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Inner Hoe Uprising: Reclaiming “Hoe” and Representing Black Women and Non-Binary Folks

Queefing, sexuality doulas, women in the Black Panther Party, signing up to have your brain cryogenically frozen—you never know exactly what you’re going to hear on the Inner Hoe Uprising podcast. What is guaranteed is an informed, funny-as-fuck hour and change on sex, love, dating, and mental and reproductive health told from the perspective of four Black, intersectional feminists in their mid-twenties.

The weekly podcast debuted in November of 2015 as the brainchild of Sam and Shanika, two friends embarking on their respective journeys into polyamory. Now in its fourth season, the show has evolved to incorporate a rotating roster of hosts alongside Sam (who introduces herself on the show as a “Black, polyamorous, feminist hoe living in New York City”): Akua, a cisgender, heterosexual intersectional feminist who “specializes in all things mental health and all things carefree black girl”; Rebecca, a “fat, Black pansexual whose life is a series of coincidences that somehow landed her here”; and Rob, a “pansexual agender feminist with a fatty.” Each episode starts off with segments including Bae of the Week, Self-Care Tip of the Week, Fuck Me, and Fuck You (the last two of which delve into the hosts’ and listeners’ sex stories, respectively). Then, the team either delves into a conversation with an expert guest or a topic that the hosts have thoroughly researched, using sources from JSTOR to The Shade Room. This month, they’ve launched a series called Polyga-May, which sees them providing a 360 perspective of polyamory and ethical non-monogamy, and up next is Big People Season, all about size and sexuality.

As we chat, what’s most notable about the Inner Hoe Uprising team—apart from their mission to recognize all identities, especially those that often go unheard—is that they’re a normal group of supportive friends, joking about running late because of the bus but also gently nudging each other to use more inclusive language (e.g. “people with vaginas” instead of “women”). After all, there’s something out there for all of us to learn when it comes to love, sex, dating, blackness, and feminism; who better to help educate you than your homies—or, rather, hoe-mies?

The following has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Image via Jinyu Lin.

How did each of you come to embrace your inner hoe?

ROB: I embraced my inner hoe when I was around 18. Even though I was sexually active since 16, I had never had an orgasm. Once it happened at 18, it was over. But once I turned 21, I learned to understand my boundaries and safe versus unsafe situations. I left for my first deployment when I turned 21 and I was able to date older men for the first time. That was when I learned communication between partners and being comfortable with my whole body. I also had a relationship take a bad turn and I learned about safety in all situations. I went from a hoe to a smart hoe, you could say.

REBECCA: I didn’t really explore anything outside of being in a strictly monogamous relationship until I was 20. Everything that I knew about sex was coming from my partner, or porn if I was feeling frisky. I didn’t know anything in terms of my own body unless it was reflective of my partner. But I had actually ended a relationship to explore myself and start getting out there and trying new things and people. I was a late bloomer.

SAM: If you’re a late bloomer, what the fuck am I? I didn’t start until I was 23 or 24 years old. Up until when I started exploring polyamory, I was in one monogamous relationship since I was 16 years old. The first season of the show is me exploring my inner hoedom, but I don’t think I was as pleasure-oriented or me-oriented as I am now. And “me now” is not being in a long-term relationship at all, whether poly- or monogamous.

AKUA: I’ve always been a hoe. [Laughs] I started off really early being sexually active, so I started fighting back against society’s stigma and shame of me. I grew up in a very Catholic home—a very Black, African home, which doubled the stigma. At most points in my life I was living this double life, where I was this hoe in the street but also this good girl who read books, got good grades, and went to church. Embracing my inner hoe came around age 20. I was in an on-and-off relationship with my son’s father, and in the meantime would date and have sex with other people.

At most points growing up, I was living this double life. I was this hoe in the street but also this good girl who read books, got good grades, and went to church.

You each described your personal “hoeness” in a different way, which proves that what it means to be a hoe is not a concrete thing. How do you define it on the show?

