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pursuing the possibilities: love jones as love and erotica in film

pursuing the possibilities: love jones as love and erotica in film

They meet in the Sanctuary where music and words flow as poetic lovers. Meeting Nina here spontaneously inspires Darius to name one of his poems after her, “A Blues for Nina.” But this isn’t his first response to her presence. Initially he seems nervous, exhibiting clumsiness when he knocks over her glass, spilling her newly ordered glass of white wine. After Nina accepts his replacement glass of wine, she returns to the table with her BFF, Josie, and Darius takes the stage for his next response – “A Blues for Nina:”

“[C]an I be your slave? . . . I’m digging you like a grave. . . . Is your name Yemaya? Oh, hell no. It’s got to be Oshun. . . . Talk that talk, honey. Walk that walk, money. High on legs that’ll spite Jehovah. . . . Who am I? . . . I’m the blues in your left thigh, trying to become the funk in your right. . . . I’ll be whoever you say. But right now I’m the sight-raped hunter . . . blindly pursuing you as my prey. And I just want to give you injections . . . of sublime erections and get you to dance to my rhythms. . . . I’d rather dance and romance your sweet ass in a wet dream. . . . Is that all right?”

At least he asks permission in the end.

Who is Darius? Prior to meeting Nina, he shares with his friends a short speech about romance being the essence of possibility.

“Romance is about the possibility of the thing. You see, it’s about the time between when you first meet the woman, and when you first make love to her; when you first ask a woman to marry you, and when she says I do. When people who been together a long time say that the romance is gone, what they’re really saying is they’ve exhausted the possibility.” ~Darius

So from this appreciation of romance to the nervous klutz to the erotically charged poet we have a man smitten by a love jones for a woman he just met. defines love jones as “a strong overwhelming desire for someone.” Our blog post yesterday explores a reconfigured definition of love. With these two descriptions, we can label Darius’ feelings as love – though that is not my first reaction when re-viewing love jones after 15 years.

This time around, initially I think that he is being way too familiar with Nina. Later in the film, his friend Stephanie expresses this observation, warning him, “You move too fast.” And his pursuit of Nina isn’t ringing true with me as an overwhelming desire for her. It’s more like he’s walking some predetermined steps toward her, outlined by someone else.

Of course, this is not how I responded to love jones when it first premiered. At the time, I am totally connecting with all the characters and the story, loving for the first time in my memory the engagement of intelligent dialogue laced with appropriately placed slang and profanity – a perfect depiction of young urban professionals of color. Funny how some things can look differently after a decade or so.

Today, as I listen to Darius’ poem, dedicated to his beloved, I wonder about:

  • the implications of S&M and rape imagery as a means of seducing her,
  • his eagerness for her orgasm only serving to satisfy him and to indicate that he made it into her intimate place, and
  • the female audience being completely enamored by his poetic style.

Is it a sub-culture to which I’m not connecting anymore? Or is it that “A Blues for Nina” really seems to be more about delivery and arousing words rather than overall substance? Is Darius truly a hopeless romantic who, in his sudden affected state after meeting Nina, chooses to be in a less vulnerable place with his poetic presentation?

Is this love? According to the definitions we’ve established, yes it is. Is my reaction today one that indicates that this kind of love repels me? Fifteen years later, I suppose so. I suppose I’m simply in a different place. Perhaps love jones is good for what it’s good for in a certain space and time.

What about Nina?

Of the two leading characters, we meet her first. She’s in transition represented by a physical move to a new home after a marriage engagement that doesn’t work out. Nina vows to Josie that she’ll never make the mistake of falling in love again: “That shit is played out like an 8-track.” Josie welcomes her to the world of feminine cynicism. And then Josie watches Nina’s response to “her” poem. Josie knows recognizes this response and calls Nina on the fact that she’s already reneging on her self-avowed loveless goals. Is it love, as well, for Nina? Upon leaving the Sanctuary, Nina assures Darius that if she recites a poem it will be about more than sex; it will be about love. Nina is referring to the high-standard kind of love to which we normally refer when we characterize emotions this way. Yet her actions tell a different story.

