and loose has haunted Black women for generations, and keeps many women from fully owning and expressing their sexuality. Many of us are taught from a young age to not be “fast,” which could be anything from wearing red nail polish to letting a boy kiss you. The goal is to be a “good girl,” one who isn’t a “hoe” or a “slut,” who will be chosen to be a wife. Yet even in marriage, the expectation is that a “good” wife keeps her sexuality hidden, only released during the confines of her marriage, but never publicly.

As a Black woman, it can be suffocating to deal with the numerous expectations and rules that I’m expected to follow. Our behavior is policed, whether you’re a mid-thirties married woman in Minneapolis, or an international superstar. At the end of the day, the expectation is that we will keep our sexuality under wraps, hidden within the four walls of our homes, because to let it out is to prove society right. But hiding does not change the stereotype—it simply gives it more power, and leads to frustrated women. For Black women with any level of fame, to show even a hint of sexuality is to invite a multitude of thinkpieces and choruses of “Put some clothes on!” from the public.

It’s frustrating to grow up with so much baggage, especially when you don’t understand it. I grew up in a house where the message was “Be a good girl and don’t think about those knucklehead boys.” It was never said explicitly, but I knew from observation that the worst thing I could do was get pregnant, because that meant that I was having sex, and only “fast girls” had sex.

As an adult, the policing didn’t stop, it just took a new form. In adulthood, the pressure centered around presenting the right image in order to get a husband. Books, magazines, blogs, even Twitter, they all echoed the same idea that men want a lady in the street and a freak in the sheets. Putting my sexuality out there meant that I’d risk being labeled a “hoe” or a “thot,” along with a life of spinsterhood. It didn’t matter what I did; if it was remotely sexual in some way, I was going to hear about it. Dress too tight or too short? I got comments cautioning me not to show too much and “give it all away for free.” Even my tweets were policed, by strangers!

Let’s Get In Formation

So I’m taking my cue from Beyoncé. I don’t have a Beyoncé body, but I do have curves that turn heads. I can be professional and polished, but also enjoy throwing on a bodycon dress, 4-inch heels, and red lipstick for a sexy night out… or in. My sexuality didn’t die when I became a wife, and I refuse to confine my expressions of my sexuality to my bedroom. This married lady is gonna wear the clothes that married ladies aren’t supposed to wear, dance the way married ladies aren’t supposed to do, and more. Beyoncé has reminded me that being “just a wife” or “just a mom” isn’t the totality of my life, and that there’s room for me to share my full self. The world deserves to see me in all my nerdy sexy funny glory, and I’m going to give it.

But first… I’m taking my husband to Red Lobster, and I’m picking up the check.

Jareesa Tucker McClure

Jareesa Tucker McClure is a thirty-something newlywed in the Twin Cities. She’s a chemist turned supply chain project manager (and part-time writer) who spends her time knitting and running a Twin Cities Black professionals organization. Follow her rants on Twitter at @Jubilance1922 or on her blog, Black Girl Unlost.

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  • Danielle

    Your point about the Jezebel myth kind of kills me. I mean, that white men slave owners systematically raped black women — and then justified it by projecting their sexual agency onto them — just… it’s like stabbing someone in the heart with a knife and twisting it, then calling that person a murderer. No.

    White men created these myths. White men acted like “hoes” and “sluts” by raping women who were not their wives. White men abused their power in the worst ways by treating human women like cattle. Why don’t we judge THEM for being promiscuous and predatory, for having “loose morals”? Because obviously, that is the loosest kind of morality.

    This makes my blood boil.

  • eating words

    Jareesa, this is awesome. It Is so painfully true: the less power people have in society, the less complex they are allowed to be. If you’re a person of color, female, queer, etc., not to mention any intersection of those, you are supposed to conform to people’s narrow idea of what that identity ‘should’ be. Eff that.

    “This married lady is gonna wear the clothes that married ladies aren’t supposed to wear, dance the way married ladies aren’t supposed to do, and more…. The world deserves to see me in all my nerdy sexy funny glory, and I’m going to give it.” YES.

  • Rebekah Jane

    Jareesa, I’m so proud to read your words! Well written and powerful, just like we all knew they would be.

  • Another Meg

    I’m so happy to be reading more pieces like this on APW. Thank you!

  • So I’m not the only one who heard the Red Lobster line and thought “obviously” and also “endless shrimp”? I loved Formation because it is so very very Black and wifey and sexy and mother-y, because god forbid you try to be all four.

  • Amie Melnychuk

    I, too, enjoy upping my sexuality out of the bedroom. I dress sexy when I want to because I want to. It’s not for my husband, it’s for me. I want to feel good and confident in my post-baby body. My mom would always say “I’m married, not dead” as she put on her red lipstick, mascara and a sexy dress to go out for dinner with Dad.

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  • MC

    Love this, love Beyonce, love your writing Jareesa!

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  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    What do you think about bell hook’s critique of Beyonce and labeling her as a terrorist? I think it’s also interesting that even among some of the black feminist canon (e.g. our dear bell), that black women are denied sexual agency. Within this Jezebel or Sapphire complex, black women cannot actually CHOOSE to be sexual beings, cannot CHOOSE to be sexy, cannot CHOOSE to publicly disrobe etc.

    • *sigh* I used to love bell hooks, until she went after Beyonce. Not because I’m a Beyonce stan, but because I think bell hooks is an example of how older feminists/womanists are out of touch with younger feminists/womanists. This idea of their way is the ONLY way just irks me, and the Beyonce criticism was a big part of it. Like this idea that she can’t choose her own identity, she MUST be a puppet of The Man is just…*sigh*

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