Let me make something clear: you don't owe ANYONE an explanation about your sexuality, values, beliefs or behavior.
If recent conversations on sexual consent have taught us anything, it's that you have the right to change your mind at any time when it comes to what you choose to do with your body, whether you're butt naked underneath Chris Brown and one of his boys or if the only thing filling you is the Holy Spirit during Sunday service. You have to live with your choices and shouldn't feel pressure to have a press conference every time you drop your panties. But when it comes to celebs, the popular belief among the public is that those same rules don’t apply. With that said, I can kind of understand the backlash coming reality star and hip hop heir Angela Simmons’ way after announcing her pregnancy via Instagram on Friday.
Rumors flew that the Foofi and Bella fashion designer was pregnant after she announced she was engaged to a mystery man a few weeks ago. As I scrolled through my Instagram feed I even dropped a comment or two in Angela's defense. Not everyone who seemingly gets engaged out the blue is secretly planning a shot gun wedding. So of course I found myself brushing some Morton crystals off my shoulder when Simmons who has always been very vocal about her virginity announced that she was expecting. Sadly, it almost seemed as if she was forced to make announcement as pictures began to surface on social media of her bare belly exposed while on a run with fiance who has since been revealed as Sutton Sean Tennyson.
Simmons' Instagram pics as of late have been modest especially when compared to past posts where she has never hesitated to show her abs fresh from a workout. Of course when she broke the news, her comments’ section was filled with as much criticism as congratulations:
“I bet its a lot for Rev Run to swallow that not ONE of his three oldest kids are married, but had kids out of wedlock. Its not the worse thing in the world but I know it had to bother him.”
“The fact that she was doing them work outs like that is irritating to me lol you ain't got to lie Craig.”
“He's overjoyed because he is set for life now!! Smh. She preached it but did not live by it!”
When two people can come together in a healthy relationship and build a family, that's always something to celebrate, but I must say I'm not completely surprised by the backlash as people criticized the fact that her religious family already includes at least two siblings that have brought children into the world outside of marriage. Fans equally jumped to Simmons’ defense expressing that as a grown woman, she doesn’t own anyone an explanation on her life choices:
“First off... people announce they are pregnant in their own time... There's usually a time frame people wait to make sure it's a viable healthy pregnancy... she owes none of u idiots an explanation... are u gonna fund her baby or hospital bills??? And how many of u b**ches have babies and NO husband??? Let's alllll wait on that”
“Was she our black "Madonna"? Another 28 yr old virgin crumbled 🙄🙄🙄 like really people... It's not a scandal!!! Shoot if she's been holding out that long she should be applauded... Girl is financially able... Ready to be a mother obviously!!!”
While I wish her the best, I'm not exactly losing sleep over what fans are speculating might be a "Brandy Norwood" situation where a celeb uses marriage to cover an unplanned pregnancy or what they feel may be a blemish on their moral character. We all have to live with our choices whether they become trending topics or not. However, I do think Simmons' situation offers insight into the idea that celebs are some of the best people to start open honest conversations about sex. If we can applaud the choice to be celibate or celeb virginity announcements, why can't we have those same conversations about consent, contraception and STD testing? I don’t believe celebs should be on the payroll of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned pregnancy, but if they are going to make such a big deal out of being public about their sexuality, why not use those powers for good? Maybe it's the sex ed geek in me but you might catch me dabbing a time or two when a singer slips a lyric in about grabbing some protection before commencing the back breaking session or seeing one of the Kardashians mentioning the birth control pill they may have missed. There’s a whole gray area between celibacy and the decision to have sex. Angela has repeatedly discussed her moral and religious values in the past, so it’s no surprise that many fans are now wondering, “What happened?”
[Tweet "Celebs love to kick the “I didn’t choose to be a role model” line, but it happens by default."]
