Her Voice

Recently, I had a friend suggest that I suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to previous friendships. And that statement hit me like a ton of bricks, but only because it evoked deep thoughts as I realized this was certainly a possibility.

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At this stage of my life, I am trying to become the best version of me that I can be. Not to attract the attention of a partner, but to earn the sense of pride I will have for myself to know I am doing the best I can with what I have and knowing that I deserve a love that will complement this beautiful ice cream cone I call "my life" like a beautiful sprinkle.

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Serena Williams is no stranger to controversy.

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I fell in love with the show Love Is__ as soon as I heard Nuri, half of the show's couple, ask, "Why can't a woman expect her partner to match her efforts and what she brings to the table... " or something to that effect. I was hooked. I immediately sent the 60-sec video clip to all of my independent but single homies and let them know that there was a new show to add to the roster while Black Love was on hiatus.

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Whenever I tell people that I used to work for a porn ministry, X3Church, usually all they hear is the "porn" part. Understandably, it throws them. I mean, what do you say to someone who nonchalantly says they work in porn? But then when I repeat the word "ministry", it still doesn't clear things up. Actually, even more confusion comes across their face. So, what the heck is a porn ministry?!

Good question.

Long story short, right around the time my first book was released, I connected with another author who had the same publisher. When I went to his site explaining the purpose of his ministry, I realized there was no Black or female representation.

Black people watch porn. Women do too.

I fit both demographics and so, for nine years, I wrote a weekly blog, penned a book, and went on tour with the ministry. And just what is a porn ministry? Ministry means service. It was a group of people who went to porn shows and strip clubs, spoke at colleges and churches, connected with people in the porn industry (Ron Jeremy actually used to go on tour with the organization), and did all kinds of other things to 1) teach about the destructiveness of porn and 2) show people that God loves them no matter what (one of my favorite shirts of theirs was "Jesus Loves Porn Stars").

Listen, I know that porn is popular but make no mistakes about it; it has a destructive side. There are PLENTY of studies to support that porn affects our brains much like a hardcore drug would and there are plenty of stories about how porn damages marriages and relationships (something Terry Crews and Kirk Franklin have been pretty open about) especially when it comes to effecting emotional intimacy and providing unrealistic expectations in the bedroom.

But there's another side of porn that I want to share; one that I'm not sure a lot of people really think about.

How I Got "Hooked" on Porn

I'm about to tell my age but here we go. My first memory of pornography was watching an episode of Red Shoe Diaries as a kid. I snuck and watched it while everyone was asleep one weekend.

After that, my next memory was watching some videos at a "play cousin's house" (he was such a freak—SMH—LOL). But it didn't really become something that I was "into" until one of my college sex buddies took me to his friend's apartment. When we walked into the bedroom that we planned on having sex in for the first time, some hardcore porn was already playing on the television. I was both disgusted and intrigued.

To me, porn is a lot like roadkill. There's something shocking about seeing a dead possum on the side of the road and there's something shocking about seeing two people gettin' it in. It's scary and sexy and confusing and erotic and weird—all rolled up into one (kind of like how sex is with a new partner).

Hmph. Now that I think about it, porn became such a part of the sex I had with that individual that I think it was hard for me to separate the two experiences once we were done. What I mean by that is, porn had become so ingrained into my sex life that I didn't know how to "break it out" just because that guy and I "broke up". And so, off and on, porn stayed with me throughout the years until I ultimately decided to take a break from all things sex back in 2007.

Not to say that I didn't go on a few "porn vacations" (abstinence is hard, chile!) from time to time. Yeah, I must admit that even with all of the data I saw and people I talked to (one of the guys who worked in the ministry actually killed himself due to the shame of his porn addiction), I still didn't see porn as being "all that bad".

That is until I met someone at one of our anniversary parties.

What Got Me Past Porn

While on a shuttle to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the organization, I sat next to a woman who looked really familiar to me. For most of the ride, I couldn't place it. But what I do remember is she was super shy—and jittery. Almost to the point of being paranoid.

When I tried to make light conversation, she wouldn't make eye contact and when I asked her what her name was, she didn't answer. Still, I felt like I knew her personally.

Later, I found out she was the featured speaker for the party. As I listened to her share how she used to be in the porn industry and how it ultimately ruined her body, destroyed her self-esteem, and made it very hard for her to live a "normal" life, it hit me. I recognized her because she was one of the porn actors (I'm not big on calling them "stars" and believe me, the scenes are usually sooooo fake that it's basically acting anyway) that I used to masturbate to.

And that hit me like a ton of bricks. The very same person I was using for my own sexual release is the woman who hates her life, contemplated suicide, and was so wounded that if you merely bumped into her, she was rattled.

Here I was: A woman, using another woman.

I was playing a direct role in what ultimately chiseled away at her health and well-being. She was my entertainment. And it was destroying her. That was enough to make my stomach turn and to not look at porn quite the same way ever again. The people on those scenes are real human beings with real (oftentimes crazy) background stories, and that's hard for me to take lightly.

Yeah, I know that porn is a multi-billion-dollar industry, so it's not going away anytime soon but I do hope that my own experience with a porn actor will at least provide another perspective.

Working in a porn ministry and interacting with a porn actor is what got me over watching porn.

It's as simple—and complex—as that.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com.

I came across a post with the question, "Sis, would you shoot your shot?" on The Shaderoom's Instagram page a few weeks ago and was surprised that most of the responses were women refusing to step to men they were interested in.

