How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?
I’m most proud of being a catalyst of change for myself. When I was an undergraduate, I decided I wanted to become the woman I wasn’t able to study with—young, cool, fashion-forward, opinionated, outspoken, but qualified to research and write about black people and women in a way that respects the past but isn’t mired in respectability politics. I’m finally at a point where I look at my body of work and say, “I am that woman.” Whenever I feel insecure, I access that badass intellectual part of me, and she gives me courage. I hope I am also that kind of catalyst for other women.
Who or what was a catalyst for you?
When I started grad school, I signed up for an everything-is-free-for-30-days-cable package during February. I watched documentaries and movies about black people the entire month and was exposed to a whole new world that my education in predominantly white institutions had completely glossed. Television is mired in stereotypical representations, but experiencing the diversity of those representations saved my life by shifting my interests and refocusing my work.
What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?
Because I’m working in infidelity, I’m concerned about it as a public health issue. Most of the public discourse is about who cheated and why, but I would like to focus more on the health consequences. Twenty percent of the women in my study contracted an STI because of infidelity. There’s even more shame and silence surrounding sexually transmitted infections than there is around infidelity. We rarely see campaigns for committed or even married partners to use condoms and get tested regularly. Out of every four infidelity stories we read about in blogs and tabloids, one of them could involve an STI. That demands for more outreach to be done.
Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, The Mindset of a Mistress, to CatalystCon West?
Very rarely do mistresses get to talk about their experiences with infidelity on their own terms. Yes, mistresses titillate audiences with the when, where, when, why, and how but very rarely do these interviews include conversations about the mistresses’ experiences. We want the mistress to tell on him not to tell us about her. I’ve been collecting stories from women who have been the other woman. I’m excited to present them at CatalystCon within the context of mistresses throughout history and contrast them with the mediated mistresses that we’ve all become familiar with via television and the tabloids.
Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself
For nearly 20 years, I’ve been an avid fan of The Young and the Restless and/or The Bold and the Beautiful.