Monday, October 24, 2011

Amber Cole and The Very Definition of Prudery: The Good Liberals at Daily Kos vs. Chauncey Devega

I am done with grading and have a bunch of posts that are in the backlog.

My post on Amber Rose inflamed some folks at Daily Kos. Because you all know me here, and some of you have been long time members of the WARN family, you understand that I am a plain talker. I do not sit around and write to please folks, or to win plaudits and virtual "points," "likes," or "tips." Of course, I enjoy a good pat on the back or acknowledgment for my deeds when they are well done. But in total, pleasing others is not my modus operandi.

The open letter I wrote to Amber Cole (and to young women like her everywhere) caused quite a bit of anger over at Daily Kos. Of course, I probed and pushed back against the "Kossacks" which only served to inflame them. 150 comments later a few of them are still throwing a fit that I would dare to suggest that we need to speak plainly and directly with young girls about their sexuality.

A small minority of readers did in fact agree with both the tone and directness of my open letter. But, the consensus was that I am a sex deviant, a misogynist, a prude who wants to take away a woman's right to an abortion, and that I am not a "real progressive." These comments are none too different from those on my Martin Luther King Jr. piece in which I challenged 2 dimensional hero worship and flat histories which do more to obscure than reveal the greatness and complexity of the man.

Now, please feel free to criticize my content, style, or approach to writing. I give as good as I get. But, there is another element at work in the mouth-frothing upsetness I saw at Daily Kos. I believe that I am close to figuring out what the variable is.

As I develop that thesis (and continue my reconnaissance) it would be very useful if you could help me to put the pearl clutching rage of the Daily Kos's readership at my open letter to Amber Rose in perspective.

I know people are reading the post; at present, folks have remained relatively silent. WARN is not an amen corner so do offer your thoughts--even if you passionately disagree with me.

Some questions:

1. Is my post on Amber Cole lurid?

2. Have I misidentified the problem?

3. Am I "blaming the victim?"

4. Is there something especially problematic about giving a teenager advice that is direct, honest, and transparent about her sexuality and those of her peers?

5. Is my letter based on a false assumption? Here I mean, are young girls, in particular young black and brown girls who may live in under-resourced communities where male role models are absent, actually receiving appropriate advice about their choices in sexual partners? Is my concern much to do about nothing?


Anonymous said...

As far as I can see, your open letter was straightforward, usable and generous of your time.The truth is that girls are more at risk and need to mature faster. That's reality likeable or not.
Mister L.

Plane Ideas said...


I am late to the game and I never visit Daily Kos or many other white liberal sites for a number of reasons...I do look forward to your posts about the racism of white liberals etc..

With regard to the issue at hand I have no problem with anything you wrote especially the comments about the young girl's father..

I think it is noble that you are willing to have a open forum about your performance but at some point I hope you realize that you own your words not others..

I will aso note that of late I have observe a sense of tentative and reactionary vibes from you...WHY???

Are you worried about your evolution as a race man and iconic voice?? Are you becoming insecure about celebrity? Do we really know you? Does it matter? What is more revelant your muse and words of choice or your personal issues as you compose and become this racial orchestra leader...

I am selfish all I want is your brillant narratives and tangible written outcomes , ideas, thoughts and thresold altering words and themes..

Whatever is going on with you fix it or fuck it just keep delivering the,lol,lol

Brotha Wolf said...

I think what you did was noble and necessary. You delivered compassion, thought-provoking ideas, and challenged the kind of thinking that goes on with teen sexuality.

I think it's a shame some people would misinterpret your message for something not even remotely true.

chaunceydevega said...

@Thrasher. thanks for the kind words. I am being and doing me. And trust you do know me, what you see is what you get. Reactionary? Tentative? Help me understand w. some examples. I have been reflecting on something over the weekend and will write about it soon.

@Brotha. I thought so too. Many on the left hate on the vitriol and talking point echo chamber politics of the right, but then practice the same tactics themselves.

Anonymous said...

I saw your post on Daily Kos which then led me to your website.

I don't agree with you 100%, but felt you were unfairly attacked. I was particularly bothered by the "pervert" accusations leveled against you by some of the folks at DK.

