Black Males Are Ill-Served by the ‘Stud’ Stereotype

by Rhonda Sherrod, J.D., Ph.D.

Last semester one of my students dropped by for an office visit and, to my great surprise and annoyance, sex came up again and again.

Yes, sex.  Like when, sensing his restlessness and wistfulness, I asked him how he finds “peace” so that he can achieve a state of mind conducive to studying.  (Even though he was failing my class, it was clear to me that he has a great deal of promise.)  He responded that he likes to drive around in his car, watch sport competitions, “and I like sex.”

Then, as I listened to the student degrade women — all the while trying to keep the revulsion I felt to a minimum — I couldn’t help but wonder why this student felt so comfortable as he sat there talking to me — his professor whom he barely knew — about his personal sex life.  Nothing I did to redirect the conversation toward something having to do with how to improve his dismal classroom performance worked.

In thinking about this conversation, I began to recognize that sitting alongside this student’s woman-hating diatribe was a deep, almost overwhelming, longing for a human connection that is meaningful and sustaining.  One of the main problems, however, is that he has mentally degenerated to a “hustler” state where meaningful relationships are especially difficult to establish and maintain.  He doesn’t “trust” women, they are “hoodrats” who “betray” him, and they “won’t act right,” yet he readily admits that neither does he.  But my student couldn’t think analytically about how his behavior contributes to his inability to attain that which he so deeply desires.

Also troubling, I thought, is the way that sex in this culture — especially among people my student’s age — has become so pornographic in concept.  So many young men attempt to experience mere sensation without any thought toward humanistic concerns.  Sadly, many of them mistakenly think a so-called “no-strings attached, feel-good” sexual relationship is exactly what they want.

More to the point, I had to question why this society continues to be so fixated on making black men the sexual “animals” of this culture.  This society has always conceptualized black males in demeaning physical terms — the stud with unlimited sexual prowess, for example — and so much so that many of these young men seem to have internalized a warped sense of their own humanity.  As another one of my male psychology students put it during a classroom discussion on gender issues (after which several of my female students thoroughly castigated him), “It’s just sex.”

Just sex?  Sex is one of the most intimate acts two human beings can engage in – an unveiling of the soul and spirit, as well as the mind and body.  It is this notion that “it’s just sex” that has so many people confused and unhappy.  People are so wrapped up in their wants and desires, that, ironically, they don’t understand the basic needs attached to those desires.  The fact is, many people lack a sound analysis of sexuality and feelings, but black males are encouraged by the American culture to forego such analysis, and, we must insist upon asking why this continues to be the case and what is the psychological and social cost to these young men?

I ended the meeting with my student by trying to get him to “analyze” his situation, and as is my way, I gave him some “vocabulary words” to look up and define.  The list of words?  “Barbaric,” “savage,” “animalistic,” “primitive” and “Neanderthal.”  I figured if he wanted to continue operating on the level he seemed to be advocating, why not “keep it real” for him and clue him in to how others may evaluate his “game.”

He balked, demurred, and (thankfully) appeared quite insulted when I handed him the list.  “‘Barbaric,’ ‘savage’…,” he faltered.  “What?”

“Here, take the words.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes.”

He threw his head back and sent forth a hearty, but clearly embarrassed, laugh.  “Okay.  I’ll look them up.”

A breakthrough?  I hope so.

Note:  This article first appeared in The Huntsville Times in 2008.

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7 thoughts on “Black Males Are Ill-Served by the ‘Stud’ Stereotype

  1. I had this same mindset. It wasn’t until after we read The Street within our group that I realized how disrespectful and ‘savage’ our ways were.

  2. Yes, The Street was eye opening and it was terrifying because of the thought of what a daughter, sister, and others could experience. Still, these are not the thoughts we encounter among our peers. Those who do not engage in ‘savage’ thought are mocked and ridiculed as being less than a normal man. Black men it is up to us to change this state of mind for this generation of daughters and the next that we produce. Ladies, help us acquire this by holding us to higher levels; we will get there.

