Race Play, Black Women, and BDSM
This chapter examines the BDSM practice of race play. Focusing on the sexual performances of black women, Cruz reveals performances of domination and submission in BDSM as inventive modes for and of black women's pleasure, power, and agency. BDSM is a critical site from which to rethink the formative links between black female sexuality and violence; in BDSM sexual practices violence becomes not just a vehicle of pleasure but also a mode of accessing and contesting power. Reconciled by the erection of fragile yet formidable boundaries between the constructs of fantasy/reality, inside/outside, mind/body, and black/white, black women BDSMers engage in an elaborate play of race in the pursuit of not only sexual pleasure but also empowerment and sentience. Cruz examines race play as a particularly problematic yet powerful BDSM practice for black women, one that illuminates the contradictory dynamics of racialized pleasure and power via the eroticization of racism and racial sexual alterity. Race play, as Cruz argues, irradiates the fantasies and enactments of racialized violence (mytho-historically conceived) that sex and sexual performance across the color line recite, particularly within the realm of BDSM.
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