Dating is hard. That's absolute. But dating while being a sexually liberated woman? The only thing harder than that is your grandpa amped up on Viagra. I know this because I myself am a self-proclaimed sexually liberated woman and I've considered changing all of my dating profile photos to a large scarlet 'A' for the better part of five years. I mean, if nothing else, that might spare me from having disingenuous conversations forced to spark from a series of "WYD" messages.
My relationship with men has always been made complicated by the fact that I enjoy sex, sex talk, and to add a little razzle dazzle I went and made a career of it—complicating things that much more. The equation seems off, right?
I know but here's the hard truth (for the fellas reading): men like it when a woman is sexual on their terms, not her own.
You know how the old saying goes, "lady in the street, freak in the streets"... except when they're cat-calling you, of course. We live in this cultural narrative that if a woman is speaking, acting, or dressing sexually by choice, she's tarnished, disgraceful, and therefore not to be touched—we live in the patriarchy.
Us women, the sexual ones, are an afterthought for relationships and at the top of the list for hook-ups.
In fact, men are quick to open up to us about all the freaky, kinky little things they want to do but are timid men of the missionary when it's time to please their full-time girl. Men who are working on "celibacy" with their partner hit your DM to be slutted out in order to maintain the idea that their girlfriends, wives, and lovers are virginal, innocent, and unlike us. To show that their significant other is deserving of the respect we're far too uncouth to garner.
These respectable women don't talk about sex and they don't express pleasure to the world outside of their men and tight circles. And that's fine but so is being sexual and when we're sexualized, it's a dangerous rabbit hole for all women. After all, it is the floodgate to "pick-mes" and rape culture.
The Difference Between Being Sexual vs. Being Sexualized
Feminist Authur Farida D. speaks briefly about this on Instagram and more in-depth in her book, Rants of a Rebel Arab Feminist. She breaks down the dichotomy of being sexual vs. being sexualized, highlighting the danger of being sexualized for being sexual. She maintains that the danger of playing to this patriarchal view that women who inner-stand their sexuality without fear are whores—making inhumanity and violence justifiable.
She unearths the ways in which one creates more shame, while the other empowers and I think it's important for each of us to understand this. Both women and men alike have the ability to perpetuate patriarchy, and playing into the virgin/whore dichotomy does just that.
Furthermore, being sexual is a mood for some and a personality trait for others, either way it serves to coexist with other valid, human traits and moods.
Unpacking The Dangers Of Sexualizing Women
Yet, when women are being sexualized, men are more often than not dismissive and/or obtuse in regards to our feelings or thoughts. Our feelings are diminished as if being decidedly sexual reduces our ability to feel and understand/display a range of emotions. This type of sexualization implies that sexual women are incapable of range and perpetuates the dichotomy between the whore and the virgin good girl trope. Which, no surprise there, as society has a bad habit of trying to box women into monolithic labels.
We see this often with the typical asexualizing that comes with motherhood (outside of the M.I.L.F.)—once women step into imperious roles such as mom and wife, it seems difficult for them to find their way into any other roles. They're no longer responsive to adjectives that may have described them prior to motherhood.
But, I digress.
On Normalizing Respecting Sexual Women & Dismantling Patriarchal Views On Sexuality
Let me take a step back and point out that deducing sexual women to just that and removing their humanity by ignoring their emotions is the very same thing that sex traffickers used to justify their wonton raping of Black enslaved women. They were too wild and animal-like to have emotions. They just wanted to be fucked and thus these white traffickers were doing the world and these women a favor. However, we happen to know that rapists don't need a reason to rape and sexually assault women. We know that women have been raped while wearing everything under the son, from burkas to string bikinis.
Sadly, sexualizing one woman is a continued threat to all women as it upholds the tenants of rape culture — the tenants that don't hold rapist accountable. It places the responsibility squarely on women and leaves unhinged men blameless.
Hell, it perpetuates the antiquated notion (mentioned above) that men are unable to control themselves and "unhinged", thus it is up to the wholesome, godly women to close the moral gap. As a man, you might take time to unpack your feelings around sexuality as a whole. Pause, and ask yourself where these antiquated beliefs come from and think further back than your mother. Who taught you what a "lady" was? How do your thoughts around sexually liberated women work with or against your feelings around your own power dynamics? Journal about the things that are coming up for you.
I think introspection is the first step to checking the privilege attached to patriarchy in order to get past this notion that one can only respect women who they are romantically attracted to. Or your mother.
Sexualizing women, whether sexual or not, has major implications that range from the erasure of the erotic to hyper-surveilance and policing of women and their bodies.
We deserve to live in a world where we're free to exist as our most comfortable selves, yet we're still bound to colonial ideals that imply women are merely property.
Featured Image by Giphy
- Chloe Bailey Owning Her Femininity & Sexuality - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
Motor City native, Atlanta living. Sagittarius. Writer. Sexpert. Into all things magical, mystical, and unknown. I'll try anything at least once but you knew that the moment I revealed that I was a Sag.
Chief Mom Officer: 23 Quotes From Working Moms Finding Their Balance
The truth is, Black moms create magic every single day. Whether we're juggling motherhood with a busy 9-5, a thriving business, or staying at home to run a household, no day is short of amazing when you're managing life as a mommy. This Mother's Day, xoNecole is giving flowers to CMOs (Chief Mom Officers) in business who exemplify the strength it takes to balance work with motherhood.
We've commissioned these ladies, who are pillars in their respective industries, for tidbits of advice to get you through the best and worst days of mothering. Here, they share their "secret sauce" and advice for other moms trying to find their rhythm.
Emmelie De La Cruz, Chief Strategist at One Day CMO
"My mom friends and I all laugh and agree: Motherhood is the ghettoest thing you will ever do. It's beautiful and hard all at the same time, but one day you will wake up and feel like 'I got this' and you will get the hang of it. After 4 months, I finally felt like I found my footing to keep my kid and myself alive, but it took vulnerability to take off the cape and be honest about the areas that I didn't have it all together. The healing (physically and emotionally) truly does happen in community - whatever and whoever that looks like for you."
Alizè V. Garcia, Director Of Social & Community Impact at Nike
"I would tell a new mom or a prospective mother that they must give themselves grace, understand and remember there is no right way to do this thing and have fun! When I had my daughter three and a half years ago, I was petrified! I truly had no clue about what to do and how I was going to do it. But with time, my confidence grew and I realized quickly that I have all the tools I need to be the mother I want to be."
Nikki Osei-Barrett, Publicist + Co-Founder of The Momference
"There's no balance. I'm dropping sh*t everywhere! However, my secret sauce is pursuing interests and hobbies outside of what's required of me and finding time to workout. Stronger body equals = stronger mind."
Lauren Grove, Chief Experience Architect, The Grant Access, LLC
"I try to give myself grace. That’s my mantra for this phase of motherhood…grace. I won’t be able to get everything done. To have a spotless house. To not lose my cool after an exhausting day. Those things can’t happen all of the time. But I can take a deep breath and know tomorrow is another day and my blessings are more plentiful than my pitfalls."
Rachel Nicks, Founder & CEO of Birth Queen
"You have the answers within you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Curate your life to work for you. Ask for help."
Tanisha Colon-Bibb, Founder + CEO Rebelle Agency + Rebelle Management
"I know love doesn't pay bills but when I am overwhelmed with work or client demands I take a moment to play with my baby and be reminded of the love, energy, science, and Godliness that went into his birth. I am brightened by his smile and laugh. I remember I am someone's parent and not just a work horse. That at the end of the day everything will work out for the good of my sanity and the love within my life."
Christina Brown, Founder of LoveBrownSugar & BabyBrownSugar
"Learning your rhythm as a mom takes time and can be uncomfortable when you’re in a season of overwhelm. Constantly check in with yourself and assess what’s working and what’s not. Get the help you need without feeling guilty or ashamed of needing it."
Mecca Tartt, Executive Director of Startup Runway Foundation
"I want to be the best for myself, my husband, children and company. However, the reality is you can have it all but not at the same time. My secret sauce is outsourcing and realizing that it’s okay to have help in order for me to perform at the highest level."
Jen Hayes Lee, Head Of Marketing at The Bump (The Knot Worldwide)
"My secret sauce is being direct and honest with everyone around me about what I need to be successful in all of my various "jobs". Setting boundaries is one thing, but if you're the only one who knows they exist, your partners at home and on the job can't help you maintain them. I also talk to my kids like adults and let them know why mommy needs to go to this conference or get this massage...they need to build an appreciation for my needs too!"
