Curious Squid's last Diary entry sent me down the rabbit hole of googling "anal bleaching." While I had thought about the attractiveness of my ass in terms of relative smoothness and firmness, I had never even contemplated that it might be discolored, thereby adding to the many strikes that would keep someone from wanting to get some of that ass. The word "bleach" made me wonder if black folks did this.
This essay, Black Skin/White Ass , by Fumi May, a black gay man from Johannesburg, drew my attention with its shout out to Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks. I've excerpted it liberally here, but the whole thing is well worth a read, because it starts out lighthearted and then gets real. Let's keep it on the back end [Heh], so don't mainpage this. Ordinarily I wouldn't imagine it getting MPed, but it's been a real dick party across GawkerMedia this week. Likewise, if it crossing a line, I'll delete it.
The first time I ever heard of anal bleaching was in a seedy leather bar in the depths of inner-city Johannesburg. A place furnished with leather slings and lit by television monitors beaming porn like flashing strobes, with the smells of lubricant and cum commingling in a heavy, sweaty mix. There I was, on the outer reaches of conventional morality, without a clue as to what could be done to the inner reaches of the human body.
He strikes up a flirtation with a white South African named Paul who tells him that people of all colors are enhancing their attractiveness by anal bleaching and shows him on a video monitor a porno featuring a gay with a bleached ass.
As an enthusiastic and long-standing homosexual, I have seen my fair share of asses, and yet I had never encountered this preference before. I'm not sure I even understood it. At the time, I had just started shaving my pubes, after impolite remarks from strangers as to whether I was vying for a world record for the largest man-made forest. (My reaction was usually to point out that that was an impossibility: Johannesburg currently held that title and as a size twenty-eight twink, I wasn't unseating an entire city any time soon.) The words had their effect, however; eventually I got myself some hair-removal cream – and I have been as smooth as the day I was born ever since. It hasn't been easy. The creams have had their effect as well, and I have painfully learnt that the cost of a smooth groin is constant itchiness and all sorts of ungainly bumps. What's a man to do these days? It wasn't enough that I had risked in-grown hair, all manner of infection, and death by toxic vapour in the quest for pubic beauty. No. Apparently I would now have to turn my ass into a pretty pattern that anyone but me could see.
He goes to google late one night (as one does) and finds a Jo'burg supplier who he calls the next morning:
"Hello, I'm interested in your anal bleaching service. Can you please tell me more about it?"
"I'm sorry, what?" she said, sounding a little flustered.
"I've been reading up on anal bleaching and I came across an article where you were listed as the sole supplier of this product, so I was wondering if I could come in for a session. It says here that the first application is usua…"
"I'm sorry, I don't have a clue what you're talking about," she said, cutting me off.
He got MUCH further into that conversation than I could have.
After doing more research, he discovers that the active ingredient in the bleaching cream is hydroquinone, known to black people the world over as the key ingredient in the skin lightening/"brightening" creams used wherever you find people of color. Part of the fortune of Madame C.J. Walker, the first black female self-made millionnaire was made from creams to "even out" black skin tone. The "black is beautiful" movement greatly reduced the use of these dangerous creams in the US, but it's still an active issue in many countries. You might remember the Dencia/Lupita Nyong'o "Whitenicious" (blech) debate several months ago.
In medicine, they call it ochronosis, which sounds both ominous and archaic. It's an unfamiliar word among my set, but the underlying sentiment is widespread and well-known: for black people in South Africa, we know it as the quest to elevate to a different race and a better place. We know it as the indoctrination of black women – and more than a few black men. I hadn't even begun my treatment for ultimate anal beauty and I was already feeling sick.
This is getting long, so I'll just say that he finally locates a salon in Cape Town that provides "intimate grooming" and, in his quest to get at the culture of anal bleaching as it relates to POC, he ends up getting the most perfect and expensive haircut of his life as well as some disquieting realizations about beauty.
As it turns out, we've all been knocking on the wrong door [OG= heh heh: "knocking on the wrong door," get it], and I don't mean just black South Africans. Across Latin America, Asia and, of course, Africa, skin-lightening is an absolutely booming business. Native shame may be the least charming colonial hangover of them all, but it works like a charm at the retail till. I even read reports of a certain 'Clean and Dry Intimate Wash' from India – because, after all, what Indian women need most is a way to lighten their dark vaginas – and the hangover turned into a splitting headache. In the course of my investigations, a friend of mine said, in jest, "Why don't you use Lemon-Lite?" Lemon-lite was a famed skin-lightening product I last saw in my teens. I Googled it and found to my horror that it was still available, with an even wider range of products – including its flagship "vanishing" cream.
. . .
My desire to own the best ass in town was finally thwarted by three things: decision fatigue, murky politics, and the disquieting possibility that I might not be the first black man in town with a white ass.
So BackTalkers [heh, heh], how's that ass?