Having to write this at all is frustrating to say the least. But, heterosexual sex is not the only kind of sex. Not only that, it isn’t a tool that should be leveraged to secure anyone’s civil rights. And, even though actress, singer, producer, and Black girl from the future Janelle Monáe recently suggested otherwise in her 2017 Fresh Faces interview with Marie Claire, “respecting the vagina” is not synonymous with respecting women or our rights.

Specifically, Monáe is quoted in the May 2017 edition of the magazine as saying,

People have to start respecting the vagina. Until every man is fighting for our rights, we should consider stopping having sex. I love men. But evil men? I will not tolerate that. You don’t deserve to be in my presence. If you’re going to own this world and this is how you’re going to rule this world, I am not going to contribute anymore until you change it. We have to realize our power and our magic. Because I am all about black-girl magic, even though I’m standing with all women. But this year? This year, I am so carefree black girl.


Monáe is one of my all time Black Girl Collective faves. But this statement is a major misstep in her usual radical feminist perspectives on Black women, desire, and the male gaze.

Besides the facts that a) not all women have vaginas, b) not all women have or are interested in sex with men, c) not all men have or are interested in sex with women, and d) sex isn’t and has never been codified as a prerequisite or post-requisite for human rights, this framing is utter trash.

In this brief quote, it almost sounds like Monáe sees our  (meaning those people who identify as women) “power and our magic” as rooted in sex organs. In suggesting that she is not going to “contribute anymore” until men change the world, Monáe seems to see our bodies as our primary and most useful contribution.

It reads like, rather than resting on the expectations set forth in the US Constitution as guaranteed by the bicameral federal legislature and the executive and judicial branches, we should look to heterosexual male desire for our bodies to secure our liberation. Thus reinforcing the objectivity of women’s body parts as commodities in negotiating our gender-based rights.

I mean, I sincerely hope she didn’t mean that. But, damn.

If you switch out women with Black people and men with white people, the absurdity of the reasoning becomes clear. Sex – or the withholding of it – is not a solution to inequality, oppression, and the denial of basic human rights and public services to anyone in the United States.

Everyone in this country deserves fair and reliable access to reproductive health services. And, poor and trans women are the most vulnerable to losing them.

The Tweets Just Made It Worse

Monáe took to Twitter to explain the comments late Monday evening.

In them, she pushed back against the idea that women should stop having sex altogether and the idea that sex is a “bargaining tool.” But, all she gave us was a weird word salad that focused more on procreation — also not something that can or is supposed to happen with all sex — than with explaining her initial comments.


While it is cute that Monáe wanted to share her thoughts on co-parenting, they have literally nothing to do with her initial claims that were the exact storyline of a failed Spike Lee movie that will go unnamed here.

Like another one of our faves who disappointed so many of us this week, Monáe will have to take this L.

Women’s rights are one thing. Reproductive health and rights are another. And gendered expectations around sex are a wholly different topic altogether. Until she gets a little more research in on these matters, it might be best for her to take up some other issues.

Until then, I am going to keep on loving her. Cautiously af though.

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