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Demanding Respect: A Case Study About Black Female Sexuality in Popular Culture Focusing on Beyoncé Knowles

Authors:

Lea Trageser ,

Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, US
About Lea
Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
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Carson Bartlett

Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, US
About Carson
Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
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Abstract

As our cultural values and political environments shift over time, we must always be unearthing new perspectives and constantly study how our recent past can inform our future. When Lea Trageser began studying women and gender studies, she realized that even present-day superstars and phenomena can be used to better understand age-old concepts like feminism and sexuality.

“I was  finally able to merge three of my passions,” says Lea Trageser, remarking on her inspiration to research black female sexuality. Through the lens of popular culture, Trageser conducted a case study of Beyoncé Knowles and her journey to controlling her sexuality. As a long-time Beyoncé fan with interests in female sexuality and popular culture, Trageser says once she found out that it was possible to delve into those aspects together, she pursued it. Trageser will graduate in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in human development and minor in women’s and gender studies. She plans to attend graduate school to study sex therapy.

Her research is both theoretically unique and familiar, as she applies traditional feminist theory combined with a colorful analysis of the career and sexuality of Beyoncé Knowles. She breaks down the history of black female sexuality in popular culture, drawing comparisons between artists of different races and illustrating how black females can take charge of their sexuality.

Much of her analysis discusses an individualized perspective of how women can personally control their sexuality and how they are sexualized through their artistic expression. “If someone else is in charge, then it’s not their power so it’s hard to respect them,” said Trageser, elaborating on the importance of a woman taking control of her own sexualization and her own sexual expression. Her research focuses on black feminist themes such as queer theory and intersectionality, but what is unique about her work she says, is the idea of reclamation.

Beyoncé, through the production and release of her 2013 self-titled album, reclaimed her sexuality when she created and distributed the entire album on her own terms, firing her father as a manager, releasing the album without announcing it, and filling it with explicitly sexual lyrics and accompanying music videos. While Beyoncé has been largely criticized for her work on the album, Trageser said that her work actually commanded respect from her peers and her fans by taking control of her sexual expression and the presentation of her music.

For Trageser, the topic of owning one’s sexuality and controlling one’s own sexualization transcends discussions of Beyoncé Knowles or Madonna; these are struggles that can be applied to all women. “You can apply this to almost any popular culture industry. Acting, modeling, anything where women are objectified and sexualized,” she said, further pointing out the topic’s applicability to social movements like the Slut Walk and other sexual assault prevention and awareness campaigns.

While Trageser hopes to continue studying sexuality as she moves on from Virginia Tech, she says that she will likely continue to apply what she’s learned about popular culture in her studies, especially since popular culture so often in uences issues of female sexuality.
How to Cite: Trageser, L. & Bartlett, C., (2017). Demanding Respect: A Case Study About Black Female Sexuality in Popular Culture Focusing on Beyoncé Knowles. Philologia. 9. DOI: http://doi.org/10.21061/ph.v9i0.221
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Published on 25 Apr 2017.

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