Source: The mixed Passport/Pixabay
Cuckolding, the sexual practice of a husband consensually sharing his wife with other men, has exploded in popularity and attention over the past decade. This fantasy is extremely popular in online pornography and has garnered significant mainstream attention, particularly as the term “cuck” was co-opted in modern conservative politics.
In cuckolding, a common fantasy element involves a white wife being sexual with a man of color, often referred to as a “bull.” Most of what has been published about cuckolding, in fantasy and practice, has focused on the motivations of either the husband (the “cuck”) or his wife (the “cuckoldress” or “cucktress” for short). Little attention has been paid to the motivations and experiences of these men of color who may choose to engage with the couples or the wives.
Many perceive these dynamics as reflecting inherent racism and exploitation, and there have been numerous controversies attacking people for failing to acknowledge underlying racism in these sexual relationships. There are many elements that do reflect the frightening, violent, and exploitative patterns of the days of American slavery and the decades in which interracial relationships were criminalized.
However, it seems that few people have asked men of color what their actual experiences have been. Instead, I see many people deciding that it is on them to protect these men from exploitation by white couples. This is well-intended, but without asking these men and listening to their experiences, may be a form of misguided saviorism.
Tammy Fisher, of The Pleasure Principles sex therapy treatment program in Texas, recently completed an informal, preliminary survey of men who have been “bulls of color” in the cuckolding community. Tammy, a former supervisee of mine, presented this project at the Sexual Health Alliance Inaugural Sexological Conference, as a part of her studies to pursue certification as a certified sex therapist. Because I found her project and presentation so interesting, I’m describing her preliminary results here, with her permission.
Tammy approached this topic with curiosity and insight, herself in an interracial relationship. She was motivated to seek out these men and learn what their experiences have actually been, recognizing the tremendous fear, taboo, and stigma that are embedded in these topics: “I was drawn to this personally and professionally as a therapist because I wondered if I was making the mistake of being protective of Black men—using my whiteness to decide what was exploitative and racist without bothering to go directly to the people who engage in this,” she told me.
Tammy received detailed responses from 25 men of color who have experience as “bulls” and also conducted a personal follow-up interview with one of the men. They ranged in age from 24 to 53 years old and had been in “the lifestyle” as a bull for an average of 10 years.
Sixty percent of the men reported their first introduction to the cuckolding lifestyle was as a result of a direct invitation, either from a couple or from a husband seeking a sexual partner for the wife. Interestingly, Tammy found that a disproportionate number of these requests came from military couples. Two of the requests were from athletics coaches to men of color who were athletes on the teams the men coached.
“Race-play” is a sexual form of role-play involving explicitly racial elements, invoked to harness the taboo of racism. Adult performer Demi Sutra, as one example, has twice left the industry due to racism in pornography, including being called racial epithets during sex without her consent.
In this project with bulls, Tammy investigated whether these men had similarly experienced unwanted racial “name-calling” during sex. Twenty-four percent had experienced this once or twice; only 8 percent had experienced it several times; but the majority of men, 68 percent, had never encountered being called racial epithets without their consent.
When I first wrote about cuckolding in 2009, I interviewed a Black man who described being saddened by a couple ignoring him in public after they’d been privately sexual with him. Knowing that story, Tammy asked if the bulls had experienced a lack of respect from white couples, including ignoring them in public.
Sixty percent never had, but 40 percent had, at least a few times. One man said, “Sometimes it felt as if they [the couple] were doing me a favor. Like they had an air of entitlement.” However, only a minority (24 percent) of the men reported that they had been bothered by this experience; 76 percent described that it wasn’t a problem.
Given the charged history of sexual racism in our society, Tammy enquired as to whether the men felt that performing as a “bull” perpetuated harmful stereotypes. Sixty-eight percent disagreed with this, and reported that in fact, “as white couples get to know a bull, their preconceived notions of what a person of color talks like, acts like, dresses like, does for a living, [are] challenged.” In fact, the men reported that they’d witnessed couples admitting guilt over racism to them, and working through these feelings, going on to become advocates for people of color and champions against racism.
About half the men reported that they had felt objectified, and reduced to a sexual object where their only role was a sexual bull, but half the men were adamant they’d not had such experiences. A majority of the men (72 percent) did not see the sexualized role of Black men as bulls to be a form of racism. One made the astute and pointed observation that “I’m objectified and fetishized every time I walk out the door. I’d rather be the hammer than the nail.”
Rather than feeling exploited and used, an overwhelming majority (84 percent) of these men derived pleasure and satisfaction from their experiences as a bull: ”Black men and women have been so controlled. It has not been safe to explore sexuality—so cuckolding and sex [have] been foreign. Black people will take anything and make it great—make it a thing of empowerment.” Eighty-eight percent felt gratified from being able to help white couples/partners fulfill their sexual fantasies.
Tammy’s full presentation on her project can be seen on YouTube and includes additional findings on the personal experiences and relationships of Black men in hotwifing and cuckolding.
Overall, Tammy’s preliminary investigation found that, yes, indeed, there are racial elements of stereotypes and stigma that underlie the sexualization of Black men in cuckolding. Some men did report negative experiences of feeling stigmatized and used.
However, contrary to assumptions, most men who engage in these activities are doing so consensually, not experiencing racism, and view their relationships as positive and empowering. In fact, some of them even view their roles as bulls as a powerful form of anti-racism that is actually bringing people together, using the power of sexual fantasy and objectification to create humanizing relationships. Essentially, objectification led to the relationship and experience, which resulted in humanizing connections.
Formal research and qualitative investigations are definitely needed, to explore the ways in which race, sex, and social taboo intersect in ways that may be negative and harmful for some, but empowering for others.
Tammy encourages others to be cautious when leaping to protect Black men in these relationships, and invites us all to elevate the voice of these men and their experiences: “The more we can talk about these things openly, the more we learn about ourselves and each other—and hopefully that leads to more acceptance, respect, and peace.”