Old White Men, Young Black Boys & The Sexual Legacy of Slavery.. In Light of Penn State

This piece was written a few years ago, but I felt compelled to unearth it due to the recent (alleged)  sexual assaults and rapes of many  young black boys at Penn State.

In my experience, it’s been one of the most unspoken taboos in both gay and African American communities: White men’s consumption and fascination with black male bodies.

My first real experience with this was when I was at Arby’s in Midtown, years ago, after I had just moved to Atlanta. I was sitting in Arby’s eating a grilled cheese, and from nowhere this middle aged white man, maybe in his 50-60’s, comes and stands above me, lurking down upon me a like a parasite longing for new blood. His behavior initially puzzled me. I asked “Can I help you?” and he just stared at me and licked his lips, then he flashed me several dollar bills. Recognizing this was some sort of sexual innuendo that I had no interest in, I grabbed my food and walked out of there.

At this point, I did not know that the Spring Street Arby’s and the subsequent area around the club 708 is a space where many sex workers, most of them African American boys & trans women, are solicited. I had no idea as I would learn later through my work in HIV & AIDS prevention & education, that most of those young African American boys and trans-women would report that the majority of their clients are middle aged white men. At first I thought little of it. I mean, why wouldn’t the majority of them be middle aged white men, who in this country would be more likely to have the disposable income? As I continued my studies in African American literature and history I found a few things that took me somewhere else. Where to you might ask? Why to Slavery my dear friend.

You see, when reading over various slave narratives in undergrad and beyond, their is evidence to suggest that young black boys, and black men of all ages, were often forced to have sexual relations with their white male slave owners.

While the innuendos are mild, and likely doctored by both historians and African American studies professors who fear exposing such a history that they perceive would further “shame” black men, the likelihood of such things happening doesn’t at all seem far fetched.

Because same sex desire is an expression of humanity that conforms itself to the structural social hierarchy of the day, it would make sense that  many white male slave owners, corrupted by racism and bigotry, would use black male bodies, of which they had authority and control, as a site to express their same sex desire. It would also make sense that, like most of the social patterns from that not too long ago period, those patterns persist in dynamics today. This has hardly ever been spoken of but as James Baldwin would say: The consumption of young black male bodies by white men, is “The Evidence of Things Unseen.”

This is not just in the gay community, oh no. I think about the porn industry, of which I’ve been doing a lot of research on, and the very famous series “My Wife Likes Black Dick”.

In this porn series, which is not the only of it’s kind, white men look on as their white wives are penetrated, often aggressively by black men. The white men are present in the space when this happens, and in some clips, the white male looks on with fascination saying : “That’s right, take that Black dick/you like that black dick don’t you?”. Fawning over the male’s performance and focusing on that “big black dick”.

In other scenarios, the white male is seen crying or sobbing as he witnesses his white wife penetrated;and while she makes comments on how his “little white dick” is nothing like this. So why would white men want to consume a product of a conjured storyline of having their wives penetrated by a “black dick?” How is this not projected homo-erotic desire?

Let me make this clear, because unfortunately, many of us may be going there already-this is not some diatribe to suggest that white men should not date black men. What it is, is an invitation for both white men and black men, to further explore our relationships with each other and the  the historic social, spiritual pain and eroticization that exists between us.

What it is, is an opportunity for us to understand that patterns of sexual exploitation are not so rapidly dissolved, and maybe ponder, that the consumption of black male bodies by white men and white culture is not only almost always exploitative, it is, in a male context, almost always homo-erotic; it is an expression of the white male unconscious desire for the black male body, a body which has had a construct of “raw masculinity” projected upon it; a masculinity that in America, is deemed highly desirable no matter what your sexual orientation.

There is a lot more to be explored here, this doesn’t even scratch the surface.

But I think this maybe might open up a chapter…Much more to come…but for now..
What do you feel?

Copryight Yolo Akili 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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  1. Very interesting article. It would be a great book project to research gay life in slavery times. There is a book that touches on the period following slavery…Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the … By Douglas A. Blackmon This book touches on the lives of black men in post slavery labor camps. And of course men being interned for a long time in such places tend to prey on other men. I think the term he uses is Girlboys. So it would be interesting to explore gay life from black and/or white perspectives during slavery.