Whitney Gayle-Benta, Chief Music Officer JKBX
"What helps me push through each day is the motivation to continue by thinking about my son. All my efforts, though exhausting, are to create a wonderful life for him."
Ezinne Okoro, Global Chief Inclusion, Equity, & Diversity Officer at Wunderman Thompson,
"The advice I received that I’ll pass on is, you will continue to figure it out and find your rhythm as your child grows into new stages. Trust your nurturing intuition, parent on your terms, and listen to your child."
Jovian Zayne, CEO of The OnPurpose Movement
"I live by the personal mantra: 'You can’t be your best self by yourself.' My life feels more balanced when I offer the help I can give and ask for the help I need. This might mean outsourcing housecleaning for my home, or hiring additional project management support for my business."
Simona Noce Wright, Co-Founder of District Motherhued and The Momference
"Each season of motherhood (depending on age, grade, workload) requires a different rhythm. With that said, be open to learning, to change, and understand that what worked for one season may not work the other...and that's okay."
Janaye Ingram, Director of Community Partner Programs and Engagement at Airbnb
"My daughter's smile and sweet spirit help me to feel gratitude when I'm overwhelmed. I want her to see a woman who doesn't quit when things get hard."
Codie Elaine Oliver, CEO & Founder of Black Love
"I try to listen to my body and simply take a break. With 3 kids and a business with 10+ team members, I often feel overwhelmed. I remind myself that I deserve grace for everything I'm juggling, I take a walk or have a snack or even head home to see my kids, and then I get back to whatever I need to get done."
Jewel Burks Solomon, Managing Partner at Collab Capital
"Get comfortable with the word ‘no’. Be very clear about your non-negotiables and communicate them to those around you."
Bridget Bogee, Marketing Lead At Meta
"Ask for help and always prioritize making time for you."
Julee Wilson, Executive Director at BeautyUnited and Beauty Editor-at-Large at Cosmopolitan
"Understand you can’t do it alone — and that’s ok. Relinquish the need to control everything. Create a village and lean on them."
Salwa Benyaich, Director Of Pricing and Planning at Premion
"Most days I really try to shut my computer off by 6 pm; there are always exceptions of course when it comes to big deals or larger projects but having this as a baseline allows me to be much more present with my kids. I love the fact that I can either help with homework or be the designated driver to at least one afterschool activity. Work can be draining but there is nothing more emotionally draining than when you feel as though you are missing out on moments with your kids."
Brooke Ellis, Head of Global Marketing & Product Launches at Amazon Music
My calendar, prayer, pilates class at Forma, a good playlist, and oatmilk lattes all help get me through any day.
Courtney Beauzile, Global Director of Client and Business Development at Shearman & Sterling
My husband is a partner who steps in when I just can’t. My mom and my MIL come through whenever and however I need. My kids have many uncles and aunts and they will lend an ear, go over homework, teach life lessons, be a presence or a prayer warrior depending on the day.
Robin Snipes, Chief of Staff at Meta
"Enjoy the time you have to yourself because once kids come those times will be few and far between."
Monique Bivens, CEO & Founder at Brazilian Babes LLC.
"For new moms, it is very important that you get back into a habit or routine of something you use to do before you were pregnant. Consider the actives and things that give you the most joy and make the time to do them."
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Westend61/Getty Images
- 20 Inspirational Quotes That'll Motivate TF Out Of You ›
- Tracee Ellis Ross Breaks Down What ‘Wander, Ponder, And Be’ Means To Her ›
- 20 Quotes About Black Love That Will Make You A True Love Believer ›
- 14 Quotes From Black Feminists To Inspire You To Boss Up ›
- 10 Inspirational Issa Rae Quotes For When You Need Them Most ›
Understanding The Silent Battle Of PMDD
For many women, the severity of our menstrual cycle can make us feel foreign in our own bodies.
From physical symptoms like bloating and fatigue to emotional waves brought on by mood swings and irritability, 3 out of 4 menstruating women have experienced some form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in their lifetime. However, what separates normal PMS from a more debilitating variation of these conditions lies in the severity and impact of these symptoms and how it impairs a woman’s ability to function in their daily life — and such is the case of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).
