‘P-Valley’ Shows Black Gay Sex Beyond Any Stereotype

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If You Didn’t Pay Attention, You Could Easily Dismiss The Starz Drama P-Valley like just a show about strippers. In reality, the striptease – depicted as a form of strength and exceptional talent – is only a vehicle to illustrate stories of struggle, love and the freedom to exist. While TV’s focus on sex workers still inspires a lot of pearl, it’s not the strippers who received backlash during season 2, the finale of which aired Sunday. Recent sex scenes between black queer characters on the show have come under scrutiny, even as these radical depictions of queer love continue to advance conversations about tolerance.

Set in the fictional Deep South town of Chucalissa, Mississippi, P-Valley follows the life of non-binary strip club mother Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan) and their flock of dancers. Season 1 introduced a budding but secret connection between ultra-woman Clifford and actor J. Alphonse Nicholson’s character Lil Murda, a rising trap rapper who hides his sexual inclinations as he catapults in local fame. Of course, it’s hard to view a show solely through the lens of social media, but P-Valley is the type of series that inspires conversation about digital water coolers, and while some viewers took offense to the romantic advances of Uncle Clifford and Lil Murda, those in the queer community came to to like them for their representation. It wasn’t until Season 2, when Lil Murda reunited with Big Teak — a previously incarcerated and emotionally charged childhood friend and lover played by John Clarence Stewart — that the backlash came to a head.

In particular, this was Lil Murda and Big Teak’s only sex scene., where the two engage in intense and explicit romantic relationships. After the episode aired in July, comedian Lil Duval tweeted that the show needed a “super gay opinion on the movies like they got on everything else. Because it’s a lot to see if you don’t use it.

“When people comment [on social media]they expose themselves”, explains P-Valley designer Katori Hall. “They expose where they are in terms of comfort, and often they expose their ignorance about the reality of the world. And [Nicholson] stands in a very difficult position, having to leave room for conflict and difficult conversations.

It’s not the scene itself that resurrects viewers’ discomfort, given that the series, until this same episode, features hot and intense sexual interactions between women. More likely, it’s the masterful way that P-Valley portrays the three characters – Uncle Clifford, Lil Murda and Big Teak – who challenge viewers’ understanding of femininity and masculinity. Each breaks stereotypes with a nuance that makes viewers feel uncomfortable against him. Audiences might even have an easier time digesting an on-screen gay relationship between a hyper-masculine man and an effeminate significant other, a la Omar Little (Michael K. Williams) on Thread. Anything outside of this dynamic exposes gaps in understanding – and ultimately, acceptance – of expressions of gender and sexuality that defy convention and expectation. P-ValleyThe sex scenes reveal what is a hot topic among seemingly tolerant black viewers. But culture and entertainment journalist Tre’vell Anderson points out how important these stories are in humanizing queer people “who live and present themselves in the world the same way as Lil Murda, Big Teak or Uncle Clifford”.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to see slices of their lives on screen, including non-binary and trans people,” Anderson says. “We are often just the sassy best friend or the hairdresser. We are not often portrayed on screen as gatekeepers, pseudo-parents of a community, people who are sexual beings doing it like all of you. But as a non-binary black woman, I want to let people know that we have sex too.

Fans also had to come to terms with their beliefs around sex and homosexuality when Lil Murda took a submissive sexual position with Uncle Clifford in Season 2. (In other words, he’s towards, and in this scene, he positioned himself as a bottom.) I love #PValley and I think it’s a great show,” one viewer said. tweeted. “I also feel like I’m okay with the #LGBTQ portrayal and scenes. I will say that the recent Uncle Clifford and Lil’ Murda love scenes made me feel uncomfortable.

“Masculinity and femininity don’t always fit the stereotype,” Anderson notes. “As a society, we make these assumptions based on how masculine or feminine a person is. And we use that to prescribe how people are supposed to present themselves in the bedroom, where many of us present themselves differently from what we are in our daily lives.

The criticism of P-Valleyit is Black homosexual relationships are neither new nor shocking. The Mississippi Delta happens to be the perfect backdrop for a show that challenges anti-gay rhetoric, given how the South is synonymous with the black church and the broad rejection of sexual expression within these institutions — although, as Hall says, “We’re all familiar with Big Teaks, Lil Murdas and Uncle Cliffords.” P-Valley’s presentation of radical black gay love has viewers genuinely questioning their expectations and “everything they’ve ever thought about when it comes to queer and trans people’s privacy,” Anderson says.

P-Valley is some people’s first encounter with people who look like Uncle Clifford,” Hall says. “So if people can move beyond their preconceptions, their biases, it allows them, through a TV show, to cultivate a relationship with someone who is an Uncle Clifford, a Big Teak, a Lil Murda. Art and storytelling can be a bridge for people to have more open hearts and be more progressive, especially if they can’t do it in their real life yet.

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