  3. Toni Morrison discusses this briefly in “Beloved” when she writes about Paul D and the other men in the slave labor camps being threateningly forced to fellate the white slave overseers. Yes, I am sure there is a LOT more to this story. Very interesting read!

  4. Modern college football itself is predicated on an obsession with young, (often) black, male bodies. I tutor football players at a large state school and am constantly amazed at the lengths the coaches and staff go through to control their bodies at every possible moment (study in this building under supervision, eat this at this time under supervision, turn over your facebook and twitter feeds, etc). I’m not suggesting that all football coaches are somehow pedophiles, but there is a certain harmony or resonance between Sandusky’s actions, the staff members who looked the other way, and what I assume was the culture of the football institution as a whole.

  5. Call me naive, but until I read this article it never occurred to me that the boys molested by Sandusky were anything other than white. In fact I’m still trying to figure out what 10 year olds were doing on a college campus at all.

    As a black woman, knowing that some of the victims were black makes it seem an even more heinous crime. I know that sounds racist, but black boys have so much going against them already.

    1. I agree. I think the fact that many of the boys were Black was part of the whole fetish thing as well as the abuse of power allure for this predator. The fact that some of them, if not all of them were from low-income households & had emotionally difficult lives made them more attractive targets for this evil man & his enablers. I’d bet everything I have that NONE of the victims were Caucasian boys from priviledged backgrounds. The fallout would have been too severe, the evil men wouldn’t seen them or their families as as much of a threat financially or socially. I think the perpetrators & enablers saw these boys as less important & disposable. Abuse of power & racism are huge factors.

      1. …and thank you for calling that out. I hope that you are as forthright in public life. The world needs to face up to the reality of not race but race-ISM, especially the institutional brand that is so prevalent today.

    2. You can’t be racist towards white people though, so you shouldn’t feel bad. I assumed the victims were white at first too but when I found out they weren’t, the case took a whole other turn: a powerful white male abusing underprivileged black boys who are in that position to begin with because of racism.

  6. I truly have an appreciation for articles such as this, when one must take off the rose colored classes and truly open one’s eyes…….

  7. My only caution to the writer and to commentators: when we are talking about sex and slavery or sexual domination within slavery, this is NOT the same as talking about gayness, gay identity, or even same sex desire. In the context of such profound structural inequality, white male sexual domination of black men is not about an expression of desire but power. The scholarship on rape and child sexual abuse make clear that perpetrators are interested in power and submission. Could pedophilia and rape also be encouraged by repressed desires? Sure. But any future research on the sexual uses and abuses of black men under slavery should not take the approach of recuperating a “gay” history. Rather, as with research on the sexual exploitation of enslaved women, all of this needs to be understood as a power relationship.

  8. This just sparked the question in my head about young jornalero’s (mexican day laborers) and if these abuses/rapes are happening with bodies of young men that are living in the US under the terror of deportation at the threat of the abuser.

  9. This didn’t begin with slavery in the americas. Slavery is as old as civilization. Slaves have always been seen as lesser people and subjected to whatever atrocities the owner desired. Research accounts of egyptian, syrian, persian, babylonian, irish, scottish, celtic, the vikings, incas, mayans, greek and roman slaves and you will see similar if not the exact same practiices throughout. In society’s where same sex relationships were part of the norm of society, this was normal to have slaves that were set aside just for sexual pleasure. Here in america some plantations didn’t grow any other crops except slaves for sexual pleasure. They were known as pleasure farms and they had girls boys women and men that were selected, bred, bought and sold just for this purpose. Romans and greeks took this a step further by making it openly acceptable to rape a any man whose social status was lower than yours, and they openly courted young boys. This is part of the reason the olympics and any athletic games were performed naked with oiled young male bodies. We have heard of the excess of romans who practiced orgies and these often included young boys and young male slaves. As long as sex continues to be a sport of domination and power to some people, we will continue to see children subjected to the twisted desires of adults who find it easier to conquer a child. Also rape is not just about power and control, attraction is there, as well as feelings of inferiority, and sexual frustration often because a person isn’t free to act on their true desires and needs. We here about abuse more, because it has become more acceptable not to keep it a secret, but many victims (something like 80%) never come forward and never seek help. Many of those abused children become abusive men, and seek victims they know they can dominate. A man that has been sexually abused as a child is more likely to sexually abuse children when he becomes an adult.

  10. This is no surprise to me at all, This very action goes on in Africa and some Caribbean countries today except, these are European men on vacation, luring homeless boys for sex. these nasty old men have what the boys need, money and food. I don’t know if several of your readers remember or know the artist Beanie Man out of Jamaica, try to shed light to this situation that was going on in Jamaica but misunderstood as a homophobic. Same going on in Senegal, south Africa and other countries. This creepy men get away with it because its taboo in the African country and in the Caribbean. No one in power will do anything about it because they all have the mentality to always look away or keep a blind eye to the situation. we as society need to shed light on situations such as this to the world

  11. This has reopened my mind to the phenomenon; the white person’s fascination with the black body. This holds true to some extent for white women as well dating back to slavery times. The white woman was fascinated by the black man’s “raw masculinity”. I never thought of it with the same sex because that’s a story that was never or hardly told.

    This was great! I can’t wait for what you have next.

  12. the thoughts so complex to me, but alas the simplicity of it. They either new we were of the human race, or they were into forms of bestiality. either which vile i say. most definitely i say reparations are due but they will never own up; for stuff like this would surface.

  13. i searched out this subject, because I do believe that the feminizing of the black male, initially by the slave master, is what broke his once strong will and leadership capability of his family;and made him in many cases a defeated man.Look at the legacy of so many black children raised by only one parent.When a cycle of abuse starts,the effects can be devastating for years.Now,I know that we come from an entire nation of systematically abused ancestors,which in my opinion, has warped our image of ourselves,gender roles, and the way that we view the opposite sex.This is a sad reconciliation…but we must press on.

    P.S I just wanted to say that I always suspected that this was true.We are truly a strong people, whom Jah has seen fit to sustain us and give us strength to press on.

  14. As an educator and a black male I have always felt that we are always feared and reviled at the same time due to our bodies and fearlessness. I guess that the fearlessness that I am pointing out is that we for the most part fear not aggression towards our physical being. What we fear is the mental rejection we receive from the “white man” through glances, smirks, comments, lack of full respect you know “the smiling faces sometimes tell lies” syndrome, well “right on” to the author of this article about black male emasculation, through what I mentioned previously, but as well, actual physical captivity as a slave to a white master. To think that Sandusky could have controlled black college athletes the way that “Elizabeth” mentions above in her commentary, sickens me. I too did not know that black boys were involved and thought the victims white, as many have mentioned.

  15. Being a history major it was oh so surprising to here about Kings and Lords commissioned by the Queen to have little slave boys as lovers. Much of this homosexual interaction was perpetuated by the Catholic Church and promoted by the Christian priest. This practice was not a normal one among natives who encountered Eiropeans from the west! Many individuals Like King James of the Bible was a flaming homo. Its in the fabric of the religion and the Europeam Culture. The more Alkebalanians/ Modern day African assimilate in to this Culture . The more homo our children will become!

  16. Iv alwaysed believed that slaves we’re forced into a sexual relationship with the master especially the male black slaves but our American history boos books would only talk very little about the subject in general meaning lightly touch on male masters and female slaves,but they would never go into such a subject of male master and male slave forced relations.

  17. This is true racism, not the crazy stuff they make out on the Internet, like peanut butter sandwhiches or booing at football. Real racism is not a politically correct means to control, it is dehumanising and abusing an already vulnerable group of people, demeaning them and making them perform hideous tasks against their will that strips them of any control, power or their own sexuality. It is the view that people are somehow inferior even though they aren’t, and the horrible acts committed against them. The idiots who cry racism at anything they don’t like make this appalling part of history into a joke and take away the seriousness of these centuries of abuse based on the stupidest of all things; a person’s skin colour. It should not matter what colour a person’s skin is, they are to be treated with the same respect, freedom and humanity as anyone else. This horrifies me but does not surprise me given the research I have done into other so called vulnerable groups in society. No one person should be given any power over another human, look what happens. The history into all oppressed groups is awful, let’s pray we can wake up from this and treat all people as they deserve, as equals, same but different with respect and love.

  18. I also thought / assumed Penn State victims were white. This is the first time I hear of some victims being black.

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