Let’s Talk About Sex

How we talk about sex has largely been shaped by whiteness — it’s time to change that.

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The word autonomy has become a part of the lexicon in my household.

My daughters may not fully understand the definition, but it’s become part of our regular communication. It’s a reminder that they have a say in what gets to happen with their bodies. I want them to understand that their voices matter, and they get to choose what they do with their bodies, regardless of how the world may try to dictate it for them. It matters to me because they matter to me.

Growing up in the Bronx in the ’80s, autonomy wasn’t an option I thought I had.

I watched sex happen before I was old enough to know what it meant to watch two bodies collide with sweat, saliva, and bone. The very first time, I semi-crawl-walked into the living room and watched my father and mother move to a rhythm that looked like a subtle sway that then moved to a vigorous thrusting. It sounded more like a fistfight than the BET movie love scenes I later watched as a semi-adult. While my parents convulsed, there were faint images on the screen of white people dancing with each other. I didn’t stay long, but my young boy self knew I was in on something I should not have been, peeking behind a curtain that no one knew I knew was there.

That accidental encounter would lead to more. I found sex everywhere in the house while I looked for something to feed all of my appetites: food, information, love, attention, and pleasure. Exploring my little Black body was not something I felt entitled to. I was never taught about it without it feeling scientific or wrong.

The next accident would be the Penthouse magazine stashed away in my big brother D’s dresser. He told my mom it was there when we moved. She let him keep it and, with my curiosity piqued, my six-year-old self would spend hours rummaging through the pages in the bathroom or sneaking it into the living room when everyone was sleeping, working, or too busy to bother with a precocious child and his handful of imaginary friends and stories. There would be sex video game ads and reviews, with pictures to help describe the action, and in articles I could barely read (and definitely did not care to). But I gravitated…

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Joel Leon.

he/him. @tedtalks giver. @EBONYmag / @medium writer. @frankwhiteco . creative. @taylorstrategy senior copywriter. @thecc_nyc 21’ class. @twloha board. #BRONX