My advice would be to continue cross posting there. God knows some of the pearl-clutchers at Daily Kos need to hear some of your honest, frank opinions.

40 said...

As someone who looks forward to eventually becoming a parent someday I am terrified for what the world holds for girls. When I watch MTV and see the behaviors of Jersey Shore, 16 & Pregnant, Teen Mom, The Real World, etc where generally irresponsibility and sketchy moral behavior is not only encouraged but financially lucrative, (along with the interspersing of commercials for pregnancy tests and day after pills) to rail against your open letter is hypocritical and misguided. This is a world where Laurence Fishburne's daughter though going into porn was a better entree in to Hollywood rather than using her father's access for one of the reasons being "it worked for Kim Karshashian". This is a world where you hear of "pregnancy pacts" amongst adolescent girls in Memphis and other cities. Even in the most primal base instincts the oversexed teen male has been on the radar for the last 100 years, but what about the rise of the oversexed female? The letter your wrote could be for Montana Fishburne, Nicki Minaj, Lil Kim, all the Kardashian sisters, etc, and all these purveyors of this kind of behavior which lines their pockets but leaves masses of young girls morally and financially bankrupt. I find your words honest and focused. Whereas I hope you never have to have such a conversation with your daughter (if you have one or ever do), but it is good that you are already armed with the proper words to start the conversation.

Respect Due.

chaunceydevega said...

@Anon. Thanks. That is the funny thing. I am all for disagreement and a good tustle. But there is an odd culture there where it seems some just want validation. I am going to do some more posts there as part of my plan so to speak, but did you notice how they were quick to misapply theories about gender and feminism add some buzz words and go for the same type of empty talking point mess that passes for discourse on the free republic, townhall and other spots?

The other angle that none mentioned was that for young black girls in the environment that amber found herself in may not have the privilege of the pie in the sky radical sexual autonomy that some of the folks at Kos think should be the norm and advocated for by 3rd wave, left feminism.

they seem totally immune to the fact that out of wedlock births and the hyper sexualization of black girls is destroying their life chances and social capital.

Chris Sharp said...

CD: Maybe I'm missing something but what's all the fuss about over your open letter? It sounds like good thoughtful advice to me and you also showed appropriate respect and empathy for her situation. I don't read Daily Kos so I will spare myself from the angry misguided comments that were posted in response to your letter, but I do have one question: Was there anything posted on Kos along with your letter that identified you as a black man?

Tom said...

You can't just walk into places like Kos and talk like a Black person. You'll get banned.

It's probably not skin the intolerance is focused on, it's culture, but it's no joke. The big white liberal blogs are no way going to be integrated easily. It's only 2011.

chaunceydevega said...

@Chris. You know I did, but I only wrote something akin to "as a member of this community who is deeply invested in the success of young women like Amber." Maybe that was enough to set them off.

@Tom. Well with the next thing I am going to write they may have a collective fit. I think it is time to revisit my old friend liberal racism. He and I haven't talked in a while. Now may be the time to reconnect.

Monday's Baby said...

I actually was agreement with most of your letter. However, I did think that you were remiss in not addressing the boys who participated with Amber Cole. No, we don't know their names, but they're just as culpable. Don't they also need an open letter?

I think that adolescents need to be taught that sex and sexual urges are natural. However, it also needs to be taught that sex is about achieving mutual, enthusiastically consensual pleasure. It’s not a transaction (sex for love/clothes/money/affection) or performance (getting a BJ from this girl in front of my boys makes me a/the man). That’s where adults/parents/guardians have really failed. In the mainstream culture, sex is so divorced from emotion. It’s something you do or use to get something from another person or persons, sometimes (often?) without their consent.

We need to speak often and much earlier to males and females about all aspects of their sexuality.

Anonymous said...

