Beyond Mapplethorpe

I admit I’m no stranger to depicting muscular black men (including those with albinism) but upon drawing fat black men (and skinnier ones), I realise the real reason why the likes of Robert Mapplethorpe are so troubling. Or at least one of the real reasons in that the black men as promoted by these white photographers are almost always othered. Almost always confirming to a singular stereotype.

That is muscular, nearly expressionless (or often seductive), barely making eye contact and tall. There’s nary any room for expressive (including expressively sad) black men, let alone their less fit (read fat or even really skinny) counterparts. Or for another matter, bothering to shoot black men with smaller penises. Keep in mind that it does in fact happen.

But the over-obsession over black penises is frankly disgusting and why some black gay men have issues with it. I did give into those stereotypes but once I ended up gradually countering them, I came to understand the problem more. Comes to think of it, if it’s not impossible to find Asian men attractive* then it shouldn’t be impossible to consider that not all black people fit the expected ‘black man’ template to whatever extent.

Black people can be really pale, short, fat, thin and even have small penises. None of these are impossible but that involves seeing them as people. Something I myself struggled with it and am coming to terms with this. These don’t make black people any less black but that necessitates seeing them as people.

*It does in fact happen, most especially when it comes to Chinese men marrying Ukrainian and Russian women as well as Chinese men siring illegitimate children in Uganda, Ghana and Kenya and white women having sex with Balinese male prostitutes and historical reports of white women being attracted to Filipino men, marrying Asian men and Sessue Hayashikawa being a sex symbol.

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