Nina is more like Darius than she admits, at least initially. Josie knows her friend. Nina follows stereotypical female behavior of cloaking sexual attraction in romantic notions of love. She is quite affected by Darius’ very familiar, sexually charged approach. She looks back at the record store upon leaving, though she turns down his invitation to go out on a date. She lets him into her new home despite his stalker-like behavior. Finally, she accepts his invitation to join him at a friend’s dinner party. Later, she asserts that they shouldn’t have sex on the first date, but that’s exactly what they do. Nina moves fast too.

“I see you in me.”

When this recognition happens, it prompts us to explore the possibilities of connecting with another person – romantic or sexual. It’s all love.

love jones – R, released in 1997. (March 2012 marked its 15th anniversary.) Stars Larenz Tate and Nia Long. Written & directed by Theodore Witcher. Distributed by New Line Cinema. Production budget – $10M. Lifetime box office – $12.5M. (source – Note of interest: Box office performance was sluggish until the soundtrack blew up with cuts from Lauryn Hill (“The Sweetest Thing”) and Maxwell (“Sumthin’ Sumthin’”).

love jones is a peer film for Desire’s Kiss because its authentic portrayal of the pursuit of the possibilities of ordinary love, if any love is ordinary.


Desire's Kiss

About this blog series: The “love & erotica” blog series supports the development of the fundraising campaign for Desire’s Kiss – The Short Film. Desire’s Kiss celebrates feminine sexuality and spirituality, based on candi’s book, Who Told You That You Were Naked? Black Women Reclaiming Sexual and Spiritual Goodness and the Judeo-Christian sacred text, Song of Songs. Desire is a nontraditional Christian woman who asserts her independence from conservative views on sex and G~d. The 10 films we will explore over the next five weeks or so come to mind as we produce Desire’s Kiss. We will highlight the love themes (including erotica) in each film.

To learn more about Desire’s Kiss

To purchase your copy of the book, Who Told You That You Were Naked?

To learn more about candi and her work

© 2012 candi dugas, llc

we gotta cum 2! feminine orgasm doesn’t think like a man . . . or act like a lady (nsfw)

we gotta cum 2! feminine orgasm doesn’t think like a man . . . or act like a lady (nsfw)

“I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with liquid myrrh, . . .” (Song of Songs 5:5 NRSV)

The Shulammite is my hero! (I don’t like gendered words like heroine or shero.) Her orgasm represents a full expression and enjoyment of feminine sexuality, a sexuality that is not adjusted to socialized masculine behavior or thought patterns (thinking like a man). Neither does she allow it to be shaped into society’s prescriptive mold of femininity (acting like a lady). She is who she is, in and of herself, created in the feminine image of G~d – dark, beautiful, and so hot for her fine lover that she can’t stand it!

“My beloved thrust his hand into the opening, and my inmost being yearned for him.” (Song of Songs 5:4 NRSV)

If we both cum during intimacy – not necessarily at the same time – then we’re experiencing great sex, what Christian Ethicist Miguel De La Torre calls “orthoeros.”

“Mutuality is a characteristic of orthoeros. It is with mutuality, rather than the requirements of covenant, like marriage, that we ‘gain full security. Only by giving of oneself can there be hope of fully possessing another. . . . Mutual giving (rather than taking) presupposes autonomy. . . . Total surrender, each to the other, cannot be achieved as long as one of the two parties is holding onto power over the partner.'” (Candi Dugas and De La Torre in Dugas’ Who Told You That You Were Naked?)

Now we’re talking – intimacy in a relationship without hierarchy, patriarchy, and ossified gender roles. A woman isn’t adjusting to a man. She is herself. He is himself. They come together as full human beings when the two connect well. They connect in ways that can be transcendent and newly experiential of themselves and G~d. We miss this most amazing life-experience when we become distracted by antiquated gender roles, rules and games.

