Namir Fearce, Marlena Wadley, Caitlyn Walker
Audre Lorde's provocative essay "Uses of the Erotic" asserts that eroticism is a deep-seated feminine power source that exists within ourselves and can be deployed to create change, and dismantle and counter oppression through the use of everyday expression, pleasure, and arguably one's Axé (emanations of our life force and it's connection to our divine ancestry). The uses of the Erotic inspired us to think how we, African Diaspora students, exercise eroticism in our ideologies, values, physicality, and our entire sense of being. For our final presentation, we individually registered our own insights about the erotic and incorporated a video montage that coalesced all of our knowledge about popular culture displays of eroticism and what they mean to us. We showcased how the ballroom scene, twerking, whining, and images/ clips of sex and intimacy perform Axé and eroticism within the African-American community. We also explained what gender, sexuality, and dance meant to us and how it all ties in together to perpetuate the uses of the erotic.
There are many kinds of power, used and unused, acknowledged or otherwise. The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling.
Audre Lorde describes the Erotic as a resource that is rooted in the power of our expressed or unrecognized feeling. To me, existing as a queer Black woman exerts eroticism. The way I express myself, own my sexuality, discover and unlearn oppressive and ingrained notions are all ways that Invoke the Erotic. Therefore, I incorporated images and dances that align with my beliefs. I incorporated the Womanism symbol because it represents the exclusion of black women in feminism. Womanism aims to include the perspective, equality, and equity of the Black woman. I included Sula, a queer novel written by Toni Morrison, Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins, and a picture of Janelle Monae’s video “Pynk”. All of these women use their works to discuss intersectionality, womanism ideologies, and empowerment in queer black women. I used the dances “twerking” and whining to exemplify how women and men use dance to invoke the erotic; These dances display a balance of sexuality, power transfer from the body, and expressed feeling.
For me, the erotic was represented through images of dance, and connection to the seven chakras. The seven chakras are energy points that range from the spine to the center of the body. The chakra point that most connects with the erotic is the second chakra known as the Sacral chakra. The sacral chakra is connected to creativity and sexuality. The seven chakra points are also related to the seven Orishas. The Orisha best represented with the sacral chakra is Yemaya because her energy relates to the creation of life and fertility. I incorporated a dance segment from Chicago’s dance company Deeply Rooted, which demonstrated the sensual and creative aspects of erotic.
I interpreted the erotic in my own practices of mind, body and spirit. From ballroom to creation, and lovemaking, I tap into the desire to strive for more of the erotic (the pleasurable and abundant feeling) in each. A common theme in all of my practices is the line between pleasure and endurance, and exaltation vs. exhaustion. My dance practice in ballroom represents this most for me. Through vigorous movement and jubilee, we open a tabernacle – a center for our imaginings and pleasures to breathe and live. In my group’s video, I wrapped all of these themes and practices into a landscape to showcase how each one represents the nuances and pleasure aspects of the erotic.
The Erotic is used to channel expression, exert agency, and lies in our everyday existence. We wanted to display how our everyday actions are supported by erotic forces. To keep presentation interactive, we asked fellow classmates what the erotic meant to them and had their input shared out loud to all be aware of beautiful and complementary variations in perspectives. We encouraged students to participate in a mock “mating” game (with their consent) to represent the erotic in the form of intimacy through dance.
Audre Lorde wanted the world to know that the erotic has been misunderstood and misconceived as pornographic because it is cultivated by Black women and femme bodies and contains power. It an individual and cultural resources used to exert truth, pleasure, and social change. In sum, our presentation examined everyday acts that we take for granted and how the erotic shows up in these practices. The erotic is about feeling and feeling fully-realized. That is what our presentation attempted to explain and translate. As Audre Lorde stated,”For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing” (54).
For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing