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Mother, may I? Do our young people even still play this childhood game today? Does anyone remember with me, the tensely focused anticipation of making it to the leader first so we could have our turn at possessing the power – the power to command the progress of the masses to the “front of the line?” (Read more here if you’ve never heard of “Mother, May I?”)


I’ve been a bit preoccupied this spring with rape. Yes, I’ve been thinking about this post for two full months. My preoccupation began when I watched Zerlina Maxwell’s appearance on the Melissa Harris Perry Show. I was horrified and astonished that Ms. Maxwell received death and rape threats because she stated on FOX News that we have to teach men how not to rape in order to prevent such assaults on women in the future. And for this very simple and rational solution she is so violently threatened? Really? I don’t understand how we get from A to B on this one. (See Ms. Maxwell on MHP here.)

Then Olivia Pope and President Grant shared a passionate, quite aggressive sex scene in a White House IT closet which triggered very visceral responses from black women on social media. Their responses to this scene essentially equated it with rape.

Finally black women were up in arms again after seeing Tyler Perry’s Temptation. Several sistahs cried, “Rape!” upon seeing Harley persist in his desire beyond Judith’s expressions of “no.” (None of the online clips of this scene on Harley’s private jet include the critical moments of her persistent resistance.) I heard their voices articulating what they experienced as a viewer; however, after I saw the film, I resisted characterizing it as rape.

And I struggled with my resistance. To me, “no” has always meant “no” – unequivocally – even, as a friend of mine put it, if “no” means “not yet.” To me, rape has always meant a conclusive violation of any form or stage of “no.” After several conversations with friend-colleagues, I determined that in the moment of watching the scene on the plane we audience members don’t have enough information to decide whether it’s rape or not. Mr. Perry fails to do what Shonda Rhimes has done twice now in “Scandal,” with meticulous intentionality I presume. Each time Fitz (President Grant) asserts his desire for Olivia and she pushes him away, he retreats. Pause. Then it’s quite clear that Olivia resumes the encounter by going to him.


So, now I’m left with more questions. What is the genesis of our gendered hierarchal culture that persists across our world in most nations? When did men’s power over women start and how has it remained intact decades after efforts like the United States’ Suffrage and Equality Movements? How is it that in 2013 we continue to tolerate a rape culture while misconstruing a woman’s agency to engage in whatever kind of sexual encounter she chooses?

In westernized Christianity, certainly, we can point to traditional interpretations of one of the creation narratives to determine that women are ordained to be ruled over by men because G~d created the first woman from the side of the first man. However, there are other cultures to consider in answering my globally posed questions. Perhaps it is simply about power and control . . . and the fear of losing it.

Over Mother’s Day weekend, I had a few more conversations with family and friends. Young adult family members studying philosophy and other such subjects in college challenged their elders to our thoughts on racism, sincerely asking if we’re not perpetuating the problem as black people by persistently pointing it out all the time. “Everything is not about race,” they insisted. At the end of the day, we found common ground around the notion that it’s all fundamentally about power. I can say that I left the conversation agreeing with the young scholars that, indeed, we are distracted by race when we ought to work on resolving humanity’s power issues.

Then I spoke with a friend about how it is that certain groups are more successful than others in assuming (via conquest) power and keeping it. Essentially he suggested that it’s a confluence of circumstances. The group in power simply had some kind of advantage – physical strength, more formidable weapons, etc. – and then, over time, their experience in power becomes an advantage as well. Prolonged power becomes privilege and an ingrained sense of entitlement. That’s how men rape, how they assert themselves with women without the slightest notion that they require . . .


SIDEBAR: I have to say a word about how I sense that women with conservative, traditional religious values contribute to our gendered hierarchal (rape) culture. While I agree with Ms. Maxwell that it is absolutely not my responsibility to carry a gun on my dates in case I’m sexually assaulted – I assert that it is my responsibility to create a rational, balanced approach to heterosexual gender relations. I cannot claim the man is the head of my house and my equal at the same time. I cannot be the damsel in distress waiting for his salvation and his equal at the same time. I contribute to an anti-rape culture when, within my own sphere of influence, I create a person within my femaleness who is a self-actualized human being in which {healthy} men recognize agency, autonomy, authority, compatibility and the necessity of permission rather than the urge to overpower and control.

We’ve forgotten the lessons of simple childhood games, I suppose, lessons which teach that power and control are meant to be shared in community. The ones aspiring to leadership must actually reach the places of power one day

and, in turn, guide others to take the reins from them while caring well for the ones who made their leadership possible as they retreat and allow themselves to be guided once again.