I think we just need to pull our heads out of the sand. Yes, the letter was blunt and I agree with the poster on the original post as to our young men also needing to have a dressing out of their actions, as well. But I also think that in this day and age we simply cannot pretend that it is not "our" kids that are doing it, it's those others. It's not. And it is not simply black and brown children. In suburbia they have different colored arm bands to indicate what they are and are not willing to do sexually. Sex is everywhere all the time. Even when it is not needed to portray a message. I think that even if this type of conversation had taken place between the father and daughter, it would not have made much of a difference. I do think that we do our kids a disservice to pretend that it's those "other" kids that would do such a thing because, it leaves them with nowhere to turn, except to each other and whatever predatory person who is looking to exploit them. It does need to be explained that there are consequences to their actions. These sorts of things are now criminalized, and that a video of that sort can land them on a list that can hinder their employment, their choice of places to live, and can follow them for some number of years. Yes, frankness and openess is necessary now-a-days.

A Lurker Abroad said...

Ooh! I really think sabrinabee's onto something about suburbia. It seems to me the pearl-clutching is linked to the idea that "our kids" (y'know, the ones raised in suburbia by clucking white liberals) get to have radically autonomous sexuality cause we can't imagine they'd use it like Amber Cole. We can't just admit that we believe that our kids are just better or that we're just better parents. So instead we jump down the throat of anyone who offers Amber Cole the same advice we'd give before telling her to go off and do her radically autonomous thing. Especially if we're reminded in the process that good sex advice AND "adventurous sexuality" aren't just more smug luxuries (liberal) white privilege.

Mr. DeVega, your post hit almost of the angles I wanted to see covered. And I know if I wanted them all covered, I should've written my own thing. But since you're asking, I AM still troubled by the idea that so many teenage girls are so willing to give head - under a seemingly endless variety of circumstances - without expecting oral sex in return. To me it suggests that this is less about their own sexuality, however radical and more about our troubling tendency to fetishize the link between sex and extreme youth. But that's probably just cause I'm less radically autonomous than the average Kossack.

I'm also a long-time and admiring lurker currently blessed with an academic indenture in one of the whiter-bread corners of Europe. So mostly, I wanted to say thanks to you and your band of merry commenters for (hopefully) keeping me from getting too smugly liberal, or liberally smug, myself.

A Lurker Abroad

chaunceydevega said...

@Monday. I have something for those boys too. The problem is the video of what I want to talk about is not available. There is something very serious about what is going to happen to them legally. I wonder if our young people who sext and send nude videos and emails understand how their lives could be ruined by catching a felony for doing something stupid in the moment?

@Sabrina. You read my mind. Sex offender database time. Is it deserved?

@lurker. I like lurkers abroad--sounds like a slogan fit for a t-shirt! I didn't even think of that angle to be honest. Yes, whiteness is titillated but also fascinated by the sexuality of black people, but if so is the reaction to my letter a projection of those fears turned inside out? If that were the case why wouldn't the "Kossacks" support my commonsense, very sex positive, intervention?

You are also right on the slut-shaming angle, either they have the resources to indulge their kids' radical sexual autonomy, or they are base hypocrites who would die if their kids did such a thing. Once, more there is also the denial of all of the hypersexual behavior that suburban teens are involved in.

Could this be an odd form of nimby just in regards to sex?

gordon gartrelle said...

A handful of thoughts:

1. I believe in the practical forms of feminism that aim to improve the daily lives of women.
Slut feminism is a crock of shit. It's a shame that being shut out of any meaningful power has led some feminists to concoct fraudulent spheres of (non) power such as "subversive" slutdom in order feel like they have agency.

2. Not all forms of sexual shame are bad; most are actually downright reasonable & are borne of common sense & decency.

3. I've had many discussions with Chauncey about this very topic. To the uninitiated it seems as though he's absolving men of responsibility; he's actually seizing on two practical realities: first, men are, in general, driven by sex to an extent that women are not; second, women have an immense (though often underutilized) control over the sexual behavior of men. Basically, the equality of desire is bullshit-- men want it more-- yet women routinely let loser men fuck (& fuck them over) when they have the leverage to demand better. You get women to have higher standards and men will instantly become more responsive.

Monday's Baby said...

"...second, women have an immense (though often underutilized) control over the sexual behavior of men. Basically, the equality of desire is bullshit-- men want it more-- yet women routinely let loser men fuck (& fuck them over) when they have the leverage to demand better. You get women to have higher standards and men will instantly become more responsive."

