Forbidden vitalities: black femme sex work and possibilities of resistance

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Danielle Achiaa Boachie (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Danielle Bouchard

Abstract: In this project, I make fluid the relationship between sites of inversion and sites of resistance, emphasizing instances where spaces of trauma can double as realms for recovery. I posit that the white supremacist violence used against hood-based, poor, queer and/or alternative subcultures has the possibility, for those with the capacity and/or desire, to be recuperated for liberatory purposes. My lens of analysis confronts some of the Black feminist scholarship that conceptualizes this form of resistance as forbidden or impossible. I focus on Black femme sex workers, centering their narratives and pleasure(s) in ways that are often invisibilized. While sex work, in general, is criminally devalued and rendered abject, I find Black femdom and the street-based labor done by Black trans femmes as two distinct niches that are further othered and neglected. My work has two objectives: (1) I position BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism) as an experimental playground for Black femmes to not only find (non)radical healing through domination over white cisgender men, but to reclaim femmehood and/or (re)appropriate the category of “woman” as a way to dismantle cisgender heterosexism, and (2) My unconventional reading of Tangerine — done through the contextualizing of still images from the film — expands the cultural tropes of trans femme sex workers of Color, making room for the complexities of their agency and humanization. In all, my methods of intervention call for a restructuring of Black feminist discourse that centers the most aberrant practices of sex work, and I argue for the acceptance of forbidden vitalities. What possibilities of pleasure and resistance can breathe within our wounds?

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
BDSM, Black Femmes, Black Trans Women, Sex Work, Tangerine
Sex workers
Transgender people
Women, Black
Bondage (Sexual behavior)
Baker, Sean, $d 1971- $t Tangerine

Email this document to