The wonderful box office success this weekend of Act Like a Lady . . . Think Like a Man, unfortunately, only signals that we are stuck in antiquity. I celebrate its success and I am thinking about what it means for women and the genuine fulfillment we seek in relationships with men. On Twitter, Roland Martin encouraged Black people to stop hatin’ on the movie; go see it and just “laugh”: “All of these haters of the movie @thinklikeaman are ridiculous. It’s a MOVIE! You know, fiction. Do some Black folks know how to laugh?”

I do intend to see the film for several reasons, including simply that I enjoy Steve Harvey’s humor and I’ve read great reviews from moviegoers. Yet it remains a work that celebrates a book which reinforces antiquated gender roles, rules and games. And that is not simply a laughing matter.

Many women take seriously the advice in Mr. Harvey’s book of the same title. Yesterday I read several women’s comments on Essence’s Facebook page lauding the movie, identifying with certain female characters, pledging to change her ways accordingly, and following up with a purchase and read of the book to reinforce her new relationship ways. Mr. Martin and everyone else who thinks similarly, it’s not simply a laughing matter.

When I listened regularly a few years back to Mr. Harvey’s “Strawberry Letter” segment of his morning show, I found his responses humorous with the kind of rings of truth good humor has to have to make it absolutely hilarious. My issue begins with the book and women’s acceptance of it to create the relationships they believe they’ve always wanted. My issue begins when we perpetuate traditional gender roles, rules and games that at the end of the day do not advance the quality of relationships.

If we want to keep the same-ol’-same-ol’, then this type of advice, I suppose, will help us do that. Well, Mr. Harvey, almost guarantees that it will from the title of his book’s  introduction – “Everything you need to know about men and relationships is right here.” (Harvey; Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man)

But if we want something more and something else, as I hear from women, then we need to think, understand, and act differently.

As I study what keeps women from enjoying sex, I find orgasm among the top reasons. The more I think, the more I find that it makes for the perfect symbol of equality in intimate relationships. Pretty much men will get their satisfaction – erection to ejaculation – from an intimate encounter. Women? Not so much. If there is no unhealthy circumstance (physiological dysfunction, sexually related trauma recovery, etc.), orgasms elude women for very solvable reasons. A woman may not get the amount of time she needs to build up her arousal or the kind of stimulation in/on areas of her body or with ways that are pleasing. She may not even know for herself what gets her off. Furthermore, she may not have the ovaries (guts/courage) to communicate to her partner what feels good, where, and for how long. So she takes what she can get (settling for saying she enjoys the entire act/foreplay is more important/it’s not just about orgasm), endures the rest, and maybe satisfies herself later on.

Does anyone agree with me that this is totally unacceptable?

What are we gonna do about it?

Truly, I am a fan of Mr. Harvey’s work. I also applaud him for doing something to try to make things better between women and men since we all want, need, and deserve to be desired and fulfilled. Stating so is not enough. Something needs to be done to make it happen. He is one person who did something.

But we must keep going further and deeper.

Can we start moving beyond conceding to socialized gender roles that leave both women and men stuck in thought and behavioral patterns that continue to leave women responsible for the man’s stepping up and for the success of the relationship?

“He [Mr. Harvey] essentially advocates sexism, chauvinism and patriarchy as truth. He supports, then, the objectification and commodification of women masked as empowerment. . . . Her [the woman’s] call to be prophetic is not only to get rid of these issues, but to offer a better alternative.” (Dr. Miranda Pillay, Presentation of Paper in Response to Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA – 13 December 2011)

I [woman] am not responsible for his [man] stepping up. I am not responsible for creating conditions to force him to step up. I am aware of what pleases me and I am willing to communicate that to a man whom I choose as a lover.

We are more and capable of more than traditional teachings from the Church, society, and family have conditioned us to know, believe and understand.

Are you restless too?

Are you looking for something more and something else?

What are your thoughts? Is mutuality in intimacy even important to you? What about orgasm?

Leave a comment, anonymous, if you’d like.

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(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

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