I absolutely disagree. I've heard that theory put forth time and time again in situations like this and find that it's employed to slut shame (whether or not the person involved was behaving as a "slut") and to absolve males from taking responsibility for their actions. This is especially true in situations where the power differential is imbalanced (older male vs. younger woman, male in position of authority vs. female in a subordinate position, perceived scarcity of eligible men vs. perceived plentitude of women). No, I don't buy it and believe situations like this (grown people slut shaming a 14-year-old Amber Cole on Twitter; R. Kelly's underage victim being dismissed as a "fast tail girl") result from that line thinking.

As I mentioned earlier, men and women need to be taught from young ages about the mutuality of sex. Sex is not transactional. It should not be used to control the behavior of another. Sex is not a weapon. That thinking just leads to disembodied sex, sexual shame, and coercion.

Monday's Baby said...

Why is that folks who realize the politics of respectability doesn't work in regard to race/ethnicity think it does work in regard to sex? I'm always disappointed when I find that peers can get the race part but not the gender piece. Black women really do occupy a particular, peculiar space in the hierarchy of race and gender; sadly, it is very rarely a comfortable one.

Shady_Grady said...

The problem with many on the so-called left is that they have ceded all talk of "responsibility" to people on the right. In addition many of them are locked into ideas of "female" as eternal victim.


There was nothing wrong with your initial post Chauncey. Parents need to talk to both sons and daughters about sex. I don't see why this is a controversial statement. Unfortunately for some people writing anything short of "Heterosexual men are the scourge of the planet" is proof positive that you are indeed a "sexist male".

I hope that you continue to call things as you see them no matter which sacred cows get gored. No one group of humans has cornered the market on right or wrong.

Shady_Grady said...

"it seems that you and your clan enjoy riding the political version of the sybian howling with glee at your own smug self-satisfaction and political onanism. you are incapable of a reasoned exchange, but are thrilled by pleasing yourself."

LOL-This right here. I may have to quote that Chauncey. It is accurate about so many debating styles.

Anonymous said...

Being neither American nor a first-language English speaker I am maybe not qualified to judge, but I still found your open letter demeaning, offensive and somewhat beside the point.

First of all "Amber Cole, high school fellatio artist"? What kind of title is that? I may not have learned English until late in life, but I can spot condescendence when I see it. Although I don't seem to be able to spell it out right now... CD, do you honestly believe that this girl would ever want to read what follows? The tone you are using towards her is not respectful. End of discussion.

This girl is not your daughter and you have obviously haven't got any details on this. From that follows of course that you are in no position to judge her father and what he taught her. For all we know, isnät oral sex a very neat way to prevent teen pregnancy?

"What type of home environment and parenting would produce a young girl who has sex in a public school gym?"

Basically every one in my country, and unless the roofs of portable classrooms are decent places to have sex you shouldn't be surprised. Hiding in the closet and watching your friends doing the deed with willing young ladies isn't a exactly perfect behavior either. Will there ever be some self-criticism on this point?

You are an amazing writer, thinker and polemicist. Please, spare your next 1704 word-post, and especially your godgiven cynicism for some worthier opponent. I know of two young men who definitively should have it coming...

ps. You just effectively helped "lowering this girl's social capital". There is nothing pragmatic nor humane about it. Please, PLEASE, stop spreading this meme.

pps. I am of course saddened to hear that you did the deed with women beneath you after getting drunk. Would you mind telling us what that has to do with being secretly taped and paraded around national media at the age of 14?

chaunceydevega said...


Oh come now. Get the allusion? Aren't I funny!

We can agree to disagree. I was honest and direct and respectful. Calling her a fellatio artist is far kinder than how many are describing her online. Moreover, that is what she is. Be real.

On sex and alcohol. Please stop being hysterical and silly. No where did I say that I got a woman drunk and had my way with her.

Do you want to be so high minded, and likely dishonest as to suggest you never had some wine in you and got your groove on with someone?

That story is about how we all make poor choices at times, and in the moment it made sense.

