Black Activists for Sexual Liberation

There is no freedom without sexual liberation. Here is a tribute to some of the Black activists who have made a difference.


When thinking about the trailblazers in history fighting for freedom and liberation, who comes to mind? For me, it is not the freedom fighters, activists, public speakers or political parties passing laws; it is drag performers, trans women, sex workers, sexuality educators, porn stars, video vixens and sexual deviants who worked continuously for the goal of sexual freedom and liberation.

As a sexuality educator, a kink practitioner and a Black, Queer and Masculine-of-Center Femme, it is pivotal for me to give thanks and continue to walk in the footsteps of those who paved the way for me. The work that I do is sexual liberation, and the life that I live is sexual liberation.

We owe a lot to those who have fought for our freedom and liberty to express ourselves without hesitation. Without them, there would be no us, the world would be dull grey, social movements that worked to gain our rights would cease, and kinky things simply wouldn’t have that spark.

Below are just a few names and histories of people who have fought and continue to fight for sexual liberation.

Marsha P. Johnson

One of my wife’s favourite fairy godmothers is Marsha P. Johnson, one of the most prominent figures of the gay rights movement in New York City during the 1960s and 1970s. She made an enduring impact through her dedicated advocacy for gay and transgender rights, sex workers in NYC, homeless LGBTQ+ youth and people affected by H.I.V. and AIDS. Johnson also co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R) House, the first trans sex worker labour organisation alongside Sylvia Rivera.

Royal Fetish Films

Royal Fetish is an award-winning Black-owned adult entertainment company dedicated to showcasing Black sexuality, Black love and Black pornstars, as well as ethical kink. Co-owned and operated by the Jet Setting Jasmine and King Noire, the company brings a unique blend of expertise to the industry. Jet Setting Jasmine is a licensed clinical therapist who has over 20 years of experience as an adult entertainer, educator and Master Fetish Trainer; King Noire is an accomplished writer, artist, MC and global activist.

Their partnership merges their passion for the arts, film and sex education to produce erotica that not only stimulates but also encourages the audience to explore their sexual boundaries. Royal Fetish is committed to providing a platform that celebrates diversity, inclusivity and the beauty of Black experiences in the realm of adult entertainment.

Karrine Steffans

Karrine Steffans gained fame as a video vixen, featuring in prominent music videos in the late 1990s and early 2000s. She has worked with prominent American artists and actors such as Ja Rule, Vin Diesel, LL Cool J, Jay-Z, Nelly, Usher and Diddy.

Please keep in mind that Mrs Steffans is messy. In her tell-all memoir Confessions of a Video Vixen she shares sexual exploits and experiences from the hip-hop industry during the 90s and 00s.

Joan Jett Blakk

On her 35th birthday, Joan Jett Blakk, the drag persona of actor Terence Smith, ran for president in lipstick, heels and eyeshadow, continuing a rich tradition of drag as a form of political activism. Blakk, the co-founder of Queer Nation’s Chicago chapter, had previously run against Richard M. Daley in the Chicago mayoral race of 1991. Throughout these unconventional “campaigns,” Blakk championed policies that many politicians still discuss, including universal healthcare, the elimination of student debt and the advancement of civil rights. In her perspective, “If a bad actor can be elected President, why not a good drag queen?”

Pauli Murray

A Black queer feminist, civil rights lawyer, priest and co-founder of NOW, Pauli Murray played a vital role in various civil, social and legal organizations during the ascent of the Black feminist movement in the 1960s and 70s. Primarily, she formulated theories and authored works exploring the intersectionality of gender, race, and sexuality, sharing her experiences of Black womanhood and asserting the inseparability of her various identities. This idea fueled her legal work and activism.

Harriet Jacobs

Harriet Jacobs was an African-American writer whose published autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, depicted the sexual violence experienced by enslaved Black women, expanding the range of issues discussed within abolition.

Ericka Hart

It would be disheartening not to include a mentor of mine in this list of sexual liberators. Ericka Hart is a kinky, poly cancer warrior; activist; and sexuality educator. By dismantling the ways that systemic patriarchy and anti-Black standards of beauty affect our everyday lives, Ericka is shifting ingrained cultural modes and attitudes on chronic illness. She posits visibility as vital to any radically inclusive movement towards equity. But it is her work on the medical and industrial complex that forces us to see our institutions and systems of care as complicit in the perpetuation of illness in marginalised communities. Unabashedly centring and sentient, ensuring that queer, trans, Black, brown and femme voices are not lost among the drone of scholarly research less skilled than herself, Hart brought academia to the places it refused to go.

Now, remember that these people are few and far between all the other prominent figures who are out there who have joined the fight for sexual liberation. The history and concept of sexual liberation are fluid and manifest in various ways; several movements, lives, literature and thoughts have faced erasure or dilution with other ideas to alter the perception of what it is. Stepping into sexual liberation requires a great deal of courage, and passing that history forward demands an even greater deal. Now that you know this history and these people’s names, go out and continue the narrative.

The next time you reach for that favourite porn scene, lube bottle, flogger or your partner’s ass, give a little shoutout to those who helped make that reach possible. The next time you have the urge to patronise sex workers, attend a sexuality workshop with educators like myself or attend dungeon events, know that we would not be able to without the existence of sexual liberators.

Shanae “HonestlyNae” Adams, MA, LPCC, CIGT, serves her community in various ways, including therapist, educator, and sex-positive enthusiast. Her mission is sexuality normalisation, explanation and melanated representation. Her passion revolves around the liberation of embracing sexuality. She is known for dynamic workshops, a sex-positive mindset and efforts to eliminate the “taboo” surrounding sex and sexuality.

Follow Shanae on Instagram @HonestlyNae or visit her website

Our selection of articles is growing every week.
Go educate yourself and dive deep into several topics around Sexucation, Culture, Health and  Love&Lust.


Be inspired by Our Films

More Articles

Oral Sex Is Sex