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Triple Jeopardy: Gay, Black and Middle Age (Part II)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Have you ever wondered why all the largest rubber penises in a sex shop are black but you rarely find Black men in those shops? “Jessub” suggests in Part II of his essay that it might be a consequence of the “Mandingo complex.”

Triple Jeopardy: Gay, Black and Middle Age (Part II)
By “Jessub”

I’ve known that there was something there different about my sexuality since very early on — I think most of us do – like feeling alarmed when anything “sissy” came up…I started looking at men when I was very young, maybe eight or nine years old. Later I dated girls and wasted lots of time.

My Mother was absolutely beautiful, stunningly beautiful, but like many women of her generation, she just put up with sex, as did her sister. After my parents divorced, my mother and I became very close, she lived to be 95 and we never spoke of my being gay. She wanted me to be married. She even met she of the girls I dated but I’m certain she knew that I am gay.

Vanessa Williams

What is interesting to me is how many gay men are willing to embrace the very sensibilities about looks and youth that women have been trying to avoid. The saving grace, nonetheless, is that all of us will age, that is, if we live long enough.

I don’t necessarily blame gay men for public displays or being promiscuous because as a group homosexuals have been forced to live secretly. I believe that tension from the secrecy manifests itself in many ways, some desirable, some not so admirable. I know first hand as an African-American that I often have been discouraged by how our popular culture and media driven society has used images of African American men, those men whose presence is more dramatic and attractive but who only represent a small segment of the African American community.

Maybe the black gay male is not the only gay male who is frustrated, but my experience has been that all of the black gay men I’ve encountered are very frustrated with the myth about black sexual prowess, the “Mandingo complex.” They are also frustrated by having to compete with the white male as the standard of beauty. All of this relates to the objectification of a person, doesn’t it? It is what women have been objecting to for decades.

[The Mandingo Complex is the myth that emerged out of the Atlantic slave trade. During slavery, the legend regarding the West African Mandingo tribes was that their men were statuesque bucks, virile, potent, and desired by the wives of slave owners. A “Mandingo” slave commanded larger prices a the selling blocks. Thus the name Mandingo became associated with outstanding strength and intense sexual prowess and stamina.]

It is all a part of the forbidden fantasy white men and women have about tall, very black, very muscular Black men. I also feel that women have a hate love relationship with the penis which can pull them closer to this Mandingo guy as much as they may find him socially unacceptable.

I remember being with a white guy from Indiana who told me he found me exotic. I replied, “What is so exotic about me? I’m American as a hot dog. People are always intrigued with differences, aren’t they?

I, too, find this sort of black man more appealing than I did years ago. I think it is because now my political sensibilities embrace the beauty of Blackness.

I don’t fit into the Mandingo image. I had my own problems..I was overweight as a kid so I matured sexually slower than my peers. In my junior year in boarding school, I lost loads of weight, and after the weight loss experienced lots of attention I wasn’t ready for. The first attention I received was from white girls. But even after losing a lot of weight, I was still the fat kid inside, with all of the reservations fat kids have in spite of how I looked.

I never really understood how people might have thought I was nice looking. Sometimes girls would be complimentary, but I was always suspicious that they were making fun of me. This insecure feeling started to lessen by the time I was fully engaged with men. Dealing with social myths or misconceptions is one thing, but having to put up with sexual myths or misconceptions is enough to send one back into the closet.

When I went to bars while living in San Francisco during the crazy 1970s, I can’t tell you the number of men who gleefully came up to me to ask, “Is your cock 12 inches long when it’s soft?” Eventually I cut that part of gay life out of my own life. I wasn’t promiscuous or especially friendly.

I did have some memorable chats with people. Once at Studio 54 there was this most beautiful French black couple. She was dressed in a simple, black velvet gown with minimal diamonds, and her beautiful husband , was in a Tux. When they came up to one of the small bars and ordered their martinis, they asked the bartender if he could shake it. This very handsome bartender shook his butt. They were so taken aback that we all started to laugh and we talked for the rest of the evening.

Making myself available is still hard for me to do. Going on was a real challenge for me.

Just recently I wrote a message to a younger Black guy on SilverDaddies, in an attempt to calm him down.from his ranting. He was obviously hurt, anxious and angry. Being an older man I tried to comfort him by saying he was looking for substance and intellect on a web site that never promised either. He was grateful for my concern. One of my friends, the middle aged son of a black doctor, said, “If you’re not into ‘thug’ Black gay man, you are accused of being a snow Queen.”

Contrary to rumors and fantasies all black men are not twelve inches long — soft — some are, some aren’t. I played at sports in boarding school because my father demanded it and believe me, some of those rich white boys were huge, too. Back to perceptions again, right?

Loren’s Comments: In exploring the Mandingo Complex, I found this on “”

The reason many black men do not frequent, or do not admit to frequenting, Soho’s brightest and best sex shops has little to do with a deeply harboured respect for women. Nor is it to do with strict morals drummed into their heads by an older generation. The real reason is less noble and goes much deeper than one would expect. The simple fact is that sex shops sell sexual aids. And a sexual aid is the last thing that a black man needs if he is suffering from the latter stages of the Mandingo Complex.

To read the rest of this article on the “Mandingo complex,” click here.

Here is another interesting link about how African American men combat the stereotype: Black Men Quietly Combating Stereotypes

2 Responses to “Triple Jeopardy: Gay, Black and Middle Age (Part II)”

  1. Dan Collier says:

    Fascinating series of articles; fascinating and sensitive and powerful.

    As an aging gay w/m who didn’t come out until I was in my mid-forties, the entire issue of interracial dating intrigues me. I dated women through college, my twenties and into my mid-thirties. Until I finally uttered the three fateful words to myself: “I am gay.” Probably 80% of the women I dated in those years were Black. And by the time I was in my late twenties, I dated only Black women.

    When I started dating men, I realized that I had moved from Black women to Black men. In fact, I have dated almost exlcusively Black men since acknowledging my homosexuality to myself.

    While there may well be some sort of early childhood psychological moment which led to this, I suspect not. The plain and simple fact is that I have always been attracted to people with dark skin. As long as I can remember, in college, when I’d see three women — one Black, two white — from a block away, my eye would gravitate to the dark-skinned woman. Instinctively, before I ever knew what she looked like.

    I am attracted by dark ebony skin and African features. I adore rich full lips and a wide dominant nose.

    There is no fetish aspect to this (at least that I am aware), nor is there anything to do with race play, white guilt, etc. Again, at least that I am aware.

    God knows, interracial dating (gay or het) is fraught with complexities, a mine field of emotional explosives.

    And many of the Black men I’ve dated have challenged me on my desire for the man of African descent. While they might be proud to be admired and loved by another man, there is a side which remains skeptical, which remains suspicious, of a white man’s motives.

    I fully understand this. And, sadly, it will be many, many decades before slavery’s horrible and oh-so tragic legacy has been consigned to history.

    Thanks much for these three pieces. They are brilliant.

  2. Loren A. Olson M.D. says:

    Thank you for you thoughtful comments and support. I believe our stories are so important, especially to those men who remain feeling guilty and conflicted.

    I have not addressed interracial relationships, mostly because I would be writing about something about which I know very little.

    What you have written about Black men not trusting your intentions and sincerity reminds me some of how older men feel about younger men who are attracted to older men albeit much more complex because of the understandable resistance most Black men have to self-identifying as gay. Until I heard K. D. Alston’s story, I did not understand how the roots of that date back to our painful history of slavery.

    Thanks again.

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