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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It’s Going to Take All of Us….

Power is an amazing thing. It has the ability to change everything from the way we live to the way we think. It has the ability to create positive change. It also has the ability to destroy.

A couple of years ago, I saw a documentary that truly changed me. It started by enlightening me about the current status of HIV and the AIDS virus. I knew there was an increased infection rate among African-American women. According to researchers and medical experts, the increase was attributed to several factors – drug use, Black men on the “down low”, an increase in sex among teenagers, etc.

But the documentary, All of Us, decided to truly examine the subject by focusing on the realities of some unique women, including:

  • Dr. Mehret Mandefro, public health practitioner and medical anthropologist. The documentary was filmed as Dr. Mandefro was completing her residency at Montefiore Hospital, in the South Bronx. She took on the task of researching why there is an increase.
  • Tara, also HIV+ and battling a form of cervical cancer that has required very invasive surgery. She has also dealt with sexual/physical abuse and rape.

As Dr. Mandefro conducts her research, the film records her discovery of the connection between increased infection rates in women and issues such as poverty, education, and of course, sexual abuse and assault. But the biggest revelation occurs during a section of the film with Tara.

One afternoon, Dr. Mandefro separately speaks with Tara and her boyfriend. She asks them questions about specific areas of their lives and who makes the decisions in those areas. Tara is asked first and establishes, by her response to each of the questions, that she is in control. Except for one area – the bedroom. When, Dr. Mandefro asks her boyfriend the same questions, his responses are in total agreement with Tara’s.

In another scene in the film, Tara becomes anxious. She is a few weeks into the recovery process from another surgery – one that has physically altered her cervix and vagina. Despite her pain and discomfort, her boyfriend is pressuring to ask her gynecologist when she will be able to have sex. Once the Dr. sets a date, the boyfriend begins to countdown the days on a calendar, marking the days until he’s expecting to have sex with Tara.

As Dr. Mandefro begins to discuss this revelation with her peers, and even travels to her native Ethiopia, it becomes clear that men, quite often, seek or force control when it comes to sex. No matter the race, class, socio-economic status or culture, men sometimes hold the power.

The title of the film comes from Dr. Mandefro's realization that it was not just Black women who become powerless in the bedroom. It affects ALL women.

What I realized after watching the film is that if we, as men, have the power, we have misused and abused this power. Essentially, we sometimes take the power away from the women in our lives by using sex as a bargaining chip or a carrot…or even worse, a weapon. Sex should be a mutually agreed upon experience, a shared pleasurable experience.

One woman alone can’t decrease the rate of HIV infection and the spread of AIDS. One man alone can’t cause a paradigm shift in the way we men view sex and its power. It’s going to take all of us to do that.

Carlton Logan

1 comment:

Derek said...

Powerful post, Carlton, one that illuminates the ripple effect that abuse starts.