We’ve talked a lot about the HBO series “Girls” around these parts, so much so that many of you are tired of discussing it. But rock with me for a spell.

After its debut, the web lit up with talk about the lack of diversity on the show, which follows four twenty-something friends as they try to figure out their lives. While many have hailed the show as the best of the year, others have bemoaned the fact that none of the girls are black, brown, or anything other than white.

The show’s creator and star Lena Dunham mentioned that she wrote the series from her experience, which explained the lack of diversity, but Dunham promised to add to the cast during its second season.

As the season progressed, all the “Girls” talk seemed to fade, but a new post by one of my favorite blogs Very Smart Brothas explains why there could never be a black version of the show — and it’s not why you think.

Aside from the fact that black and white women often times have different cultural experiences, Damon Young says there’s one glaring reason why a black “Girls” would not fly: Folks are uncomfortable with black sex.

He explains:

These are just three of the dozens of times sex is shown, discussed, alluded to, made light of, seen, and overheard on “Girls.” Don’t get me wrong. The show isn’t just about sex, but it would be near impossible to have a (somewhat) realistic depiction of contemporary young people — even the ones not having sex — without sex just, well, being there.

None of this could happen with a black show. Sure, young black people find themselves in the same type of situations, but if black people were shown having the same type of sex (and having the same type of sex-related discussions) the characters on “Girls” regularly do, it goes from being thought of as “real” and “gritty” and “truly naked” to “nasty” and “pornographic.” 

We — and “we” in this case is “Americans” — have a strange relationship with black sex and sexuality, too strange for me to even begin to expound on today. Interestingly enough, this is true for both white and black America. As much as we complain about the lack of real black shows on TV, we’d be just as weirded out by real black sex. Can you imagine how many petitions would be made if a popular black show had a black female character asking to put her finger in a black male character’s butt during sex?

Young goes onto to explain that the show’s main character (played by Dunham) could never have a black equivalent because of her unremarkably average looks.

He surmises:

Well, if this black “Girls” is a mirror of the white “Girls,” the main character would be an average looking woman. Not “Hollywood average,” but average average. Aggressively average. “Looks exactly like the woman handing out chicken sausage at Trader Joe’s” average.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being average looking. Average has a low standard deviation as most people — myself included — fall somewhere within the mean. But, while there are a ton of average-looking working white actresses, I challenge you to name ONE relevant black actress under 40 who’d be considered average. Not Hollywood average, but “she looks like this chick who works at the DMV” average. 

My point? As talented as (“Girls” creator and star) Lena Dunham is, there’s no way in hell her black equivalent would be able to be the lead character on a show. Not just an HBO show, either. Any show and any movie.

While I’m not particularly interested in discussing “Girls” at length yet again, Young’s idea — that people (including black folks) wouldn’t embrace black sexuality on screen — is an interesting one.

Despite black people engaging in all sorts of sex, our willingness to talk about it, view it, and be open to the idea of black sexuality is still somewhat taboo. While our white counterparts participate in slut walks and embrace their sexual liberty, black women are often held to different standards by our communities (and others who ascribe certain stereotypes to us) that force many of us to keep our sexual histories, activity, and fantasies to ourselves.

But what do you think? Is our aversion to seeing black sexuality onscreen one reason why we’ll never have a black ‘Girls’ or ‘Sex in the City’? 

53 Comments

  1. jamesfrmphilly

    “thank God for Issa Rae” : a black women who choses a white man is not anything to be thankful for

  2. Jessica

    James, why do black women have an obligation to chose Black men and Black men only?

  3. cancan

    Didn’t we already have the black version of ‘Girls’ in ‘Girlfriends’? I wish we could bring that show back, it was truly amazing.

  4. I don’t think that black sex is why black people have an aversion to girls or why their could never be a black “girls” or black SaTC… the success of Girlfriends and Living Single prove that four Black women friends can have the same kind of lives as four White women friends in the same city for one of these shows. the only difference was the network.

    i think the problem with re-imagining girls with color is that while Black women may make similar friendship connections and be all the way raw and real when discussing their sexuality i don’t know many black women who look at having HPV as adventurous or being sexually harassed as a cue to go bang your boss. the awkward situations these girls get in in the black community may happen but probably is not a relatable experience for many of the young go getter 20-something set.

  5. I’m not sure if the guy theorizing about black sexuality on television just doesn’t watch a lot of television, but I’m not sure how he isn’t aware of the numerous instances of black sexuality on television. On nearly every network you can find tons of examples. Watch a few episodes of almost any showtime or hbo series save Girls, and you will see quite a bit.

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