Keke Palmer and other Black women deserve to express both their sensuality and sexuality unapologetically

OPINION: There have been a number of instances recently where Black women have faced intense scrutiny for song lyrics, sexy performances, the outfits they were wearing, and everything in between that involves their personal self-expression. Enough is enough. 

(L-R) Keke Palmer (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images); Tracee Ellis Ross (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tiffany & Co.); Megan Thee Stallion (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for CMT)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I take a lot of selfies. 

If you know me, you already know this about me. There is nothing I love more than a good selfie — especially when my hair looks good, the lighting is right and my lipstick is popping!

My followers indulge me in this. They tell me I’m pretty, admire my expansive graphic T-shirt collection (because you really not messing with me on the graphic T-shirt tip. I collect those things the way Panama Jackson collects sneakers), and send me flame and heart emojis. 

Mixed in with those affirming and validating messages, I will sometimes come across a comment from someone who wants to tear me down — either by calling me fat, telling me I’m ugly or making some other comment that’s meant to make me feel “less than.”

It’s par for the course in these internet streets, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying and disheartening. I’ve never understood why people feel the need to tear down someone who is minding their own business and not bothering them. 

It’s a phenomenon that doesn’t just happen to me, however. Even our favorite celebrities encounter this, and I get just as annoyed on their behalf as I do on my own. 

I’ve written before about the way people in society feel the constant need to “humble” Black women. Us seemingly enjoying ourselves and living our Black and beautiful lives is too much for them, and they have to take us down a peg. 

It’s tired, and it’s old, and it keeps happening over and over again. 

The Keke Palmer incident

Darius Jackson, a no-name negro with no claim to fame other than the fact that he fathered a beautiful child with Keke Palmer, recently became the main character on Black Twitter after he dared to try and publicly shame Keke for an outfit she wore to the Usher residency in Las Vegas. 

In a video that was widely shared across the internet, the “Confessions” crooner walked up to Keke and serenaded her. They danced closely together as he sang to her. Keke, who shows no signs of having recently had a baby, looked stunning in a dazzling Black see-through number that put her “cheeks” on full display. 

Darius, aka the “breadloser” in Keke’s house, wrapped himself up in a feelings burrito after the video clip of Usher and Keke went viral. In response to a celebrity news social media account posting the video, he wrote through his tears, “It’s the outfit tho…you a mom.”

Here is where I could go on at length about the differences between the social construct of “motherhood” and what motherhood actually is, but since I am not an actual mother of humans (I have the cutest puppy in the world, but y’all get real sensitive when we call ourselves “fur moms” or “dog moms,” so I won’t do that), I will let actual mothers address that part of the argument. 

What I will say is this: These men will embarrass you every single time, sis. 

Becoming a mother didn’t stop Lauren Keyana Palmer from being a blossoming young woman who isn’t even 30 yet. Becoming a mother shouldn’t stop Keke from living her best life. 

Keke was clearly feeling herself in that outfit (as she should have because she ATE!), and we love that for her, and as Darius soon found out, what you not gonna do is get on Angela Bassett’s internet and try to clown her mini-me. We are very protective of Keke, baby, and as I type this, that man is still getting roasted. 

Good. He deserves. As an outsider looking in, it appears Mr. Jackson was likely more upset about the attention Miss Keke got from Usher. Darius knows he can’t compete with that. He ain’t bringing nothing to that household but sperm and annoyance, and Keke already made use of the first thing and is likely not going to tolerate much of the second, so here we are. 

Keke is going to be Keke. She was Keke before she met him, and she will continue to be Keke. He knew who she was when he let her buy him a drink, and he knew who she was when he got with her, so getting insecure and in his feelings about her being at the Usher show in a sexy outfit is definitely only making one of them look bad, and it ain’t Keke. 

He should step his game up.

And what about Tracee Ellis Ross?

OK, so did you see this post on Instagram from Tracee Ellis Ross? 

Go on and fast forward to the eighth slide. I’ll wait. 

OK, now that we are all on the same page, let me say this: Tracee’s body is sick. She is going to be 51 years old later this year, and she has set a bar for looking good over the age of 50. She is in incredible shape, and you can tell she puts a lot of work into making sure she looks good. 

I stan. 

I stan, but there were plenty of people on the internet who didn’t. I saw a number of people saying “She’s too old” to be posting pictures like this. Others said that she was “sexualizing” herself for attention. 

Let’s get a few things straight here. 

Tracee Ellis Ross is a star. She doesn’t have to seek attention; she commands it. She descends from Motown royalty; she’s been in the game for decades; she has starred in two of the Blackest, most successful television franchises in history; and on top of all of that, she is also an entrepreneur. 

Coming at her because of her age is ignorant. Ageism in all its forms is ugly, and it’s something we need to stop. “Age-appropriate” is in and of itself a social construct. In most regards, we should disabuse ourselves of the notion that we are limited in what we do by age. As my good friend Tony Pierce once said, age is a fakeout. 