I appreciate the comment, but you need to be honest, read what I wrote, and take it in context as real talk.

Anonymous said...

First of all: I don't care about what her boyfriend or the other kids at her high-school call her. You are a grown-up. Act like one.

Secondly: I didn't imply that you raped someone, I said that a young girl has been secretly video-taped and paraded around national media at the age of 14. That you compare the pain she is going through right now with the pain of sleeping with someone fatter/uglier than you, now THAT is ridiculous.

No, I have never done any drunk grooving, most probably because I don't drink. What I have done is sober grooving in school, at her age. What is wrong about that? Who did I hurt? Why does that behavior merit a huge post on your blog when you don't have anything to say to the two criminals in question?

What I cannot understand is how you dare compare yourself to this girl. You started drinking and having sex willingly. When did she ever agree to be filmed? She didn't risk pregnancy, she didn't risk any serious STDs (unlike more mature people such as you and me). At most she risked being caught and "losing social capital" because of sexist internet bullies like you.

She didn't beg for your advice. I didn't beg for your advice. Last time I heard anything like your advice was in high-school, probably by the kind of boys who think it's OK to sneak up on others and watch them have sex. The least you could have done to make this post interesting for potential readers was to do something else than calling her a whore in style she won't bother to read.


Open letter to Shady_Grady

Actually it's not ALL heterosexual men who are the scourge of the Earth. I just pretend to think that so the straight guys of your kind will leave me alone.

chaunceydevega said...

@Anon. I am patient.

You aren't alone in harping about who I chose to write my letter too.

I have a solution: write your own post in your own style on your own site addressing the issues you wish I had engaged. That is an easy solution for the deficiencies you see in my approach. Go do your own thing and get your shine on, it isn't hard.

My patience has limits. Assuming we didn't already have this convo over at the "run Chauncey DeVega out on rail prudery failed 3rd wave feminism party" at Daily Kos I did not call her a whore, my allusion to my choices was a way of saying hey you made a bad choice, it happens, I sense some upset that I would have sex and regret that they were fat or ugly as you describe them. The latter is your baggage. I have regretted decisions with really attractive women, and some not so. Your point?

As the late Big Pun used to say I regulate in all sizes, shades, and colors. Your effort to put me in a box is a fail. You need to do your due diligence.

I am a sex positive person. If you read my letter honestly you would see that. Teens have sex. Young girls, and maybe you live in fantasy land, need to be extra cautious in dealing with teen boys. That ain't right, but it is the truth.

This will work you up to: I will tell my daughter that "I need to worry about her and I also need to worry about all the slinging dicks in the neighborhood" as the expression goes. I will tell my son that we only need to worry about one dick, his.

I will tell both to be responsible and use commonsense as they are going to have to clean up their own messes in life; it ain't my job.

Finally, who is a bully and who is sexist? You, like many others, really misuse the latter term.

When you have kids, assuming you don't, then you can school them in radical sexual autonomy and tell your girls to always assume the best about the intentions of young boys. Heck, you can even tell them to have oral sex with boys in public places in order to win their love.

I don't have time for such silliness. There is a whole mess going on in our communities, part of it is that we are not direct, honest, and real with our kids about sex and their decision making.

Maybe the other folks commenting on this string can chime in and work with you.

Amber is not a victim. She made a choice. She wasn't assaulted, framed, or the victim of some great "fellatio to make young black girls look bad" psy op by the CIA.

Those boys also made a series of choices. All need to be held responsible for the consequences of their choices. If we taught more of our kids those simple truths then things would be much better in our society as a whole.

Anonymous said...

"Sex offender database time. Is it deserved?"

@CDV, in this particular instance, no I do not think it is deserved that our children, of any race be criminalized for acting out their natural sexual curiosities. It is even more heinous when the child, like this young girl, may already be experiencing the punishment of shame. But then, she may not be. I've seen some pretty hard nosed young women where this wouldn't bother them in the least. Now there are absolutely cases, among teens, where the acts are so atrocious that systems like this should be implemented.

