"What don't Black girls do?": constructions of deviance and the performance of Black female sexuality

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University of Alabama Libraries

This research interrogates the ways in which Black women process and negotiate their sexual identities. By connecting the historical exploitation of Black female bodies to the way Black female deviant identities are manufactured and consumed currently, I was able to show not only the evolution of Black women's attitudes towards sexuality, but also the ways in which these attitudes manifest when policing deviancy amongst each other. Chapter 1 gives historical insight to the way that deviancy has been inextricably linked to the construction of Blackness. Using the Post-Reconstruction Era as my point of entry, I demonstrate the ways in which Black bodies were stigmatized as sexually deviant, and how the use of Black caricatures buttressed the consumption of this narrative by whites. I explain how countering this narrative became fundamental to the evolution of Black female sexual politics, and how ultimately bodily agency was later restored through sexual deviancy. Chapter 2 interrogates the way "authenticity" is propagated within the genre of reality TV. Black women are expected to perform deviant identities that coincide with controlling images so that the "authenticity" of Black womanhood is consumed by mainstream audiences. Using Vh1's Love and Hip Hop Atlanta and Basketball Wives I analyze the way these identities are performed and policed by the women on both shows. Lastly, Chapter 3 is a reflexive analysis detailing the ways in which Black women process the performances of deviant Black female identities on reality TV using ethnographic methods.

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Women's studies, African American studies