Thursday, August 13, 2009

Please Be Advised: Latina Sexuality

I realize that sometimes I go off on tangents in some posts. For this one here are the things I’d like to convey: there are Latino sexologists in the US, I believe Latina Magazine has reinforced virgin/whore dichotomy by hiring an adult film star as their resident sexual advice columnist, I support AnnMarie as a sex worker, Latina and professional; I think there may be areas in sexuality that may not be accurately or appropriately addressed in this column.

I have a free subscription to Latina Magazine. I was glad that my subscription included the two issues where LatiNegra’s were on the cover (Sessilee Lopez March 2009 y Zoe Saldana for the June/July 2009 covers). It’s not often we see ourselves in all our Blackness and Browness on the cover of magazines that also recognize our ethnicity. Yet, I’ll admit there are other magazines I’d rather dish out $6 a month on, and do happily, then Latina. There is a part of my identity that is not represented through their magazine. You see I identify as a Caribbean woman, a LatiNegra, an Afro-Puerto Rican, activist, educator, mentor, radical woman of Color, scholar, sexologist, fat, lover, and working class. These are parts of my identities that many forms of media, including Latina Magazine, have ignored.

As many magazines do, Latina has a column for advice called “Delores Dices.” There have been plenty of times when I disagreed with the advice given to women regarding relationships, sexuality, sexual health, pleasure, and intimacy. As a trained sexologist, I know that advice columns are good places to start, but they can’t answer all of our questions, or really get to the multiple factors that may come up in certain questions/situations. So, this is a concern I usually have in general with many advice columns, especially those targeted towards reaching people of Color.

Almost two weeks ago my friend and colleague Andrea Plaid sent a tweet that said something to the effect of (and I paraphrase) Latina Magazine hires porn star for new sexuality advice column called Between The Sheets. I clicked on the link and was directed to the story. A picture of a young light skinned slim Latina with brown straight hair greeted me in her pink lingerie. She looked familiar and I scrolled down to read the story. I realized that I recognize AnnMarie because she has been in adult films and I am not ashamed to say that I watch porn!

I “retweeted” the story Andrea sent with the statement “because there are no Latina sexologists.” As twitter is known to work, the story was retweeted from my end and Andrea’s end. My homegirls authors, poets, and media makers Sofia Quintero aka Black Artemis and Maegan La Mamita Mala Ortiz both responded to me. We had an interesting discussion about the choice Latina Magazine had made. They encouraged me to send Latina Magazine my credentials, to write to them, or seriously consider publishing a book!

I’ve thought about this for some time. I went back to the story and saw there were only four comments about the interview with AnnMarie and the new column. The positions were pretty dichotomous; either the idea was loved or hated. My first reaction was hurt.

Why is it that we women, women of Color hurt each other more than anybody else?

I was/am hurt because I know that there are multiple ways to send messages. That Latina Magazine has power in our community with many of our members. How could they not find sexologists in our community? Did they not find my website or the website of others in the field? I’ve shared that one of the things I long for is to be respected and acknowledged as the professional in the field that I am! It’s been a struggle; seasoned sexologists have dismissed me because of my age, ethnicity, or size (to name a few). To see Latina Magazine make a decision that ignored me, us, was the sting that led me to write this post. In writing this I had to move through that selfish space I was at and look at the situation from multiple/collective perspectives.

What message is Latina Magazine sending us when they hire a young Latina in the adult industry to lead a column on sex advice? What happens to the conversations about the sociological, psychological, anthropological, affects upon sexuality? What about when topics such as immigration, rape, incest, domestic violence, abortion, miscarriage (and the D&C that may follow), building relationships and having sex after such experiences come up? Is Latina Magazine setting AnnMarie up for failure? Sexuality is far beyond the act of sex, or of exchanging bodily. The exchange of power, energy, consent, accountability, responsibility, and history is what sexuality also includes (again to name a few).

We, as women of Color and/or Latinas, are placed in and struggle with this “virgin/whore dichotomy.” Latina Magazine, in my opinion, has approached the topic of sexuality and sexual health from within this paradigm. They are reinforcing this ideology as opposed to challenging it or moving beyond it to recreate something new. It’s kind of like using the word “machismo” which has erroneously been coined to affect our men exclusively when really this is a phenomenon in every ethnic community. Latinos don’t hold the copyright to machismo! Yet when we use such ideas and terms we reinforce the existence and misdirected importance. I believe this has happened here with the “virgin/whore dichotomy.” Is it possible to “work from the inside out” to create a change in a dichotomy that generations of people (not just Latinos) have been socialized to believe about us?

