"And it’s not that we haven’t desired our AfroBoHo icons (damn near all nerds in reality) in sexual terms — I’m thinking of the Stephen Shames photo of a bare-chested Huey Newton holding a copy of a Bob Dylan album (which incidentally graces the cover of Robert Reid-Pharr’s new book Once You Go Black), and have you seen Zadie Smith lately, for that matter — but we are disturbed when our heroes speak back to our desires."
Mark Anthony Neal
I've been trying to figure out a way to say this for some time.
Years ago, the wonderful writer and editor Carol Taylor had a sign up in her NYC loft that read "Eroticize Intelligence." To me that had a number of meanings. One was to recognize that the best 'sexual organ' in the body is the brain: if your mind's not engaged, no matter what you're doing with the rest of the body, it's not going to be truly 'hot.' Also, since Carol is both very smart and very sexy, to me it meant that there was not and should not be some kind of division between those two attributes: one can put Einstein's brain in (insert name of favorite hottie here)'s body, and...umm... 'double your pleasure/double your fun" as it were.
So much of what passes for 'mainstream black culture' today celebrates the one-dimensional 'thug' image. Erotically that falls in with old-line stereotypes of blacks (men in particular) as purely physical beings, animals without brains, great in bed but dumb as dirt. You want them to be waiting for you when you come home at night for an evening's throwdown, but the idea of actually trying to talk to them, having a conversation, or being seen in public with them is anathema. Introduce them to your friends? No way. And lord help you if you try to have a meal with them (other than a McBurger combo meal) since they probably don't know how to deal with silverware.
Somehow this dumb brute image has returned, and we are (being forced to?) aspire to it.
We live with other stereotypes as well, namely that good looking people obviously can't be smart. Or that it is somehow 'wrong' to think of intelligent people as physical beings, crush objects for both their brains and their 'brawn' or whatever. It's "big head vs little head" (for us guys), one thing or the other. Either they're brainy or their beautiful, and never the twain will meet. And the idea that someone smart is also a physical being filled with desires and needs? Disgusting, Shocking and Impossible!!
There are any number of (black) people who are whip-smart and slap-yo-momma gorgeous. It's time we recognize that and honor them. I've had the pleasure of meeting and in some cases becoming friends with folk who I find both physically and mentally attractive. It is one hell of a rush to see that mix, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. (I've considered listing some of my favorite 'hot brain' folks but am afraid it would just get too long...although I really do feel the ...um...urge?...to give a shout out to Michael Eric Dyson, my friends John and Ernest, Elizabeth Alexander, Tayari Jones, the late Ed Bradley, who I want to be like when I grow up....see what I mean, and I haven't even got started in good yet!)
I don't feel that I am 'trivializing' these people or their brain power to say that these folks are also p-h-Y-n-e as well. If anything, the combination is and should be a great turn-on. There is nothing better than having an intense and stimulating conversation and intellectual interaction, followed up by an intense and stimulating physical interaction, where you give your bodies a chance to speak.
I'm with Carol: Black Nerds of the world Unite! It's time to "Eroticize Intelligence"! You have nothing to lose (not even the horn-rimmed glasses -- in fact keep 'em on: They're sexy!)