SAM: On the negative side, which is what we’re trying to reclaim, it’s any woman whose sexual choices you don’t agree with. That could be anything: If she has sex outside of marriage she’s a hoe; if she has 20 bodies she’s a hoe. But it’s also someone who is trying to reclaim the narrative and wants to be sex-positive in whatever way that means to them.

REBECCA: For me, they’re both kind of the same in terms of somebody who’s sexually liberated and whether or not you want to be liberated, sexually or otherwise. I’m tired of the word being used to scrutinize or put somebody down. So we use it like, “We all hoes. Don’t act like you not a hoe.” But, for me, becoming a hoe was not being ashamed of the things I wanted to do but felt like I couldn’t—like, “I can’t wear this, I can’t talk to this person that way, I can’t just be outright and say, ‘Hey, I wanna fuck you.’” And I’ve done all those things. It’s been pretty liberating.

ROB: A hoe is someone who embraces themselves regardless of the taboos that society had placed against them. That could be having multiple partners, dressing or taking provocative pics, kinks, or just loving yourself and your body uncontrollably.

I’m a hoe for all these reasons.

Image via Jinyu Lin.

There’s always so much controversy about reclaiming words like “hoe” and “slut.” What’s your perspective on why it is OK?

SAM: As the subjugated group or the oppressed group—which, in this case, is speaking in terms of the word “hoe” as “woman”—we’ve had so much shit put on us that we can do whatever we want in terms of reclaiming stuff. I feel like that about Black people using the n-word, gay people using the f-word, and trans people using the t-slur. Do whatever the fuck you want to do. You set the terms for that because society has put so much on you, you can put whatever you want back out there. At the same time, if a woman does not want to be called a hoe or a bitch, I’m not going to call her that.

ROB: To be honest, a guy I was sleeping with last year was angry after I told him I slept with someone else. We weren’t romantic but he was pissed, even though he was in a “committed” relationship. He told me, “You did say you were a hoe. I should’ve believed you.” He used the same word I use to empower myself against me. It’s OK because, literally, I will be called it anyway. I hear that I’m a hoe or whore or thot from
men way more than I hear that I’m a nigger from white men. If I don’t use it to empower myself, it may succeed in hurting me.

SAM: My favorite and only favorite thing that Eminem has ever done is at the end of 8 Mile, when he just calls himself all of those bad things in the rap battle. That’s what reclaiming is. That’s the second time that I’ve used that analogy out loud today.

What makes Inner Hoe Uprising stand out from other sex-positive, womanist podcasts or publications?

SAM: What I’ve heard from listeners is that we use humor really well. We can have conversations about really heavy shit and somehow flip it because I’m a dark-brained ass bitch. Rebecca and Rob can be, too, and Akua just reels us back in. We can talk about rape and not shit on the person who was raped, but shit on the rapist in a way that’s funny while also educating people about rape culture and also uplifting survivors of sexual assault. Another thing that I’ve heard from listeners of the show is that, other sex-positive podcasts are always like, “Now we’re gonna talk about kink.” Sometimes for us it’s like, “Well, bitch, I have a yeast infection.” Or, “I don’t really know what kink is.” We’re just regular-ass people who talk about sex in a regular-ass way. Not like this hoity-toity, “I know everything about sex and now I’m gonna teach you about sex.” It’s just like, “Well I didn’t bust a nut at all and I don’t even know why!”

AKUA: What sets us apart is that our main focus isn’t just sex: it’s gender, race, reproductive health, and talking about those things that people don’t talk about in regular spaces. The other day I was talking about how depression is affecting my vaginal area. And rashes and queefing and constipation—just normal bodily functions that are shamed or stigmatized because we’re women, people with vaginas, and femme-presenting people. Basically, we normalize these conversations for people every time we do a podcast.

SAM: And we talk about the not-so pretty parts of sex, love, and dating. Like, one time I got punched by someone’s dog after having bad sex. That was not great. But we’re willing to share those moments.

