Q: How does it feel to be a sex symbol? Does it make you feel uncomfortable?
A) I always get asked this question and I never have a real satisfactory answer. I don't know what it feels like to be a sex symbol, I woke up in the morning and I see the same face. But I will say this, and I've said this in the press, back men, we're never called 'sexy' you know what I mean? We're not called "sexy", we're called "athletic" we're called "intense" we're described as being the "strong type" the "silent type" we're never really described as the sexy, you know what I mean?
Q) You think so?
A) In general. there's a real generalization to what I'm saying. Sexy doesn't apply to black men in a script. They'll never say "a sexy black man" it'll say "a muscular black man", "an intense black guy" or "good looking". In that case the word has been thrown at me a few times and i'll own it. If it gives me and other black men another definition, all right.
Transcribed from this interview with Idris Elba
This is an important statement on the subject of race in modern media, that writers continue to write around calling a black man 'sexy', that black men are not seen as sex symbols that often in modern society is a disservice to society and changing the impression of black men everywhere. Time and time again, thieves and thugs are portrayed as black men. Or writers go the complete opposite and make them into police and detectives but as a statement of what the black man represents, it's not as often the leading hero who's supposed to be seen as an object of desire.
This is possible a hold over from early American culture when white people were afraid that the 'black stallion' of a man was going to take his white woman. This is something that needs to be changed in modern media, that the black male (and female to be honest) isn't just a sexual deviance, that the black male is just to prove a white character isn't racist, but the black male needs to be seen as a sexual being and as a sexual object.
I recently started watching Sidney Poitier movies and there is the criticism of him in movies being seen as a non-sexual being, he's a castrated black man and it's true. His characters were rarely given a romantic drive or interest. Even in Guess Who his character was fairly chaste in his affections to his girlfriend/fiance (I've forgotten which). I believe it's time that the black male be given the opportunity to be a sex symbol. The black man is attractive and not in the weird fetishized fashion that he seems to exist in where he's the dangerous or faring romantic option. He needs to be sexy for his brain, for his body, for existing.
I have a tag on my tumblr called 'Black Man Appreciation Post' (or BMAP) which I've reblogged attractive men, either because of the clothes they're wearing (I appreciate the well dressed man) or look at their bodies. I find the same things attractive across different races, but I wanted black men to stand out, it they're so rarely featured in model sets and I think some of what Idris said is part of it. The black man needs to be seen as sexual being in and of himself and not because of how 'exotic' he is to non black audiences.
Perception needs to change and how attraction is accepted needs to be changed. You can find a body attractive and it doesn't have to change your sexuality. You can appreciate a body and it doesn't have to affect your sexuality or your interests. Being open to understanding that just because someone doesn't fit what you think you should be attracted to but you appreciate aspects of them doesn't reflect poorly on you is a good step to make. I like men, I pretty much explicitly like men, but I accept there are female body types that I can appreciate. Does it change my appreciation and attraction to men? No in the least and fuck that 'all women are bisexual' bullshit. All people fall somewhere on the continuum between homosexuality and heterosexuality, the difference is acceptance of where you fall and what you accept about yourself. But this isn't about sexuality, this is about races being seen as sexual objects and not just a deviance from 'the norm'.