Boy, am I getting up there in age. I say that because when I sat down to write this, one of the first things that came to mind is a commercial I used to see all of the time; one that is at least 35 years old. Emmanuel Lewis was in it talking about how to respond/react when someone tries to molest you. He said that you should "Say 'no', then go and then tell."
As a child (and teen), I was molested by a family member. I did what Emmanuel suggested. It's a long story but let's just say that although that man should be in jail for what he did, folks seemed more concerned with how things looked and opted to protect images more than anything else.
As I've been healing from the abuse of my childhood (and adolescence), I honestly think that is a part of the reason why it took me so long to recognize and then accept that not only was I molested when I was young, I was date raped by two men once I became an adult as well. My a-ha moment is, just like my family member was someone I loved and trusted, so were those two men.
It's not like I didn't grow up understanding what rape was. I always heard that if someone forces you to have sex with them and it's against your will, it's rape. I know a woman who was raped by a stranger in a parking lot. I also know a woman who was gang-raped after being drugged in a bar. I'm very clear on what happened to them. They were raped.
But what about when it's a guy you are attracted to, have great chemistry with and, at one point and time, even had great sex with?
This describes the first man who date raped me. Long story short, we dated for a little over a year, moved on and later reconnected. He asked me to dinner and, afterwards, came back to my place. We started kissing and messing around on my couch. I liked it. But right when his hands went for my panties, something suddenly clicked.
I remembered all of the reasons why I ended things in the first place – other women, giving him tons of money, his constant lying, etc. – and I told him I wanted to stop.
He kept going. The more I pushed him away, the more aggressive he'd become. Full disclosure, we used to get pretty sexually intense in times past, so I actually think my forcefulness was turning him on. But as I kept saying, "No, I don't want to do this with you tonight", tugging at clothes turned into tears and "Girl, stop playin'" turned into—and this is a direct quote—"Don't be mad at me that your other niggas ain't f*ckin' you right." Wow. I had always heard rape was about power, not sex. His words just proved that.
In my totally dark living room, the experience was cold and uncomfortable (borderline painful). I was crying. When he was done, I crawled into a corner, completely shell-shocked and he walked out of the door, not saying a word. When I turned on a lamp, I noticed a few marks on my body. He had never left those before.
I knew it wasn't the kind of sex I wanted to have, but because we had sex before – and again, sometimes it would get pretty ravenous – I couldn't get a good read on if it was rape or not. Unpleasant? Sure. Out of hand. Yep. But rape? Did this man actually RAPE me?
Fast forward several years later to another guy. I had known him for at least 10 years and he always made it clear that he had a crush on me. I had an odd attraction to him too but always managed to keep him physically and emotionally at arm's length.
He persisted. I broke and one day gave into him wanting to kiss me as we watched a movie up in his bedroom. Honestly, he's one of the best kissers I've experienced to this day. Over the course of a few months, kisses on the mouth turned into kisses other places.
I liked how he made me feel, but I also knew that I didn't want to sleep with him. He had at least six kids at the time. He never used condoms. And there was an entitlement in his attitude towards everything in life that made him seem more like a spoiled child than a grown man. Still, because we were friends and because he was so consistent in his declaration of love for me, I didn't feel unsafe in his presence. Not one time. Not at all.
Then one day, while hanging out, we started kissing. As he started reaching for my clothing, I told him "no". Several times. He said nothing but kept on kissing and reaching. I turned my head, tried moving his arms…he overpowered all of my efforts.
I finally got so tired of squirming and fighting that I stopped and thought to myself, "Please let this end quickly." He was so excited, it did. As he laid on top of me talking about how right it felt (huh?!), something in me snapped. I told him I hated him and I wanted him to get out. He then responded that we probably should've waited because I was being hyper-sensitive. By the way, I later found out that a couple of other women accused him of rape before.
I told him "no" and he persisted. But this was a friend of mine and he admitted himself that he pushed me past my limits. But is that rape? Is it really?
I already know there are going to be people who are immediately going to want to put this on me. What was I doing making out with a guy I didn't want to have sex with? And of course, because I had sex with one of them before and he was in my living room in the dark, he was going to think that he could sleep with me again; that was a poor judgment call on my part. Sure, they might have taken advantage of their opportunities, but rape? If that's what I think happened, I'm not taking ownership and perhaps I'm just being dramatic.
To that, I say two things:
One, I tend to believe that people who think that way either 1) have done what those guys did or 2) have never had my experiences before. Because anytime anyone has sex that results in feelings of violation, on any level, it's a problem. Someone's been victimized.
Two – and this is something I share even in counseling sessions with married couples – sex is supposed to be beautiful. It's supposed to feel good. Both individuals need to feel desired but also safe and cherished before, during, and after. Neither one should want sex so badly that they don't care how their partner feels (especially if they express it's not something they want to do at that time). Anyone who doesn't believe this to be true also has a problem. Not only that but, whether they want to accept this reality or not, they've probably victimized someone before.
The one word that both of these points have in common is "victimized" and the very definition of rape is 1) someone having sex with another without their consent and 2) someone who violates another individual.
It took quite a while for me to really get that because I said "no" and because I felt unsafe and was violated, it didn't matter what my past experiences with those two men had been. There was a time when each of them raped me. There's nothing "grey" about it.
And you know what? On this side of clarity, because I had to even wonder if that's what happened in the first place, that's my greatest indication that rape is exactly what went down. I say that because no one should EVER have a sexual experience with someone and, after it ends, wonder if they were assaulted or not. If that crosses their mind, I am comfortable enough in knowing what a healthy sexual experience should be like to say that they were.
According to RAINN, someone is raped within the United States every 98 seconds. I know there is someone reading this who's had a sexual experience with someone they don't feel good about but they're not sure if they can call it an assault.
Hopefully, my stories will help to make things clearer. Either way, I can assure you that sex isn't supposed to hurt, harm, or damage you in any way. So, if when you think back on a sexual experience, you have to question if it was rape or not, sis…just in the fact that rape comes to your mind, I'm 99 percent certain that it was. And recognizing that is the first step towards healing.
For more information on sexual assault or if you need assistance in getting the support that you need, contact RAINN.org or call 800-656-HOPE.
How Rape Survivor Tyde-Courtney Edwards Took Back Her Life Through Ballet – Read More
In NC, Saying "Yes" To SEX Means More Than You Think – Read More
Tiffany Haddish Reveals Her Coping Mechanisms After Being Sexual Assaulted At 17 – Read More
We Can't Only Demand & Refute Justice When It Serves To Help Our Men – Read More
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masterdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masterdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masterdating All About?
Masterdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masterdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masterdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masterdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masterdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masterdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masterdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masterdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masterdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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