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6 Dumbest Myths About Sex and Latinas

We're not all sexy spitfires or docile maids.
 
 
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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Djomas

 
 
 
 

If you were to believe your television, you'd think all Latinas are immaculately dressed spitfires or docile maids. When it comes to Latino people—especially women—it's as if the TV got stuck in the 1950s.

While these identities are not in themselves wrong or harmful, the problem lies in the fact that these are the only portrayals people are exposed to. Some of us actually like hoop-earrings and tight-fitting leopard-print skirts. Some of us are hardworking maids. Some of us are highly educated. Some of us are sexually assertive. Some of us don't like sex at all. Like everyone else, we're human beings with myriad complex experiences, desires and identities.

Some may argue that it's only TV, so why make such a fuss? A report from from the Hispanic Media Coalition, "The Impact of Media Stereotypes on Opinions and Attitudes Towards Latinos ," found that “the most commonly held Latino stereotypes run parallel to those reflected in the media.” When participants were asked to recall the kinds of roles they see Latinos play in television and film, their top three answers were criminal or gang member, gardener or landscaper and maid or housekeeper. Inevitably, exposure to these kinds of roles will influence real life.

The report also found that although non-Latinos, for the most part, report having regular interaction with Latinos (44 percent on a daily basis), and being familiar with Latino culture (74 percent say they are somewhat or very familiar), only 30 percent say they personally know many Latinos (27 percent know two or fewer). More than a third (38 percent) interact with Latinos once a month.

Impressionable people, those lacking critical-thinking skills and those who don't have any Latino friends are susceptible to these misconceptions. These expectations are not only irritating, they are dehumanizing and exhausting. I mean, how can all women from 21 countries, including the United States, all have the same sexual identities? Let's stop thinking in binaries, people.

Here are the six most common misconceptions Latinas are tired of dealing with.

1. We're exotic. What amuses me about this one is it sounds as if we're rare jungle creatures. I once had a fellow ask me where I was from because I had a "very exotic nose.” (By the way, I'm from Chicago and my nose is my damn nose!) Kat Lazo, a Colombian and Peruvian feminist media activist, shared with me her experience of being the only Latina in her white neighborhood. She says the boys thought of her as “something foreign.” The worst pickup line she's ever heard? “You're the most exotic flower I've ever seen.” Whoa.

According to the 2011 U.S. Census Bureau population estimates , roughly 52 million Hispanics live in the United States, representing approximately 16.7 percent of the U.S. total population. That makes people of Hispanic origin the nation's largest ethnic or race minority. The U.S. Hispanic population for July 1, 2050 is estimated to reach 132.8 million, constituting approximately 30 percent of the U.S. population. How exotic are we, really? Does "exotic" simply mean non-white because white is the default? Fellas, don't ever, ever use that word to refer to anyone. Seriously.

2. We're hypersexual. Because we come from such hot exotic climes, Latinas and black women (please note that some Latinas are also black) are expected to want sex around the clock. Doesn't matter when or where, we just can't help ourselves! Lifetime's "Devious Maids " has been justifiably eviscerated left and right for that very reason. The way they managed to cram so many stereotypes into one show nearly makes my head explode. Dior Vargas, a Latina feminist activist, has seen this expectation play out in her professional life. In a previous job, she was the only Latina on her team. When all the men she worked with began hitting on her, she felt it was because they assumed she was promiscuous. She says it's even worse for her sister. “My sister is darker-skinned and men assume that she sleeps around and is more sexual,” she says.