It’s been forever, I know. I’ve missed this platform but #SurvivingRKelly has brought me out of writing retirement. I originally planned on skipping the R. Kelly docu-series altogether because we know what he is at this point. The cult story came out nearly 2 years ago and that was 20 years after he married Aaliyah at age 15 but the social media discussions were so widely varied, I got curious.
The documentary presents so many issues which deserve further examination but I want to focus on the narrative about the “fast/fass girl” angle. In my part of the African-American community, fast was literally the worst thing you could be or be perceived to be as a young girl. In short, a “fast” girl is a girl who is a sexual being. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, just imagine a less sophisticated but way more problematic version of slut-shaming. I’ve been slut-shamed as an adult and accused of being “fast” as a child. Being accused of being fast was way, way, way worse.
“Sluts” willingly have sex and enjoy it. That’s simple. Not being labeled “fast” was a constantly moving target. As a young girl you could be labeled fast because you wore red nail polish or red lipstick. Any makeup besides clear lip gloss was fast. Shaving anything other than your armpits; fast. I had a friend who wasn’t allowed to wear certain color undergarments because that was “too fast.” Any panties You couldn’t be friends with a fast girl because people would think you were fast too. Having any consensual contact with a boy including kissing before some age that no one ever told us was fast. Being alone with a boy; fast. Wearing clothes that made you attractive to boys & men was fast. At age 12, a relative said that being given a Christmas gift by a boy who I liked and liked me was “fast.” The gift? A tamagotchi . Basically, being fast or perceived as fast was a moral failing, a failing which could also be attributed to your family which was the worst part depending on how narcissistic your elders were. The saddest part about the “fast girl” narrative is it is almost exclusively perpetuated by other Black women who are elders. Mothers, aunts, grandmothers, etc. are the ones who label or threaten to label their daughters, granddaughter, nieces and other girls in the community as “fast.”
We need to get rid of the “fast girl” narrative immediately for the following reasons.
- The “fast girl” label perpetuates rape culture. It is the reason why so many Black boys and men don’t understand consent. It says that only certain girls deserve respect. As a friend pointed out, girls who were fast, were disposable.
- The “fast girl” narrative removes blame from those who are supposed to keep girls safe. I personally know girls who were molested by relatives, family friends or their mothers’ boyfriends/husbands and when the abuse was discovered, the girl was blamed for being “fast.” There was something the girl did or didn’t do that invited her abuse. This is the reason why many girls and women don’t report being abused.
- The “fast girl” narrative fails to hold abusers accountable. This is why a significant portion of the Black Internet is STILL defending R. Kelly. Over the last 24 hours I’ve seen actual Black people call R Kelly’s victims who were teen girls at the time everything from clout chasers/gold diggers to liars. One person even said that young girls should stop being “fast” and smiling at grown men. This thinking holds teen girls responsible for the adult men who abuse. This thinking isn’t just limited to R. Kelly. In 2016 Erykah Badu suggested that school uniform skirts needed to be longer because male teachers might get “distracted.” This is just an extension of the “boys will be boys” notion and it’s up to girls and women to protect themselves.
- Labeling some girls as “fast” and therefore bad is shame inducing. Having a crush, holding hands, being in puppy love, touching, kissing and eventually having sex are parts of growing up; normal parts of growing up. By telling young girls that these NORMAL things make them “fast” contributes to feelings of shame that may follow them for years or even their entire lives. Additionally, telling young girls that their natural urges are “fast” and therefore wrong does not create a safe space. Girls should be informed about safe sex in a healthy way. Telling girls that sex and all things even remotely related are bad means they will look outside of their family (most likely to peers who are just as ill-informed or men/boys) for information about what sex should be. I could go on about the lack of sex positivity in the Black community but I won’t.
I implore everyone to work to break this cycle. Black girls are already policed differently than their White counterparts because they’re viewed as less innocent and older than they actually are. Let’s teach sex-positivity to girls. Let’s teach boys about consent. Let’s not pretend that having sexual feelings isn’t a normal part of growing up. Let’s stop refusing to hold men accountable for their actions. Let’s start showing girls that they can trust us as elders in their lives who won’t shame them for just being.
Was the “fast girl” label a thing in your home, community or culture? Were you or anyone you know subjected to these crazy ass labels?
Comment below and let me know!
If you want to read more about why the “fast” label damages young girls check this out.