WHAT IS PMDD?
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe type of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that brings about a variety of emotional and physical symptoms during the week or two before menstruation. It is often recognized as 'severe PMS’ and typically occurs during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, which spans from ovulation to the onset of the period.
“PMS and PMDD are very similar but also very different,” says Dr. Ashanda Saint Jean, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York Medical College.
“In terms of PMS syndrome, it is characterized by both physical and behavioral symptoms that occur prior to the onset of menstruation,” she tells xoNecole. “Whereas PMDD is the severity of the symptoms, which then can be characterized by depression, anxiety, mood changes, and sometimes even suicidal ideation. It's the severity of the symptoms which then require medicinal therapy.”
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF PMDD?
One of the main distinctions between PMDD and PMS is how it impairs or disrupts the daily functions and quality of life of the women who experience this condition. “Some of the signs of PMDD can be depression, irritability, and anxiety,” Dr. Saint Jean explains. “You can have the severity in the form of breast pain, bloating, swelling, headaches, but once you have your period, these symptoms usually remit or stop occurring.”
While symptoms of PMDD may vary on an individual basis, they typically show up with PMS symptoms and can be broken up into two categories:
- Mood swings
- Experiencing sadness or tearfulness
- Fatigue or decreased energy levels
- Crying spells
- Less interest in activities you normally enjoy
- Feeling hopeless
- Suicidal feelings
- Feeling angry or irritable
- Feeling anxious, tense, or ‘keyed up’
PHYSICAL AND BEHAVIORAL EXPERIENCES
- Breast tenderness or swelling
- Bloating sensation
- Changes in appetite, including overeating or specific food cravings
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscle and joint pain
- Increased anger or conflicts with others
- Strong emotional response to perceived rejection by others
Although the specific causes of PMDD are yet to be fully understood, research suggests that there is a connection between PMDD and heightened sensitivity to the typical hormonal fluctuations that take place throughout the menstrual cycle.
“It's your body's response to estrogen. There’s a cycle to how your brain sends out signals and that influences your ovaries to produce hormones,” she says, “It’s hypersensitive sensitivity to the elevation of the hormones that can make the body and mind experience symptoms of PMDD.”
HOW IS PMDD DIAGNOSED?
Women who suspect to have symptoms of PMDD can begin their self-screening by taking the International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAPMD)’s online screening assessment. Your medical provider will then look for five or more PMDD symptoms, including one mood-related symptom to determine the diagnosis.
Because PMDD is diagnosed based on recurring symptoms, it’s helpful to keep track of your symptoms for at least two full menstrual cycles by using a journal, notebook, or tracking app.
“One's agency is very important and our patients know their bodies,” Dr. Saint Jean says. “It can be something that you may suspect that you have, but I will always advise patients to then have that conversation with their provider (gynecologist or primary care physician).”
“If you’re having any of these symptoms, it’s always a good idea to bring them to the forefront and discuss with your provider and see together how you can arrive at the appropriate diagnosis for you,” she continues.
WHAT ARE TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR PMDD?
Once a diagnosis is made, there are a variety of treatment options that can be prescribed. Many patients may require a mood stabilizer such as a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), which is a category of medication that increases the levels of serotonin in the brain. Dr. Saint Jean also shares that there is the option of continuous oral contraception, which “increases the intervals of your menstrual cycle,” and allows you to have fewer periods throughout the year.
In all, treatment solely depends on the severity of your symptoms is the advice from your medical provider.
“Not everyone requires to be on an SSRI, but it is helpful for some, especially some patients who have suicidal ideation,” she shares. There are also a variety of lifestyle changes, exercise, and dietary modifications that can aid in decreasing these symptoms. “You may crave salt and sugar, which then can contribute to bloating and water retention; so we advise you to stay away from sugary and salty foods prior to menstruation.”
Struggling with PMDD can feel like a silent battle when you’re experiencing it alone or never knew there was a name for the symptoms that you endure. Thankfully, with the proper tracking and advisory from your primary care physician, PMDD doesn’t have to be something that you suffer through unsupported or untreated — and with these tools, relief could be closer than you think.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by LaylaBird/Getty Images