For so many of us, getting in touch with our sensual side may be taboo. But learning to embrace your sexuality can be one of the greatest gifts you give yourself-and your partner. Meet real women who found a thrilling new world of passionate possibilities
There is perhaps no more complicated relationship than the one Black women have with sex. We've got the church, our parents and our sisters telling us to keep our legs closed, while everyone else insists we drop it like it's hot. We're celebrated in videos for being the embodiment of all things sexual, yet chastised for being freaks. Everyone from frat boys to filmmakers has something to say about our most intimate desires, but what do we really want? Do we even know?
"For years our families have urged us to work against the stereotype of the promiscuous Black woman," says Bean Robinson, Ph.D., associate director of the program in human sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School. "But if you're raised to suppress your sexual desires, you can't just suddenly turn them on." And the negative social stereotype is just one part of the problem, suggests Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., author of What Your Mother Never Told You About Sex (Perigee). "When it comes to Black women's sexual inhibitions, the number one culprit is the church," she says. "Sex is viewed as sinful unless you're married, and most Black women aren't married. So either you don't have sex or you have sex with a lot of guilt, which robs you of your pleasure."
Many of us are also dealing with the idea that the primary beneficiary of sex is men. The mere idea makes Zane, best-selling author of Black women's erotica (and a minister's daughter), bristle with indignation. "Why should the man be the only one to walk away satisfied?" she says. "What we should really be talking about is women feeling liberated and empowered. Because once a woman decides to go for what she wants in bed, she begins to set other goals, with her career and even with her children."
So what's the itch you want scratched? Why shouldn't you, too, experience the swagger that follows a night of good lovemaking-the oh, yes! of satisfaction, the knowledge that while you may be walking around in a head wrap this morning, last night you were a superstar. And good sex can leave you with more than a contented glow. "Orgasms decrease depression, stress and anxiety," says Hutcherson. "During good sex, chemicals are released that reduce blood pressure, boost immunity, and strengthen your heart. Good sex can prolong your life." As the following women can attest, the only way to break free of your inhibitions is to try something new.
My Secret Thrill
Sisters recall the first time they pushed past the sexually familiar to enjoy intensely pleasurable results.
The first time I stripped for my man...
I know what I look like naked: I have stretch marks; I'm not skinny like the girls in videos. But one day after my husband had been on a business trip, I decided to welcome him home with a striptease. At first I felt really ridiculous; I don't dance that well. But as soon as I started to undress, my man leaned back with a grin on his face, like, "Jesus, woman, don't stop!" This was in the middle of the day with sunlight beaming in. I had on no makeup, no nothing but me. And still, the more I moved, the more turned on he became. It made me see through all the lies we've been sold about what you need to look like to be beautiful. I now know I can be beautiful and loved in my nakedness, just as I am. And that's a wonderful feeling. —Tonya, 38
The first time I got on top...
I always told my man that big girls don't get on top. But one night he shook his head and said, "Uh-uh, you go this way," and positioned me so I straddled him. In the beginning I was afraid he was getting smooshed, and I kept checking on him to see if he was still breathing. But after a while, I started moving and got into a groove. Everything started feeling really good in a way I had never experienced before. Next thing I know, he's groaning his pleasure and I'm wondering why for 16 years I let a few extra pounds come between me and this type of glorious satisfaction. —Angie, 36
The first time I had a one-night stand...
I knew my boyfriend was cheating on me, so before we broke up, our relationship was tinged with anger and resentment. Everything changed one weekend when I went to a conference. I met a good-looking man at a bar and ended up having a hot night of wild sex. Casual sex is totally not my thing. I'm a serial monogamist. But I'm so glad I did it. Sex with him was passionate and uninhibited. He put me into all kinds of new positions and just let me have fun. That night was a turning point. I came home with a completely different sense of myself as a sexual being. I learned that I deserve to feel good and be touched and told I'm sexy. I'll never settle for anything less again. —Star, 35
The first time I learned to love myself...
After my ex decided to end our 12-year marriage, I realized I was going to have to be independent both financially and sexually. So at age 33, I attempted to master the art of masturbation. I read books, watched erotic movies, and even talked with my girlfriends. But of course no one can tell you what works best for your body; you just have to try. One day I had the house to myself because the kids were with their father. All I can say is, Wow. Now, even though I've remarried, I still consider myself my own best lover. And if I leave unsatisfied, then I have only myself to blame. —Rhonda, 41
The first time I played submissive...
I come from strong women who taught me that respect is very important, especially in the bedroom. Then I started seeing this man who likes to be dominant in bed. He's a wonderful, intelligent, professional man, the kind who pulls out your chair. But in bed, he's pure alpha male. Sex with him ended up being an incredible experience, and I just completely surrendered. I was able to release my need to be in charge and allow someone else to handle things for a while. It was so freeing to embrace the side of me that yearns to relinquish control. What I realized is I can play at being weak because I am inherently, undeniably strong. I love that. —Nia, 29