The History Behind The Obsession With Black Women's Bodies

black female in fishnet body suit
Via Pixabay
Leslie Taylor-Grover
January 6, 2022

Content Warning: This story includes references to sexual assault.

Black women’s bodies are fashionable these days. “Brazilian butt lifts” are at an all-time high, even though they’re an extremely dangerous form of cosmetic surgery. “Shapewear” sales are skyrocketing. But this obsession with curves has a long, dangerous history.

The first time white men saw Black women, they apparently lost their minds. The way our people dressed to survive in hot weather both excited and appalled white explorers

So what does this have to do with how Black women’s bodies are viewed today?

Colonizers imposed their own cultural hang-ups on Africans, describing Black culture as “highly sexual” – well before the slave trade. 

“Exotic,” “topless” Black women with “hot” natures were so appealing, they even traded postcards featuring nude, often VERY young, African women!

During enslavement, the more children an enslaved woman produced, the wealthier her white captors became. This justified treating Black women like animals for breeding, and encouraged the rape of Black women. Many enslaved Black women were even trafficked specifically for sex.

During the Jim Crow Era, white men continued to rape Black women, usually without consequences. “Paramour rights,” the unspoken rule that white men could have sex with a Black woman whether she consented or not, also added to the objectification of Black women’s bodies as purely sexual objects.

Despite their obsessions, Black women are MUCH more than the shape of their bodies. The roots of this objectification are deeply connected to racial prejudice.

The bottom line is that our bodies belong to us and nobody should feel pressured to conform to some white supremacist stereotype!

We have a quick favor to ask:

PushBlack is a nonprofit dedicated to raising up Black voices. We are a small team but we have an outsized impact:

  • We reach tens of millions of people with our BLACK NEWS & HISTORY STORIES every year.
  • We fight for CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM to protect our community.
  • We run VOTING CAMPAIGNS that reach over 10 million African-Americans across the country.

And as a nonprofit, we rely on small donations from subscribers like you.

With as little as $5 a month, you can help PushBlack raise up Black voices. It only takes a minute, so will you please ?

Share This Article: