I never heard my mother use the word sex. For her generation, people born in the early 1900s, sex outside of marriage was a sin. In the 1950s and ’60s, when I was growing up, there were topics no one talked about in public. Television, film, newspapers, and radio followed a code of morality too. It was a world without social media and the internet; unlike today, images and language steeped in sex were not ubiquitous, and privacy was not obsolete.
For my mother and other black women who had escaped the Jim Crow South, and for those who had not, there was also the multigenerational memory of the predatory white male. African-American mothers faced the quandary of how to maintain modesty and decency while warning their daughters about unwanted sex.
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