Too Hot To Handle: The hypersexualisation of Latinx Women

There’s a look people get when they learn that I am Latina—a narrowing of the eyes, a slow glance up and down my body, and almost every time, a purred “oh…really?” It doesn’t matter that I’m an accomplished creative. It doesn’t matter that we’re discussing politics, or culture, or science, or history, or art. The hypersexualisation is almost always instantly there.

“You’re Latina? Really? You don’t look it—you must be great in bed,” and its codicil, “Man—remind me not to piss you off!”

I don’t look the stereotype, and I’m sure you know what it is: dark skin—but not too dark. Curves. Push-up bra. Or slick hair, slicker attitude. Wild. Needing to be tamed. And always, always, up for anything sexual—especially if we initiate it.

Predator.

And prey.

The various stereotypes and objectification have long been around for Latinx. The suave and flirtatious Latin lover. The macho gangster. The hot and spicy, super sassy domestic worker. The heat of passion, whether it be for anger or for amor.

Suddenly, in conversation, I’ve gone from being a person to an object, an object being evaluated solely on supposed sexual prowess and proclivity.

Latinx stars dealing with stereotypes

Modern Family star Sofia Vergara—who physically fits the stereotype thanks to skin color, make-up, and wardrobe—plays a trophy wife to a rich, older, white man. Gina Torres, who has darker skin, never gets Latina roles. Lana Parrilla plays an evil queen on Once Upon A Time.

No one remembers that actress Cameron Diaz and original Wonder Woman star Lynda Carter are Latina women. Carter was born Linda Jean Córdova Carter to a Mexican mother and is of Mexican, Spanish, and French descent.

Oscar-winning actress Rita Moreno has said, “If I played a Latina, I always had to be too sexy and too easy. I hated that.” And this is just a small gloss of some of the more public, diverse, faces of Latina women.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong—in fact, there’s everything right—with Latinx women being themselves, just as every other human gets to be—sexual, non-sexual, feeling, non-feeling, happy, angry, sad, celebratory. The issue is the stereotyping—the imposition of how we’re supposed to look, how we’re supposed to act, the erasure of our histories, our gorgeously varied culture and ethnicities, and our abilities.

Not just tacos and hotness

Those of Latinx origin and/or descent can be of any ethnic and cultural mix, whether they’re from lands where native peoples were colonized in the Americas, immigrants brought in as labor (such as the various Asian cultures present also in the South Americas), the slaves (again, the New World), and the marauding Europeans.

Latinx cultures embraces and infuses people of every ethnic origin, religion, and every other “difference” you can think of, all under the umbrella of being Latinx. We are Caucasian, African, Indigenous, Asian, and  Arab. But you wouldn’t know this from what gets seen (and many times read, too) in media.

Despite our vast diversity, it still seems that most people who aren’t familiar with our culture know only two things about us: tacos and “hot”.

No, not hot as in “spicy,” (though that may be there, too), but hot as in “overly emotional” (a phrase used so often to dismiss legitimate expression of grievance), and as “hypersexual.” Which is why I get those looks in a conversation.

We are international by history and circumstance. We are people, with just as myriad qualities, sorrows, and joys, as anyone else. And we are tired of this little box.

PS: My response to folks when I get those statements above are usually the following: a) thanks for showing me who you are and b) I was born in Brooklyn and raised in NYC—it’s usually a good idea to not piss us off!

Artist-musician, award-winning author, and Lambda finalist JD Glass provides powerful stories that allow the reader to rejoice and wonder, stumble and fall, then rejoice again at the amazing experience of being human. JD has just published Drawn Together with Ylva.


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5 Comments

  1. Maritza Smith-Romero 05/08/2017 at 17:42 - Reply

    Thanks for writing this! I identify as African-American and Latina and some people get really confused by this. The hypersexualization that goes with being both has hit me on both fronts. At one point someone I thought of as a friend actually said to me regarding another person I thought was a friend, “she’s really interested in going out with you. She’s always wanted to ‘get with’ an African-American woman.” With those 2 sentences I realized I was 2 friends short of what I thought I had.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    • JD Glass 07/08/2017 at 20:05 - Reply

      It needed to be written! You know, I’d love to talk with you more about that – I have a friend who I see is constantly choosing between the two identities – and I think that’s an “American” thing, rather than the rest of the world (but I don’t know that for sure). I hate there’s any confusion – because that’s what I LOVE about Latinx culture – we’re joyfully, celebratorily, excitingly, beautifully, everything! That’s kinda the point, right? That we share this awesome history and culture, and even with that, we have these glorious, unique, things to add in to it, like being Asian, or African, or any other number of amazing ingredients to add to the whole mix! And man, while I actually empathize with how much that sucks (I’ve been objectified when people find out I’m Latina, and I HATE that), at least you’re smart enough to realize neither of those folks were anything resembling friends. For that – I send you a hug, because it hurts and it sucks. Luckily, and maybe hopefully, there are more people than not that recognize that these are rich cultural aspects of who we are, not just merely our “selling points.”

  2. Cristina 06/08/2017 at 04:02 - Reply

    Sidenote about Sofia Vergara: The native Columbian’s hair is naturally blonde. She didn’t get offered many roles in the US until she dyed her hair. Some casting folks told her she didn’t appear Latina enough. Her own words: “It didn’t match the Hollywood stereotype for a Latina woman.”

    • JD Glass 07/08/2017 at 20:08 - Reply

      Thank you for noting that – I did see that somewhere, but couldn’t remember where, so I didn’t quote it.

  3. Liz McMullen 08/08/2017 at 17:26 - Reply

    Great blog, JD Glass. I did not know you are latinx. Though the knowledge doesn’t immediately make me want to check out the goods or start some drama. I’ve always been a fan of your intellect and humor, even before I met you, even when I only knew you through the books you have written.
    I’ll tell you what JD, I’m shocked and dismayed that someone would toss all your amazing intellect and talent out the window to fetishize you. Their fuckin’ loss. smh.
    Growing up and coming out I tended to meet and hang out with latinxs for something I saw as a big positive, literally being comfortable in my skin at parties and amongst friends. I tended to go to parties (JD knows this but for those of you who don’t, in NYC there were more roving parties that often at different locations with the exception of Henrietta Hudson and the now closed Escuelita) where it was okay to be big, to take up space, and live life however I chose to live it. I found this in both latin and hip hop nights/clubs.
    One of the most empowering moments of my life was inspired by my high school best friend Cindy sticking up for me. It was actually in a car on the way home from her quinceanera. It blew my mind, I had been bullied most of my life and never really stood up for myself. What I learned later was when I stepped up, bullies stepped back. I can’t thank her enough.
    I met my spouse at a latinx party where I was reading tarot cards. I never thought to fetishize the cultural background of my friends, since I didn’t enjoy that attention myself, but I found a home I was longing for all my life, amongst a diverse group of people.

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