Mother, may I?

the cdllc calendar

Current Events

Who Told You That You Were Naked? on Respect My Hustle Radio – TOMORROW, 1p EDT – candi sits down with -72- to discuss her book and how the Black church’s tradition of virtual silence regarding sexuality adversely affects the Black woman’s self-understanding as a sexual being. Catch us on 1100 AM Radio (Atlanta, GA). (Click here for live streaming.) Call in to the show at 404.603.8770.

Upcoming Events

“Urban Grind Book Club & Signing” – June 9th, 5p (every 2nd Sunday), Urban Grind Coffeehouse, Atlanta, GA  – Featuring books (fiction & non-fiction) and their authors, as a community that loves to read, write, and discuss interesting literary work. Look for more information soon on June’s authors. Interested authors should email me (facilitator) at to register for future dates.

Recent Events

“Single, Saved & Sexin’: The Redux” – In March, I revisited the renowned Crunk Feminist Collective (CFC) post, “Single, Saved & Sexin’” with Dr. Brittney Cooper (Crunktastic), Rev. Arabella Littlepage and Rev. Theresa Thames. What an affirming evening! “Awesome! So many points and so well connected to self-care, self awareness and the black woman’s body. Our female spiritual leaders can help guide us in a direction that creates healthy relationships.” ~Anacostia Yogi If you missed it, check us out here.

Annnd . . . More Thoughts for Our (re)Consideration

© 2013 candi dugas, llc

tell the church 2 butt out?

Or any community of faith/belief? What is the Church’s role in our lives, especially in our bedrooms (or wherever we engage in sex)? What is it that it’s supposed to be doing with and for the people – within or beyond its walls?

“The Church needs to remember its boundaries when it comes to getting into people’s lives.”

Even I was shocked to hear this powerfully fervent declaration from a third-year seminary student attending the public presentation of my doctoral research. I’d asked the audience’s thoughts about traditional Church teachings that support a familiar adage, “A man won’t buy the cow if he can get the milk for free.” That was her response.

What’s the Church’s place, then, in our lives?

Until I read Hunting the Divine Fox: Images and Mystery in Christian Faith by Robert Farrar Capon, I’d never given its role that much thought. I accepted whatever my family and Sunday school teachers taught me. As I grew, I had my issues with the Church, but I suppose I thought they were my own to work out. I’d never considered that the Church may be operating in ways beyond G~d’s intention or its authorized reach. From Capon’s work I began to agree that the only thing the Church ought to be doing is helping to point people toward G~d. That’s all.

If this is the boundary, then all the preaching, teaching, and other activities that condemn and cajole unmarried people into celibacy and abstinence are misplaced. These are decisions people need to make for themselves. The Church should supply them with the necessary [objective] information and tools to make their own choices, be available to listen, discuss, etc. – if requested – and then – “butt out.” Huh? How well would this ideology sit with the church leaders you know? 😉

As Christians we tend to refer to Yeshua’s (Jesus) examples. Soooo . . .

What did Yeshua say?

Yeshua taught kin-dom principles.  Then he empowered individuals by affirming that it was their faith and their choices which created the healing, peace, etc. that they sought. “Do you want to be well?” “Daughter, your faith has made you whole.” The deciding factor was not the establishment’s [Church] self-wielding authority – nor the individual’s allegiance to it.

In his sermon Sunday (3.11.12), “The Fractals of our Faith,” Rev. David Anderson Hooker celebrated the crumbling of two establishments under their own weight – the penal institution and the American education system. If they crumble, he argued, then we get a chance to rebuild them. There is no renovation; they are beyond repair. Hooker added, “And the Church is dying on the vine.” I don’t disagree with this metaphor, but the image I see is more like the one he painted of the institutions. I see the Church crumbling too, under its own weight of self-wielding authority that has become a massive power machine operating outside of its boundaries.

crumbling church

Photo credit: David Torke,

Honestly this is the fractured and fractal “holy” foundation that supports the people who seek to control women’s bodies and their decisions about sex and sexuality. We can become angry at the voice-boxes or we can turn our attention to what’s at the heart of the matter – our faith, our beliefs, our sacred texts, our traditions, our communities of faith, our interpretations, and our appropriations. Dare we women challenge the Church’s role and authority? Absolutely and only we can do it. If we look hard enough with the right tools, there are plenty of examples in our sacred texts. The Shulammite in Song of Songs has become my greatest heroine, boldly going after the man whom her “soul loves” (Songs 3:1-2) and declaring at the end of her story, “My vineyard (my genitals), my very own, is for myself . . .” (Songs 8:12).

So, I guess, yeah – to the Church – “butt out!”

© 2012 candi dugas, llc

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