  3. Both of the foregoing comments mean so much to me. Lorenza and Desmond are two of my (favorite) former college students who have graduated and are doing well. They were part of a literary guild I founded (The Fannie Lou Hamer Literary Guild) to give my best students the opportunity to read great works of literature outside the classroom. We read several books, including The Street, by Ann Petry, a classic work about the experiences of a beautiful Black female domestic whose family falls apart under the weight of racism and discrimination such that she has to fend for herself and her young son. Published in 1946, it is a powerful story that highlights the ills of poverty, racism, white supremacist thought, sexism, sexual harassment and exploitation, objectification, brilliance circumscribed, betrayal, marginalization, and other cruelties that so many Black women have experienced in White and Black society. It delves deeply into the psychic pain that so many Black women have to carry, negotiate, and handle. The book also gives insight into the manner in which far too many Black males have been rendered ruthless because of the psychic pain they struggle with as a result of having been made socially, politically, and economically effete. To know that the book I chose had a profound affect on my students’ thinking about women and society is so gratifying and underscores why I love teaching. Knowledge should inform, aid in one’s positive development, and empower as one analyzes information with more and more depth, clarity, understanding, and, hopefully, with a greater sense of what justice requires. Lorenza and Desmond are scholars and gentlemen and it makes me very happy to know that I have played a part (however small) in their profound socialization process. Teaching is a great calling!

  4. I’ve read this blog several times and to be honest it bothers me A LOT! The fact that I am bothered in my opinion is a very good thing because it allows me to come to terms with past decisions that I’ve personally made when it came to dating. It amazes me how much “the stud” mentality of the black man affects the attitudes and decisions of the black woman. As black women, so many of us become content with the “stud” because we feel that’s all we have to choose from. In the back of our minds we think we will be able to change the “stud” into “prince charming” if we stick around long enough. However, we just end up hurt and attached to a person who is not emotionally connected to us. Our view of love then becomes distorted; we become scarred; and when Mr. Right finally does come along we are too blind and bitter to see that he is not just like the rest of them. So I agree with Desmond, it is an absolute must that we hold these men to higher standards as women. We must quit falling into the friends with benefits category, stop being the side chick, and all the other terms that simply mean I am not in a committed relationship with you.

  5. Wow, Cassie! What a powerful, insightful and thoughtful response to this post. I am so very glad you found this writing thought-provoking and that it inspired you to meditate on the subject matter. I think you are right. So many beautiful sisters think they have to accept certain behaviors that they know are NOT acceptable just to be in a relationship. Then, too, so much pressure is placed on young women to be in a relationship at any cost (emotional, psychological, and financial), and I think we, as a society, need to re-think this whole notion that many articulate which states that “a piece of a man is better than no man at all.” As you and Desmond correctly point out, there have to be standards. The interesting thing is that not only would Black women be better off if they were more stringent about holding Black men to higher standards, but Black men themselves would be better able to live up to their own vast potential. Instead of “running women” and wasting their lives acting immature, they could be using their talents to build institutions and create legacies for our young people… Also, they would feel so much better about themselves if they were more accomplished and, in the final analysis, we would all be better off! I could go on and on, because there are so many other things that I want to say, but it would require about a three day workshop to convey all that I want to communicate concerning what you brought up! I will just close by saying that, in Western culture, it has long been held that it takes women to “civilize” men. That is, of course, such a (sexist) burden to place on women. Indeed, one would like to think that all men should have an internal compass or code of conduct such that they would not treat a woman any kind of way. (Sigh.) However, in the short term, at least, it may be that women will have to continue (?) assuming this role. Thanks so much for the comment, Cassie.

  6. When I read this blog I immediately think of how reality tv and and music videos often become the foundation of a lot of young people’s mentality. It’s like they glorify the pretend lives that are portrayed, subconciously try to imitate them, and all the while they are ignorant to what goes on behind the scenes. In the end, when their reality doesn’t mimic the observed superficiality, these young men are left hurt and tainted. They resort to treating women as props, things, and momentary pleasures. I feel like many things trace back to early childhood struggles. I say this because these young men also assume that what they are doing is ok because young woman get lost in the glamour, too. Young women way too often make it so easy to be disrespected. They are the ones choosing to be portrayed as less than women in these videos. But, is it because there was a lack in love and attention in those areas in their upbringing? Mommies are just as important in giving their sons love and affection, to show them how to treat women, as daddies are to girls showing them love and affection and giving them standards as to how they should be treated by men. Mommies and daddies together build the foundation that negates what is glorified in tv. The broken home has a domino affect for many, not all.

    • A very thoughtful comment, Ariana. I think you are right on target here as you point out the hurt and pain behind guys’ attempts to mimic the insensitive, market driven fantasies exhibited on TV, as well as the importance of affirming young girls with love and affection during their developmental process so that they don’t go looking for it in all the wrong places. Thanks so much for adding your astute voice to the discussion!

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