Dr. Zelaika Hepworth Clarke is presenting Goddess Bodies Mortal Minds: The intersectionality of Black Sexuality and Respectability. Check out Dr. Clarke’s bio here.
1. How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?
I lead by example and seek to be the change I wish to see. I am dedicated to being a catalyst of change within myself before I seek to inspire transformation and liberation of others. Specifically, I’ve focused on ways to free myself from the bondage of white cisheteropatriarchal power structures that inform mentalities surrounding sexualities. As a sexosopher, I am perpetually involved in critical thinking about sexualities as well as being actively engaged in decolonizing sexualities. While working towards my PhD in Human Sexuality, I created theories that de-pathologize certain paraphilias and gave voice to non-phallocentric narratives of “sex.” (via the “devouring vagina,” ecosex, spiritual penetration, etc). Others can see how I was able to achieve sensual liberation through my dissertation publication titled Coming to my senses: A decolonizing autoethnographic exploration of Ọ̀ṣunality. I articulated my liberating experiences through the auto-sexual-decolonization process, which utilized self-love (autosexuality) as a means of overcoming negative effects of (sexual) colonialism. I am committed to intersectional mindfulness, sexual decolonization, counter-oppressive discourses, sexual epistemic diversity, sexual rights, self-determination, freedom of expression and empowerment.
2. Who or what was a catalyst for you?
Ọ̀ṣunality served as a catalyst for emancipation from cisheteropatrarchal colonialistic mentality that informs conventional discourse about sexualities. I was able to perceive sexuality in new empowering way. While studying Ọ̀ṣunality, I transformed my understanding of sexuality from a pleasure affirming, non-judgmental, self-loving place. A simple translation of Ọ̀ṣunality is Ọ̀ṣun-sexuality or African sensuality-sexuality and eroticism (Nzegwu, 2011). Ọ̀ṣunality is an empowering, post-colonial, sex-critical, African-centered paradigm. Ọ̀ṣunality supports diversity in sensuality and eroticism, inclusive of all forms of sexual pleasure (Nzegwu, 2010). All forms of pleasure are considered normal: from traditional, procreative heterosex to pathologized paraphilias.
3. What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable changes that have been made in our current society and the field of sexuality?
The accessibility of information and people’s ability to be able to learn from different perspectives are important changes in the field of sexuality. Technoheutagogy (self-determined e-learning) can help spread awareness about issues surrounding sexuality. The internet also supports creating communities of subcultures that might not have been possible a century ago. People realizing their right to self-determination and defining themselves for themselves is an important aspect of creating change.
4. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in society and the field of sexuality today?
Established forms of oppression are the biggest challenges to overcome within ourselves as well as institutionalized levels including but not limited to: heterosexism, genderism, cisgenderism, sexism, cissexism, racism, misogynoir, monosexism, classism, ableism, hierarchial binarism, somatocentrism, logocentrism, androcentrism…etc. These forms of oppression are vulnerable to being engrained in our mentality about sexuality unless we actively seek to hear diverse view points and perspectives. Another aspect of this challenge in the field of sexuality is how these forms of oppression play a role in knowledge production which is dominated by Westocentrism. There are many different views of sexualities, however, there are only few that are being highlighted at the expense of silencing Others. Therefore, epistemic diversity is imperative in the field of human sexuality to ensure a holistic view of sexualities that respect Indigenous sexual epistemologies.
6. Why is your CatalystCon presentation topic importation to you?
I am on a panel discussion about the intersectionality of Black sexuality and respectability. In the sexuality field, it is important to use a critical lens to deconstruct and reconstruct Black female bodies while being mindful about intersectionality and historical trauma. Black sexualities have historically been pathologized and harmful to the conceptualization of sexual self, body image, sexosophy and sexual schemas which are not conducive to self-expression, empowerment or fulfillment. However, updating our understanding of Black sexualities by hearing from women of color about their views of their own body is an important step towards unlearning colonial views of Black sexualities. Indigenous sexual knowledge can serve as a catalyst for empowering Black women.
6. Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself?
I am an eight generation farmer and have been able to integrate my personal and profession self by being a sexecologist through studying to the intersectionality of sexuality and nature.