And then there is the idea that she is “sexualizing” herself in a photo in which her breasts are mostly covered; you can only see the outline of them. 

Women didn’t sexualize breasts; men did. Breasts are not sexual objects. They aren’t any more sexual than a man’s pecs are. Men sexualize breasts and actively see them as sexual objects, and many of us women have drank the Kool-Aid in that regard. 

Still, the fact remains that Tracee didn’t sexualize herself by posting that picture. Y’all sexualized her. 

Untangle that knot on your own time. We all have work to do in that regard. 

Megan Thee Stallion, Janelle Monae, Essence Fest and India.Arie

 I would really like to see respectability politics abolished in the Black community, but that is not likely to happen soon because in as much as there are many of us who don’t subscribe to that particular school of thought, there are many of us who do, and the battle of the two groups will continue to be ongoing. 

Megan Thee Stallion LA Pride, Megan Thee Stallion LA Pride in the Park Festival, Megan Thee Stallion performance, Megan Thee Stallion twerk
Megan Thee Stallion performs onstage at 2023 LA Pride in the Park festival at Los Angeles Historical Park on June 09, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

The latest strike thrown was by neo-soul singer India.Arie, who took issue with the performances Megan Thee Stallion and Janelle Monae delivered at this year’s Essence Festival. 

To summarize, Arie believes Meg and Janelle weren’t “respectable” in their performances because they embraced both their sexuality and their sensuality in front of the crowds of thousands, and, well  …

It was Twitter user @BienSur_JeTaime who aptly pointed out that India.Arie and a lot of her neo-soul contemporaries made a lot of music where they subtly dissed women who made choices that were different from their own

One thing I do know is the world is full of abundance. There is room for all of us to be the type of Black woman we truly want to be. 

For me, I am equal parts bourgie and ghetto, ratchet and classy, hood rich and just plain hood, baby. That’s the real me. 

For India.Arie, that may be headwraps, folksy songs played on a guitar and earthy scents. I love that for her. Why can’t she love what Megan and Janelle love for themselves?

If your so-called self “empowerment” is rooted in your feeling like you are superior over other women because of the choices you make that are the antithesis to the ones they make, maybe you aren’t as “self-empowered” as you think you are. Maybe your entire house-of-cards lifestyle is deeply rooted in internalized misogyny and patriarchal ideologies.

I don’t care what the next woman wants to do with herself as long as it’s not causing actual harm to anyone else. 

If you want to rap about the colors of your coochie and your bootyhole, go for it, sis. 

If you want to grab women and bring them on stage with you to twerk, PLEASE PICK ME, YOUR AUNTIE, MEGAN!!! I AM WAITING FOR MY TURN. 

If you want to light incense and say things like “grand rising” and “they sleep; we grind,” and drink herbal teas, please do it, girl. 

But please! Stop judging other women because they are not making the same choices as you. It’s exhausting and ultimately says more about you than it will ever say about them. 

Speaking of being respectable …

Women rapping about sex don’t deserve to be harassed

I’ve been wanting to talk about Sukihana for a minute. 

On her Instagram account, she bills herself as “Suki with the good coochie,” and I love it. This is a young woman who knows who she is and knows what she likes, and I love that for her. 

Her attitude and confidence were further affirmed for me when she appeared on Kandi Burruss’ talk show alongside Big Gipp from Goodie Mob and Kandi’s co-host, DJ AONE, but that episode also put something extremely disturbing on full display. 

At the time of the February episode, Suki had just put out her hit song “Eating,” which includes lyrics that describe her performing a sexual act on a man that a lot of the younger girls seem to be into these days (I don’t get it; I’m not into it, but I don’t yuck anyone’s yum) that we older people used to call “tossing salad” back in the day. 

The topic of her song did come up during the appearance, and Kandi’s co-host, DJ AONE, went overboard with expressing his sexual desires toward Sukihana. 

He repeatedly made aggressive comments toward her, openly toward her where he wanted to put his mouth on her, and at one point, he appeared to show her a picture of his penis on his cell phone. 

Throughout it all, Suki maintained her composure, but she was obviously uncomfortable. Kandi, the other woman in the room who could have actually put a stop to it, just giggled and jokingly told AONE he was doing too much but never actually told him to stop. 

I was uncomfortable watching it. 

This is something that happens to a lot of women who create sexually explicit art, openly talk about sex or sexual topics, write about these things, or even do sex work — men take that as their cue to be openly disrespectful and treat them like sexual objects instead of the human beings that they are. 

It’s gross. 

I long for a time to come when this is not a thing, but it continues to be a thing, and what makes it worse is our fellow women who ascribe to the theory that “they are asking for it” through the clothing they wear or the music they make or the things they tweet or that one thing she said in an interview that one time or that time she made a porn video or whatever other excuse they can come up for to dehumanize women who are sexually liberated. 

Sometimes it be your own bitches. 

Anyway, I got way more long-winded here than I intended to. 

TL;DR: Stay out of Black women’s business. 


Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at

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