10 Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales

Top ten! Whoop whoop! Top ten! Whoop whoop! Feeling good?? Feeling stoked?? In that case, let’s bring the mood down a bit with an Andrea Dworkin quote:

Being Female in this world is having been robbed of the potential for human choice by men who love to hate us. One does not make choices in freedom. Instead, one conforms in body type and behaviour and values to become an object of male sexual desire, which requires an abandonment of a wide-ranging capacity for choice

From ‘Intercourse

Or maybe I’ll share a quote from a Joan Didion novel, between Grace and Charlotte, two women sojourning in the fictional central American country of ‘Boca Grande’:

I recall telling Charlotte about a village on the Orinoco where the female children were ritually cut on the inner thigh by their first sexual partners, the point being to scar the female with the men’s totem. Charlotte saw nothing extraordinary in this. “I mean that’s pretty much what happens everywhere , isn’t it?” she said. “Somebody cuts you? Where it doesn’t show?”

A Book of Common Prayers

Or maybe – last one, I promise – we look to a diary entry by Somerset Maugham, written while he was still in medical school:

The Professor of Gynaecology: He began his course of lectures as follows: Gentlemen, woman is an animal that micturates once a day, defecates once a week, menstruates once a month, parturiates once a year and copulates whenever she has the opportunity.

I thought it was a pretty balanced sentence.

OK, that last quote doesn’t really fit in, its grossness just made me laugh. So it was generally believed that women only had to piss once a day?? Even, with all that paturiating going on, they’re likely to be pregnant three quarters of the time?? I’ve said it before, but olden days were fucking mental and it’s sad to see them go. Of course, as a cishet white male, I’m able to say that. I’d likely be invited to that very gynaecology class, and encouraged to shout “Hear hear!” at the opportune moments. As long as I had a dictionary on hand to look up words such as ‘micturate’, of course.

Thank the good lord that Jazmine Sullivan’s revelatory first work in six years isn’t concerned with such outdated concerns with female sexuality. ‘Heaux Tales’ doesn’t see Sullivan’s sexuality as a damned loss of agency to the superior man (if men are even involved), sex isn’t invisible scars scratched upon the hidden parts of women, and I have to imagine Sullivan pees more than once a day and poos more than once a week (though, unfortunately, it isn’t explicitly covered in the text, and we are forced to read between the lines). Also, I don’t believe Sullivan has any children, so she is way behind with all the parturition expected of her.

The image is missing. It’s a joke. Jeez…

But the record (considered an EP?? Really??) isn’t just some mindless and cheap #GirlBoss Pepsi commercial based on how utterly amazing it is to be a woman with agency. That’s almost no less offensive, as it’s celebrating the bare fucking minimum like women should be overjoyed with not being treated worse, or even excitedly applauding the novelty of things that so obviously aren’t meant to happen, as if women enjoying sex were like dogs skateboarding. No, Sullivan is similar to her peer (and perhaps protégée – Sullivan’s been doing this since 2003!) SZA, in that she recognises and perhaps celebrates her desires, but also outlines the messiness such human needs often cause. She even humanises and explains the urge to embody the tired old ‘gold digger’ stereotype. In one spoken word interlude – of which they are many, but their importance to the general theme of ‘Heaux Tales’ and the naked soul exposures taking place push them to far more than ‘skit’ status and actually end up benefitting the album- a woman named Precious Daughtry says a childhood of deprivation repels her from men without money, before Jazmine launches into the gorgeous The Other Side, outlining the thinking behind such a position, and ‘hoping these titties can get me out the city/I know I’m too pretty to not do nothing with it’. Yeah, I know, I actually quoted the Pitchfork review there, megacringe, I know, but seeing as they named this masterpiece their album of the year, perhaps they’re not always idiots.

Or maybe she does conform in body type and behaviour and values to become an object of male sexual desire, maybe all of her lovers have cut her where it doesn’t show, maybe she does micturate once a day, defecate once a week, menstruate once a month, parturiate once a year and copulate whenever she has the opportunity, whatever, she’s a human, humans do all sorts of things. What marks Sullivan out is her ability to break down and evaluate these emotions, these happenings, these movements, and when her next album in 2027 is a twelve part suite evaluating each of her monthly shits throughout the year, I’ll still be so here for it.

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