I’ve worked as a sex educator for almost seven years. The reason I chose the field is because I felt everything from media to the laws in America send conflicting messages about values in regards to how people behave in their personal lives and what they choose to publicly express about their sexuality. What bothers me most about celebrity pregnancy announcements and the bold statements some choose to make about their personal lives are the stigmas they can perpetuate. As much as celebs love to kick the “I didn’t choose to be a role model” line, the truth is it’s a role that often happens by default. Let’s not act like how you appear to your fans doesn’t matter on some level. It matters when you’re selling albums. It matters when you’re getting ratings for your reality show. It matters when they’re purchasing your sneaker line. But suddenly it doesn’t matter because you’re just living your life and people have opposing opinions? While I feel that celebs shouldn’t have to sign over their private lives in blood to public to maintain their success, I do think they have to be mindful of catching feelings over the push and pull game they play with the public. We probably shouldn’t be basing our personal life decisions on the examples set by celebs or anyone else for that matter, but let’s not delude ourselves by saying celebs have zero influence on public perception and behavior. Making a pregnancy announcement on Instagram isn’t an invitation to be bullied or shamed, however you can’t catch feelings when people express their thoughts on your lifestyle or point out when your values conflict with your behavior. (For the record, Simmons has yet to make a statement on the backlash and whether she is personally offended by it all or not and debates seem to have occurred between fans only at this point).
It's understandable to see why her fans are upset. Simmons made statements about her virgin as recently as this year when appearing on the morning show “The Breakfast Club” and I even recall her making those same claims on her own reality show “Growing Up Hip Hop” which filmed in 2015. Let me be clear once again: Angela is entitled to change her mind. Raise your hand if you hopped back into bed with that trifling ex a time or two after just telling your homegirl you were through with his sorry a** or treated yourself to that Popeye’s $5 box knowing damn well the way your diet is set up, fried chicken isn’t an option. Even if Simmons decided she wanted to have sex, get pregnant and be a wife within a week’s time, like Bobby Brown said: it's her prerogative. Behavior that completely contradicts what we say we stand for is the human condition, but with that we also can’t be offended when people call us out on our hypocrisy. Specifically when it comes to celebs, their platforms grant them a position of power to either perpetuate a stigma or fight against it. I don’t think fans are offended by Simmons’ right to change her mind as much they are her sudden departure from a lifestyle that seemed to endorse celibacy. They’re only making what she chooses to do with her body a big deal, because she once did.
I do question the message that this situation sends to young women who had idolized her as a moral figure that was proud of her virginity, but not as proud of her choice to have sex.
It’s a stigma that unfortunately has plagued women since the beginning of time and probably will continue to do so until we stop placing virginity as some sort of precious prize. I also can’t help but notice that none of the male Simmons siblings seem nearly as pressured to detail their sexual behavior to fans. When I was pregnant almost 2 years ago, I still remember the unnecessary impulse to defend my baby bump when people tried to sneak a glance at my left hand. There was even one incident when a man who worked in my building who never hit me with more than a “Hey, how are you?” took it upon himself to mention, “I hope he put a ring on it.” I even found myself holding my tongue to keep from reciting the rehearsed speech about how I got pregnant AFTER getting engaged because I did things the right way and a whole bunch of BS that he wasn’t entitled to before I stopped myself when realizing it was none of his damn business and that there really wasn’t a “right” way, only the way that worked best for my life. When Simmons made multiple statements about her virginity in the past a part of me wanted to scream that she didn’t owe anyone that explanation whether she was Reverend Run’s daughter or Hugh Hefner’s. Just as some fans feel she doesn’t owe anyone a reason for her choices now, my only argument is that she didn’t owe anyone an explanation about waiting for marriage to have sex either.
If anything, what I think we can all take away from people’s criticisms as well as defenses of Angela Simmons’ personal choices is the need for more open, honest conversations about sex and less normalizing of certain behaviors over others. I honestly think more celebs should pull a Kerry Washington and completely keep their personal lives private if they’re not prepared to for the opinions that follow the Instagram pics they choose to share with the world. Let’s take this as a lesson learned that when it comes to your bedroom, what does (or doesn’t) go down in it is your own damn business, but when your sexual moral code is a selling point it’s only matter of time before people will want receipts.