Being on the podcast is forcing me to apply intersectionality to every facet of the world.

Since you guys have started the podcast or been involved with it, how have your personal views or sex lives evolved?

AKUA: I always had an intersectional perspective, but it was limited to mental health. Being on the podcast is forcing me to apply it to every facet of the world. It’s changed the way that I parent, and it’s changed the way I interact with my friends, clients, colleagues, professors, hell, the old man on the street: I was just on my way to Staples for some hoe shit—I don’t know how you get hoe shit at Staples—and this elderly man was talking to me. Even though I was in a rush I took my time with him because I understand the intersection of being a black, aged man, and needing that company because he may not get it elsewhere.

ROB: It helped me understand that sexuality is so separate from gender. We interviewed one of my high school friends, Micah, about being a transmasculine person and dating, and knowing that he still slept with men, even though he wasn’t romantically attracted to them, amazed me. [We also interviewed] Zayn, a trans man who found himself attracted to cismen during his initial transition. Sexuality is so fluid, but one’s gender identity simply isn’t a predetermining factor of sexual preference.

REBECCA: I never had a conversation with my family about sex or dating, so the first episode that I did was me, for the first time, saying that I’m pansexual and admitting that I like anybody but cisgendered men. That was never a conversation that I had out loud, even though I was very aware of the fact that I had a crush on girls in high school—I had a crush on people who just made me feel special; it didn’t matter what they looked like or what was between their legs. It’s also changed how much I’m being understanding of other people’s feelings more than just my own perspective because I can’t encompass anyone else’s perspective.

SAM: Talking with these people on the show—my hosts and also the people we have on as guests—has allowed me to open up more in terms of how I view my sexuality. Honestly, it’s been in flux since the beginning of the show. I call myself a pansexual now, but I also call myself heteromantic. The fact that I even consider those terms in the first place, and what I like and what I don’t like, is great. Now I’m also exploring a dom/sub thing and that wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t do the BDSM episode in the second season. In the second asexuality episode that we did, the guest was talking about the fact that sexuality and asexuality is a spectrum and not all people are fully sexual, and I also identified with that. So the show gives me terms and experiences to soak in and look back on what I’m doing in my life. Also, I’m so happy that the Self-Care Tip of the Week is such a central element of the show. Before that I didn’t take care of myself. Alternate Timeline Sam is fucked up right now. She’s not drinking water or eating vegetables.

Who’s been the most informative guest that you’ve had on the show this season?

ROB: [Professional dominatrix] Mistress Unknown. Especially because what she does is so taboo; I showed a guy I was dating a clip and he had so many negative things to say, and it made me want to rep her even harder! She dominated the interview, and you could just tell that she was a beautiful person but strong both mentally and sexually. I felt that.

SAM: Kym Oliver [who discussed embracing her sexuality while having multiple sclerosis] was a really great guest. I didn’t know much at all about the intersection of disability and sex, specifically MS.

What’s been the craziest “Fuck You” story that was shared?

REBECCA: This girl who was about to have a threesome had edibles before she [met her partners at] Applebee’s, and she just started seizing up. It’s only funny because she started laughing at herself. She was like, “Bitch, I fell out.” That’s some shit I would get into.

What’s been the wildest “Fuck Me” story that you’ve shared?

SAM: Recently, my back-to-back throwing up on dick situation.

AKUA: It was three times!

REBECCA: In the same day.

SAM: OK, it was two times! And it was not the same day. It was the same dick. But after the second time on the same dick, I got my period. I’m just full of fluids, man.

What other podcasts do you think are helping to push conversations about sex-positivity, or inclusive womanism?

