Ohio University

Student Project Sheds New Light on Queer and Black Female Sexuality

Student Project Sheds New Light on Queer and Black Female Sexuality
Carina Capitine (right) practices body mapping with a participant of her study. Genesis Vaughn (left) participates.

In popular society, female sexuality is often exploited in controversial and harmful ways. Navigating female sexuality, especially as black and queer women, is even more difficult. Carina Capitine, who is pursuing her master’s degree in Communication and Development Studies, is exploring new perspectives on the use of social media as an alternative space for sexual expression and affirmation by black and queer women in her capstone project “Body of Resistance.”

She has been working closely with the School of Media Arts & Studies to film a documentary about her research on the subject. The CommDev program is a partnership between the MDIA school and the Center for International Studies.

Capitine, who comes from Mozambique, was inspired to tell the stories of black and queer women in her first semester at Ohio University. While enrolled in an audio and visual storytelling class, she began reflecting on the way women are regarded in media. She recognized how women live in a constant limbo of being valued and devalued, especially in relation to their sexuality. She noticed that when companies and brands choose to exploit and capitalize on the female form, it is widely accepted; however, when she presents her own sexuality on social media, it’s frowned upon. 

Much research on the topic of female sexuality online is rooted in the idea of women self-objectifying and internalizing the notion of satisfying the male gaze. Capitine agrees that this may be true for some women but argues that women present their sexuality online because they aren’t given a safe space to do so in real life.

Capitine emphasizes the fact that this applies especially to black and queer women whose voices often go unheard and whose sexualities are portrayed in ways that don’t accurately represent them.

“It is very important that we start to frame our lives and our stories in a women-centered and women-oriented perspective,” she said

To expand her knowledge on the subject, Capitine got involved in telling the story of two women-identifying individuals by conducting in-depth interviews and using art-based methods such as photo-elicitation and body mapping.

She especially enjoyed the creativity involved in photo-elicitation and body mapping methods because of how it encouraged her participants to actively reflect on the forces which influence their behavior. Despite her participants being from different parts of the world and their differences in age and ways of presenting their sexuality, the two experience sexuality in similar ways.

One big takeaway of her research is that navigating sexuality is a challenge no matter who you are. Capitine hopes to bring positive change in the way we discuss our sexuality.

“Sexuality is such a central piece of who we are,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense for us to hide it or to not know about ourselves in that aspect.”