Amanda Seales On The Politics Of Sex

Aside from the pill, condoms are the most popular form of non-permanent contraceptive for women, according to the Guttmacher Institute. But through its own research, Trojan has found that just over half of sexually active women have actually purchased rubbers.
The brand is seeking to bridge that divide with its latest release: XOXO condoms. Instead of the in-your-face, golden packaging that male-marketed condoms like the brand's Magnums boast, these are discreet, traveling in a square-shaped carrying case that almost looks like a mirror compact. Oh, and they feel amazing — trust me.
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As part of its push to help women embrace their sexual confidence, Trojan invited outspoken actress Amanda Seales to lend her opinion and expertise to a panel, Wednesday in NYC, to help mark the launch of XOXO. Seales has made a name for herself as a comedian, as a recording artist, and as Issa Rae's friend Tiffany on Insecure. Oh, and you may have seen her give Caitlyn Jenner a little schooling in white privilege.
Ahead, I chat with Seales about sexual confidence, Insecure, and the ways in which we're still failing women of color trying to tell their own stories.
What do you hope to get across from this panel today?
"I really hope to get across that having sexual confidence as a woman is not about being a bitch. It doesn’t demean you. It doesn’t make you difficult. And it doesn’t make you less sexy or attractive. We’re oftentimes sold the wrong messages in that way. I want to get across to men that you should expect women to be sexually confident and honest and real about how they want to take care of their bodies and how they expect their bodies to be taken care of. And this needs to be normalized. It needs to be understood as a partnership.
"For too long, sex has been looked at as, you know, men doing what they do, and if we’re lucky, we get out of there with vagina intact and an orgasm. If we’re lucky. But, you know, I come from hip-hop, where you come from lyrics like, ‘Beat the pussy up,’ and I’m like ‘Ooh, dude, don’t do that. It’s gentle down there.’ Even with this new product, I like the fact that it’s geared toward women’s pleasure. It’s geared toward women and the fact that it’s okay for sex to be enjoyable. In fact, that’s great."
I recently wrote a story explaining enthusiastic consent and how it’s kind of inverting “no means no” into “yes means yes.” It seems like this product is helping to enable that.
"Yes. It’s really, really all about the yes."
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As women, we’re not really socialized to show that we enjoy sex. So what are some tips you’d give to women to kind of embrace that sexuality?
"I think it’s two-fold. On one hand, you want to say, don’t feel like you have to be out here fucking the world just because people are telling you ‘This is how you show confidence.’ It’s more about learning how to confidently be who you are. And that’s not necessarily based on what society’s standards are. So we have these poles where some folks are like ‘Women shouldn’t be sexually active at all,’ but then you have the other pole that’s like, ‘Do what you want and don’t have any issue with it.’ And I have an issue with that, too. You need to be responsible about your body and how your body works.
"My bottom line is always, like, as women, we need to be encouraged to be confident in what is right for us individually. Some women are like, ‘I’m not ready to have sex,’ and you should not be judged for that, the same way you should not be judged if you are mentally and emotionally mature enough to have sex and make choices about your body that are informed. I’m just always about — what’s the balance?"

We can’t talk about women’s health confidence without talking about the fact that black women have to express a whole other level of sexual confidence.

Amanda Seales
Switching gears, how does it feel to be part of a show like Insecure that has such frank and honest depictions of casual sex and dating?
"I’m really happy to be part of anything that shows honest depictions — especially of people who don’t get to write their own narratives. With Insecure, this is the first show where Black women are really getting the opportunity to have their sexuality depicted on their own terms. It’s created by a Black women, written by several Black women, along with other people in the room. But it’s a majority of Black women who are running the room. So I’m just happy to be part of a show that’s telling an authentic story. Even if it’s not my story. It’s Issa [Rae's] story, and she’s getting to tell it as honestly and as candidly as she wants to."
You've been an outspoken advocate for ensuring that women of color have the spaces to tell their stories.
"Yes, and those conversations have to happen, because it isn’t political. It’s reality. We can’t talk about women’s health confidence without talking about the fact that Black women have to express a whole other level of sexual confidence. And we’re also dealing with entirely different men. Black men have a whole other shit going on with this sex thing than white guys. Our conversations are different in this space, because [it can be hard to] tell a brother no... And so you have to have a certain sensitivity about that."
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[Ed. note: No always means no. But Seales brings up an important point: Black women are the most likely to be killed as a result of intimate partner violence, and because of this fact some may feel unsafe saying no.]
It’s impossible to remove the politics from sex.
"It is. But, what’s important is to not let politics overpower the importance of sex. Because sometimes we get caught up in all of that, and it’s like, these are just people making decisions to make themselves feel whatever. We’re real people doing real things and having real sex. And things happen to us that [politicians] don’t care about. And so we need to focus on the real people out here who need condoms every day to prevent the spread of infectious diseases."
Going back to the idea of female pleasure — sometimes you just want to have an orgasm, and you want to detach politics from the whole situation.
"And it can be hard to. It can. But these panels, and [Trojan's] initiatives — they’re making sure we have the important conversations in spaces that aren’t talking at all. They insert the right conversations led by the right people who should have their own voice."
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