In the interest of being fair, I have to say that although we may not like it, young females are more susceptible to the damaging effects of having sex before they are ready. The proliferance of unwed teenage pregnancy and the multiple baby daddies are clear evidence of this. Most young girls, before the are able to get a handle on their feelings, ARE emotional and reactionary. The fact of the matter is that, with the majority Christian doctrine where women are subservient to men, where the leading shows geared towards children are ones where the fair maiden is rescued by prince charming, where practically every teen-lit book has the heroine emotionally torn by love for one or two male heroes, fantasies of marriage and castles and happily ever after, this society is structured for women to be the fairer, weaker, more emotional sex.

Of course these views can be combated by a strong family structure but in your defense, if I think what you are saying is correct, many young black females in urban areas are not privy to such a familial balance. Most are single parent homes with the mother, who is probably nursing some emotional wounds herself, being that picture of strength.

Like it or not there is something to be said for having a positive paternal presence within the family. They have marketing campaign for such bonds as father-daughter relationships. I've seen somewhere that some fathers even go so far as to make pacts with their daughters so that they don't go seeking approval and engaging in risky behavior before they are able to deal with the consequences. Now we don't know exactly how engaged this father was with his daughter. I suppose the fact that he was there and able to speak up for her is a huge plus but, we all know that it is entirely possible to be there physically and not necessarily emotionally. That may very well be the case here. There was a failure somewhere.

That being said, I totally understand the paternal instinct to empower the young woman to protect herself, physically and emotionally by laying out to her that the real world is not a Twilight movie. That there are going to be young men out there looking to take advantage of her. That despite how tough or mature she might feel she is, she is still dealing with emotions she cannot understand or may not have encountered yet. And the language has to be as tough and attention getting as she is likely going to hear out there in the real world.

SMH @ all the ado over the title.

gordon gartrelle said...

I haven't seen anyone state the obvious: the public nature of the sex is what undermines claims that she's being unfairly condemned.

Why are folks conveniently glossing over the fact that she sucked off a boy AT SCHOOL...IN PLAIN SIGHT?

That she did the deed in plain view makes it categorically different from the case in which the gay college student's romp was secretly recorded in his room & later posted on the net. Had she did it in a bedroom, there'd be no judgment of the girl; only contempt for the boys.

People don't deserve condemnation simply because they slob knob; but slobbing knob in public (school, park, etc.)? They get exactly what their nasty asses deserve.

Monday's Baby said...

People don't deserve condemnation simply because they slob knob; but slobbing knob in public (school, park, etc.)? They get exactly what their nasty asses deserve.

Does that include the "nasty asses" that may be charged criminally for posting the video on the internet?

Again, I'm very disappointed that your views on gender are akin to those of people who have yet to understand Racism 101.

Anonymous said...

What makes you think that I am defending the boy or the degenerates who videotaped this? Everyone's behavior is deplorable.

I'm disappointed that you're mistaking my disdain for victimology & a narrow strain of (slut) feminism for ignorance/sexism.

I am in no way like those who don't understand racism: I have actually thought about sex and gender quite extensively. I just have a principled disagreement with the idea that sexual shame is inherently evil. And I have a strong aversion to treating victimology as the default, esp. when the "victim" is complicit.


What has the world come to when people like me are considered the bad guys for condemning those who treat public space like a porn set? Just because you're a feminist doesn't mean you're obligated to defend every terrible choice a woman makes.

Monday's Baby said...

What has the world come to when people like me are considered the bad guys for condemning those who treat public space like a porn set? Just because you're a feminist doesn't mean you're obligated to defend every terrible choice a woman makes.

Yes, I'm a black feminist. I believe in gender equality. That's exactly why I continue to question why you're focusing on Amber fellating her boyfriend/friend in public and not all involved. Yes, I'm disturbed by the fact that at such a young age, she feels the need to engage in performative sex. However, I also question someone who knows her who would allow/ask her to do that in public with spectators, tape it without her consent, and post it to the internet. She did nothing illegal. Those who taped and put it on the internet did. She was victimized by those non-consensual acts. I don't care how much you want to put all the blame on her. She clearly wasn't the only party involved and did nothing without consent.