I also wonder: Why didn’t Latina Magazine go to the source of such imagery and ask Vanessa del Rio?

There is also a reinforcement of what is expected to be feminine, “sexy,” and labeled Latina. I believe there are more of us that fall outside their expectations than those that meet them. Is the idea that because AnnMarie fits a standard of beauty that is shared by White communities in the US, she will reach more people? Is there an idea that AnnMarie is a safe choice because of her background and profession without regard for her sustainability in the field?

As a result, I think that AnnMarie will not find the support and respect she has earned and deserved as a successful Latina in the sexuality field, and I know all too well how this feels and would not wish this situation on anyone. My fear of this occurring to AnnMarie has already begun. Her expertise is being questioned (which I believe is appropriate to an extent), her character is being disrespected because she is a sex worker (which is juvenile), and people are already dismissing her (which cancels out Latina Magazine’s efforts right?).

I’d like to make this very clear: I’m on AnnMarie’s side! I hope she gives Latina Magazine what they are looking for 100 times over! She’s Latina, a sex worker, and I’ve got her back! I’m not going to play into some hierarchy of “traditionally educated” Latina versus “sex worker” Latina (because many sex workers have degrees, are more than just their job, kinda like you, and are intelligent business people). I’ve worked in the different sectors of the sex work industry and know it’s hard work!

Plus, it’s kind of a tired space to occupy. It’s been done over and over and is still being done. I can’t tell you how many times a woman of Color, a Latina, has used her power over me to keep me below her because she thinks she’s better than me, all because I focus on sexuality. I’m not better than AnnMarie, I just have a different skill set and different approach to discussing our sexuality (I do think my hair is more fun than hers, but that’s another post for another time). Both of our approaches are needed, they work for different communities and together we reach more people who need support and guidance than if we were not doing this work at all.

AnnMarie can probably reach the community I cannot. I can probably get membership into certain groups that she can’t. We are not working against one another; we can very much work together!

I am a sex worker. I work in sex. My form of sex work is not better than or more important than AnnMarie’s. I think I’ve got a lot to learn from AnnMarie about business and I’m sure I can mentor her in some things as well. I’ve devoted over a decade (and the rest of my life) to the field of sexuality and sexual science. During this time, I’ve realized there are not enough people of Color in our field. Granted, it is not the highest paying field to be a part of, but it is one where people have been extremely dedicated and committed. I hope AnnMarie’s column in Latina Magazine helps other Latinos and communities of Color realize this is real work and there’s a lot of work to be done! We need more sexuality educators, counselors, therapists, and professionals trained in the field! We need more now! Learn how to become one.

If AnnMarie is reading this: Know that I hope you create the space and messages YOU want to create for our community without being told what is or is not acceptable. If you need guidance, support, mentorship, or a second opinion you can reach out to me, this work is needed.

You may also follow AnnMarie on twitter.


  1. Maria Lopez-BernsteinAugust 14, 2009 at 1:29 AM

    I gave up on Latina magazine a few years after they started because I didn't like their interpretation of who Latinas are, what we're about, like, think, etc. They were the 1st national magazine in English for and about Latinas and they had the opportunity to show Latinas in our many hues, sizes, sexualities, economic and educational backgrounds, etc. Instead, edition after edition it was clear that what they felt was important was makeup, clothing, and how to be a better lover. It was disappointing. So sadly so, it's not a shocker that they went there for a sex columnist. They don't have the brains to do it any better.

  2. i wrote a comment yesterday, but it didn't go through. anyhow, i agree with maria lopez-bernstein about the magazine being cheesy in the first place. it's like a magazine of air. but yesterday i said "nicely put" bianca.

  3. I enjoyed reading this post. I think Latina Magazine, since they knew you're an expert in the fiel, have consider you for an interview then make the decision. I'm sorry they didn't pick you, and based on what I have read about you, you're a professional in your field. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, pliz don't lose hope. Sooner or later someone out there will discover your talent.


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