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The Impact Of Religion Through Slavery On The Sexual Values Of Black Women

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The Impact of Religion through Slavery on the Sexual Values of Black Women

Black women in America are underrepresented in studies on sexuality and religiosity. This paper will attempt to show the impact of religion on the sexuality of Black women. In addition, the portrayal of Black women in the media and society are negative images and stereotypes. The roles wife, mother and sexual object are defined by the idealized images of the women and effects current cultures of Black women harmfully. The purpose of this paper is to explore how the religion has shaped the development of Black women sexual identity and self-esteem.

There will be three eras explored in this paper regarding the effects religion has had on the American Black Woman. The era explored is the slavery era, in which religion and the sexual values of the American Black woman were not choices of her own but of other males both White and Black. This period of history also brought about the first introduction to organized religion and how it was perceived by the American Black slave woman. The second period in this paper is the era of reconstruction in American history. During reconstruction the newly freed American Black woman now had to learn how to interpret societal norms regarding family, religion and sex. After the reconstruction era came the current era explore, this era is of the modern 20th and 21st century in America encompassing the civil rights movement and integration on to the current assimilation, modernization and globalization. These areas of stratification have effected religion as an institution and continued to affect the values of sex on the American Black woman in a repressive manner continuing on with negative images and stigmas that manifest in the subconscious of the American Black woman.

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The Impact of Religion through Slavery on the Sexual Values of Black Women

The impact of religion on the sexual values of Black women in America will be evaluated using the structural functionalism theory. The social institution of religion is interrelated to the functions of the individual in their cultural and social patterns. The norms learned from the religious institutions effects the self image of the Black woman and eventually her sexual values are affected as a result of the stigmas associated. This paper will explore the representation of Black women's sexuality with respect to their values and patterns learned from religious institutions, media and negative social and cultural stigmas. Religion places the value on sex and sexuality of the female as something to be protected and sinful if done outside of marriage. Black women have had to deal with the norms of these religious values on sex added with stigmas from slavery about the vitality of the sexual Black woman. Add to this the media depiction of Black women in modern society and this has created a negative body image, distorted self-esteem and repressed sexual values.

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome is said to be in the DNA genetic code of the American Black, and that we have in our internal system coding that makes American Blacks scared, dormant and passive. The repeated abuse and sexual assault on the American Slave woman has been engrained in the genetics of their offspring. The systematic breakdown of the American Slave mentality into submission coupled with the converting the slave to forced Christianity allowed the White master to have total control over the American Slave. The master was the closest thing to GOD; the prayers of the slave were only answered at the discretion of their masters. From the early visits to Africa the European man saw the African woman as a sexual being and without humanity because they were not Christians.

According to Pilgrim (2002):

European travelers to Africa found scantily clad natives. This semi nudity was misinterpreted as lewdness. White Europeans, locked into the racial ethnocentrism of the 17th century, saw African polygamy and tribal dances as proof of the African's uncontrolled sexual lust. Europeans were fascinated by African sexuality. William Bosman described the Black women on the coast of Guinea as "fiery" and "warm" and "so much hotter than the men." (Pilgrim, 2002)

Before the slave trade began the European white males had already formed their disposition of the nature of the African woman. Without understanding the social and cultural norms of the African society and that the half dressed woman was natural. Thinking that the pluralistic marriages were a part of a sexual deviance instead of their religious and cultural practices the European male furthered his biased belief of the sexual patterns of the African Woman.

Once the slave trade began the stereotypes had already been formed as to the religious and sexual nature of the African slave. In America the stereotypes worsened with disrespectful and inhumane treatment received from the White masters beginning at the auction block. "Slaves, whether on the auction block or offered privately for sale, were often stripped naked and physically examined...Nakedness, especially among women in the 18th and 19th centuries, implied lack of civility, morality, and sexual restraint even when the nakedness was forced." (Pilgrim, 2002) These were the beginning stages of the sexual repression that would plague the culture of the American Black woman for the next few centuries until present day. These issues of improper sexual morality were further integrated with the Christian conversion that took place during these times. The slave masters had to reconcile their behavior with their religion, and since the bible didn't expressly encourage the holding of slaves it brought about a great issue among slave holders as to how they dealt with their religious convictions.

The accounts of the slaves being converted to Christianity are documented in the Methodist Episcopal Church file under the General Rules of 1739 amended by the founder John Wesley. (Johnstone, 1983) This was in an effort to assist the slave owner with being absolved of sins for holding another human in bondage. This allowed slave owners to convert slaves and offer manumission. The offer of being converting was made but to a slave is this actual choice that can be made of their free will? Although it appeared that John Wesley himself was against slavery and the owning or holding of slaves, it eventually became an issue in the Methodist community in America. The slave trade was a lucrative economic industry in the country at the time. So the capitalist nature of the growing country was unable to restrict the owning of slaves



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