One comment even included the Bible verse, "HE who FINDS a wife finds a good thing." Admittedly, I can understand how difficult dating might be since the last time I was in the game was over ten years ago. Still, it baffled me that in a world of left and right swiping dating apps, Plenty of Fish, Nev and Max saving love lives on MTV's Catfish, and everything else that has attempted to make meeting the person of your dreams an easier process, some women are still butthurt about not yet landing their soulmate. However, instead of getting in the game, they're benching themselves. It's true:

You lose all the games you never play.

As someone who ended up marrying the last man I shot my shot at, I can attest to the fact that sometimes finding happiness and love is a matter of opening your mouth and making moves to make it happen. When I first met my husband (before I even entertained him being the man I may marry one day), I swear to you that man moved in slow motion, like we were in a nineties romcom like Boomerang or Mo' Money. When I was in my early twenties, I was hanging out one night with a friend from high school doing hood rat things like driving around the city just because we could and getting banana milkshakes from Checkers at 3 AM. At one point of the evening, my friend beeped at and flagged down an old school emerald green Chevy mustang with dark tinted windows. Both cars pulled over and from the Mustang stepped out his former classmate, now known as my husband.

All I saw was a white tank top clinging to his abs and the girl he was riding with at the time step out of the passenger side in some distressed booty shorts that humid July night. I remembered her outfit since apparently, she got out for no real damn reason other than to be seen because she didn't even engage in conversation with my friend. However, my attention was quickly back on Future Hubby because he was sexy as hell, but I definitely remember thinking at the time, 'there's no way he has any swag whatsoever because he's friends with THIS dude.' Don't get me wrong, my friend was cool but there was a reason he had Monopoly hotels in the friend zone for the past six or so years.

Fast forward to months later and we all began regularly hanging out (minus homegirl in the booty shorts who I later learned was just "some girl" he was messing with). We enjoyed exchanging dark jokes, watching and reciting famous lines from cult classics like Menace to Society and Set It Off and before I knew it, I got to know best friend better. Then one day, it hit me like a ton of bricks, "Damn, I think I'm feeling this dude."

At first, it was purely physical attraction as he tried to respect the insinuated boundaries our mutual friend we nicknamed "Friend-Zoned" put forth, hoping one day I'd lose my damn mind and realize the one meant for me was right by my side all along. (Spoiler alert: That clearly wasn't the case and the one for me kept getting tickets for those damn tinted windows damn near up to the day we got engaged). It was on me to make the first move and one day, I popped up at his door without "Friend-Zoned" to make my intentions clear to which he responded he felt the same way, and you already know how that story ended. However, 'till this day I can't confidently say I would've ended up with my husband had I not made a decision to shoot my shot and see where things went. For all we know, he could've been married to "Booty Shorts" by now if I didn't speak up.

Part of me has control and patience issues. I am a firm believer in creating opportunities when it comes to both my professional life and personal life. And sometimes to a fault, I apply the concept that if a door doesn't open for you, you swing in like Miley Cyrus with the help of a wrecking ball and give yourself a garage. At times, my impulsiveness and need for control has led to rash decisions but most of the time, fortune favors my bold moves. When it comes to love and relationships, I often apply the same mindset: The worse answer I could get is a "No." But life is short and a part of risk-taking is rejection, and I've survived worse things than rejection. Unfortunately, I'm noticing a trend where women will avoid saying, "Good morning" to a man they're interested in rather than risk rejection. The thing is, in my experience, most men are not going to shut you down disrespectfully on some, "Naw, I'm good because your shoes are garbage and box braids are my thing."

If a man parts his lips to tell you some nonsense like this, he probably wasn't worth your effort in the first place. I've been literally shooting my shot since high school and while dudes from grade school homeroom carelessly shut down girls they weren't interested in because they cared about getting a laugh from their friends more, most grown men will at least take your efforts with flattery and respond with good old-fashioned manners. Listen, a man's response to your efforts should always be positive, even if they don't return those same feelings and don't always take that personal either. Something else to consider: Not every man out there has the charm of Drake, the class of John Legend, and the swag of Idris Elba.

The only reason many men are so comfortable shooting their shot is because they've been socialized to take rejection and keep it pushing.

Think of all the men who have sent you drinks only to realize you've snuck out the backdoor, or all the dudes who went to text you only to receive a prompt reply from Domino's Pizza. If all men allowed rejection to stop them dead in their tracks, none of us would probably be linking up. If lack of confidence is holding you back from asking that brother with the light eyes and dreads from your Sociology class to lunch, or keeping you from sliding in Jay Ellis's DMs, remember this:

Confidence is not about always about making your shot but knowing you're still the ish even when you miss.

Something else I realized while reading responses to this post was how much dating lacks communication these days. I literally read responses that said, "If I like three of your pics in a row, we go together." With all of the direct messaging, tagging, and video chats that may actually lead up to seeing each other in person, some things are clearly getting lost in translation.

I understand being reserved and even introverted, but we can't possibly have come this far as women and liberated sexual creatures, and still be waiting in a tower for a prince to ride in on a white horse and shoot his shot. I'm all for prayer, having faith, and trusting the process but I also think the pursuit of happiness applies to listening to your heart (and sometimes other bodily organs as well), taking a leap, and going after the things you want.

The thing about shooting your shot is that the more you do it, the easier it becomes, whether you're landing baskets from half court or watching air balls fall before your eyes. And as a last very cliched reminder, having the courage and confidence to take bold shots both on and off the court can sometimes land you a ring, at least in my case it did.

Don't be afraid or too arrogant to get your head in the game, because if you're lucky your #MCM's heart may just follow.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com

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