Historical trauma of a sexual nature is hard to talk about


But we must do it to restore our mental health

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Sex is everyone’s favorite topic; however, it can be very hard to discuss. Sexuality is already a hot-button topic, and when you add race to the mix it is like mixing chemicals in a mad scientist’s lab.

However, it is important that we talk about the element of sex in the historical trauma from which African Americans have suffered, which includes the graphic nature of rapes, assaults, castrations, forced breeding, forced incest, and sodomy.

These are difficult things to think of, but they were the realities of millions of our ancestors. The legacy of pain is real.

How is sexuality used and understood in modern times? Both females and males have different types of sexuality. It includes some behaviors that people agree with and others that people do not agree with.

If we take a historical look at the function of both Black females and males during slavery, two elements were prominent, sexuality and physicality. Black males were utilized to produce several forms of labor, which is similar to modern times. It’s not too strange to see Black males as sex symbols with their physicality as their predominant feature. Think about your favorite male athlete — have you seen them shirtless and glazed with oil?

Black females are not too far off from the males. In many instances, Black females have had it worst. It’s often not shared that many Black females were valued higher and cost more than Black male slaves. This was due to females being able to be used sexually as well as for physical labor and child rearing.

Black females were often forced to be sexual gifts to slave owners’ friends and families for a variety of reasons. There has always been a consistent threat for females that continues today. Ask some of your female elders who were maids — they were often at risk of being sexually violated. For them, it might be too painful to even admit.

One huge secret of sex during the time of slavery that is often not talked about was breeding farms. Similar to horse breeding, African slaves were forced to produce more slaves. This was a very common practice once importing slaves was banned in 1808.

There were plantations and individual slave owners who specialized in the forced breeding of Africans. This was practiced for over a half a century. One can conclude that this type of living created the fragmented foundations we see in many of our families’ functioning now.

We have to be brave enough to have the conversation about our experiences and how they have affected us in all areas of life, including sex. It is not easy to talk about, which is one of the reasons there is not much material out on the subject.

Discussing historical trauma in itself is difficult. Adding sex into the mix is almost like disabling a bomb. It is not easy, but we must be honest and brave enough to have the dialogue.


This project is supported by Grant No. 2013-CY-AX-K008 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this program are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. The authors welcome reader questions or comments to SSimmons@thefamilypartnership.org.