SAM: Our podcast best friends are Tea With Queen and J. Their show is like ours, but specifically about racial politics. But outside of the show they’ve been fostering community within black podcast spaces. They host an event called #PodinLiveNYC, a free event for Black podcast hosts to meet up with each other and their fans. There’s also QueerWOC—they speak about the same things that we do: race, racial politics, gender politics, and sexuality politics, specifically from a Black queer woman’s perspective. They also talk about socialism a lot, which I love. Bag Ladiez also do very good work on that end, specifically from an Afro-Latinx lens. Marsha’s Plate: Black Trans Talk, also—same type of kiki nature but woke black feminism from a Black trans perspective.

Outside of podcasts, who do you think is doing a good job of doing this in a way that actually is inclusive?

SAM: There are a lot of people who I follow on Twitter who are just on the cusp of being up there. There’s an image of woke black feminism that doesn’t quite get at the nitty-gritty of what it is we need to be talking about. And a lot of people in the spotlight aren’t doing the best job in my opinion. This is coming from someone who goes to a 40-hour-a-week job to get money, but I definitely think we ignore conversations about how capitalism is inherently destructive and fostering patriarchy and race, and oppression. That’s definitely something that’s missing. And also, I feel like there’s never an outright, “Yo, this is fucked up,” because people are doing what I’m doing: They want to skirt the line and forgive certain people who say stuff just because they’re on the same network or something.

What is the most frustrating misconception about sex positivity?

SAM: That you’re trying to fuck everybody out here. When you encounter men who think they know what polyamory is, they tend to be some of the most problematic individuals known to humanity. You’re just always expected to want to have open conversations about sex with people who you’ve never met before. I do it for the show because this is entertainment, but I don’t know you.

REBECCA: And people always assume that you’re super-freaky. Once they finally get into bed with you it’s like, “You’re down to do whatever and I’m just not gonna have to ask permission or ask where your limits are.” I’m like, “No. I don’t want to do any of that.”

SAM: Another annoying misconception is that sex positivity equals kink. The people who actually say that probably aren’t in the kink realm because they would already know not to do that. Like, “Yeah, this bitch likes whips and chains!” But I don’t like either of those things.

What’s your hope for feminism and the sex-positivity movement as it progresses?

ROB: I hope that people really grasp the concept of intersectional feminism as a whole. You can’t advocate for just white women, cis women, straight women, or pretty women. We have to include women of color, transwomen, disabled women, fat women, women who do not fit Western beauty standards, women who wear hijabs, sex workers, women with STDs, etcetera. And not just women, people with vaginas too; people who have periods. The inclusivity is just so damn essential. Being an advocate for sex and dating doesn’t count if it’s only for men, ciswomen, straight people, or people who have “vanilla sex.” You have to understand all aspects, kinks, and limitations, as well as the penalties for different kinds of people, like death for being trans, double standards, rape, and abuse.

REBECCA: It sounds like a fairy tale but if I could wake up in a world where saying who you are doesn’t elicit an immediate negative reaction or shame in who you are, I would be perfectly happy.

SAM: One of the main things that I wish people would take away from the show, and being sex positive in general, is just being kind to other people, even in the woke space. I feel like niggas are mad mean! And this is coming from a mean person. Just let people rock.

AKUA: My hope for the sex positivity movement is that it becomes a macrocosm of what we’re doing on Inner Hoe Uprising.

REBECCA: Our show represents what we want sex positivity to be because the four of us are all completely different in a lot of ways. That’s why we introduce ourselves at the beginning of every episode.

ROB: Being transgender, the most sexually active, and being a sexual assault survivor definitely add unique perspectives. I’ve slept with all kinds of people, from racists to sociopaths! Also, being transgender adds a lot of perspective especially since we advocate for transgender people. Having a transgender person to address these issues with relative experience helps. 

REBECCA: We’re all different, and we’re able to sit in a room, laugh, cry, and just bond. We learn from that, and that’s what I want the whole world to be like: Inner Hoe Uprising times 3000, in 2018.


Keryce Chelsi Henry is a writer, editor, and culture-obsessed human who was born and raised in New York City. Check out all the cool things she’s done at kerycechelsi.com, and follow her ever-changing hair color on Instagram @keryce.chelsi.

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