Aya de Leon

author – activist – faculty – mom

Fiction and Flipping the Cliche of the Sexy Latina

People say sex sells, but really the sexual objectification of women sells.  Earlier this week, Latino Rebels reported on how “Sexy Latinas” had made the news.  In particular, they pointed out how puff Latina celebrity objectification stories were exploited to sexy up the news, while real news about Latinas went unreported.  As an AfroLatina writer, I have also been impacted by mainstream lack of interest in the internal and subjective lives of women of color, and am finding an interesting middle ground.

In my latest novel-in-progress, I have decided to play with the cliché of the sexy Latina.  In the two previous novel manuscripts I had written, my Latina characters had no mainstream sex appeal.  The first was a brainy, tomboyish, college lesbian and the second was a chunky, middle-aged activist with dreadlocks. Both books were heavily political, and I couldn’t sell either one.  These were stories of African heritage people, both English- and Spanish-speaking, confronting educational and environmental racism. They weren’t coming of age novels, they weren’t ghetto sagas, they didn’t fit into any genre, and they weren’t going to appeal to the elite white literary fiction audience.  When I told one white agent the plot of my novel, she frowned and asked me who would want to read it.

Racism and sexism manifest in many different ways for women of color.  One way is getting shot in the face when you knock on a white stranger’s door when your car breaks down, and that homicide doesn’t lead to an arrest of the shooter.  Another way is when the mass murder of women in your border town garners no massive outcry.  When the lives of women of color are not considered valuable, neither are the stories about the lives of women of color, unless they, in some way or another, reinforce racist or sexist fascination with your community.   My previous novels held no special hook for men or white people.  And they didn’t have a lot of sex.  Let’s be clear.  I’m not opposed to sex, but I don’t know any Latinas who just lounge around all day looking sexy and alluring, and there’s not much of a book in that.  My previous characters would have sex from time to time, but it hadn’t been the central focus of any of my work.  However, I am interested in selling a debut novel, so I decided to change my approach to writing about sex.

In my latest novel-in-progress, I’m writing about the politics of sex:  sexual awakening, sexual orientation, sex work, sexual trauma, sex addiction, sex trafficking, and sexual double standards. And who better to put in the center of the story than a sexy Latina?

The novel explores what it means to grow up and live in an objectified body, and engages the following:

What happens to a financial genius who’s born brown and female, who grows up poor but voluptuous. Who at seventeen has to put her brilliance to work saving her ass from homelessness and puts her ass to work because orphaned seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican girls with kid sisters to support gotta use what they got.  But ten years and a few lucky breaks later, she might find herself with an online degree in bookkeeping and an entry level job at a women’s health clinic for sex workers. But what happens to a financial genius nearly a decade later when she’s running the health clinic and the economy tanks?  She might start an escort service on the side to make ends meet.  And what if one of the girls starts escorting a client to houses of rich corporate CEOs involved in a sex trafficking scandal?  What if those CEOs have wall safes?  A financial genius might use the escorts to case the apartments to do a little safecracking. Because sometimes the best donor to a nonprofit is the unintentional donor, and financial genius Marisol Rivera will do whatever it takes to keep the clinic doors open. Including attempting a daring heist of a high profile billionaire with her badass call girl team.  If they succeed, the team and the clinic could be set for life. But there are so many ways her plan could go wrong.  Still, Marisol has gotta try it.  Because the society keeps churning out brown girls with more curves than cash and more prospects for pimps and sugar daddies than college professors.  Somebody’s gotta level the playing field a little.  This novel takes the racist, sexist, cliché of the Puerto Rican hooker and turns it on it’s head.  Then shakes all the money out of its pockets and gives it to la gente.

(Photo note:  Sexy Latin@ images in this blog post are all from Ru Paul’s Drag Race.  When I went to select photos for a post about the exploitation of sexy Latinas, I didn’t know what to choose.  Sexy celebs?  Seemed like part of the problem.  Ordinary moms taking their kids to school? Didn’t really go with the headline.  No photos?  But the internet is a visual medium.  Then I stumbled across some of these gorgeous, glamorous drag queens.  Voila!  Giving you total Latin@ femme fatale drama and challenging gender norms.  Just like in my book, I like my sexy a little subversive;)

2 comments on “Fiction and Flipping the Cliche of the Sexy Latina

  1. relovertigo
    November 15, 2013

    I love it. I’m a Latina, and I’ve got to say, all my life I’ve had to listen to how “spicy,” or how “fiery,” or whatever adjective that has to do with hotness or flavor I am. Well, there was that one time a racist white lady told me I was, “Pretty for a Mexican.” Anyway, I would read your book. We need to put the power in our own hands. Because nobody else is gonna pass it out.

  2. Pingback: Weekly Feminist Reader

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This entry was posted on November 15, 2013 by in Uncategorized.

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Aya wins first place Independent Publisher Awards for UPTOWN THIEF, THE BOSS, THE ACCIDENTAL MISTRESS

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