op-ed: oakland – a portrait of male privilege and a lesson on self worth

August 20, 2015

i. I am in Oakland competing for National Poetry Slam when I quickly realize this city is a car with its windows rolled and black leather seats…meaning it is really fucking hot. Here, it is too warm to dress comfortably…and by comfortably, I mean jeans, Nikes, a snapback, bomber, and long sleeved shirt. By comfortably, I mean “masculine”. My body, an ocean of sweat, tries to calm the tide of itself – wears dresses, skirts, and crop tops instead *insert the male gaze here*

By KiNG, AFROPUNK Contributor



ii. It is after my first prelim bout. I am standing outside when a middle aged man recites a story to me of a Bay area boy who found salvation in Da Poetry Lounge. I, excitedly, attempt to find my coach and founder of the lounge, to only be dragged away by a friend – “What’s wrong? He seemed harmless” “You never know, I think his intentions were good but he took a liking to you in particular. I could tell by how he was staring”

Flash forward 10 minutes later, we are in the process of leaving our prelim bout venue, when the same man seems to have apparated out of thin air. “I just wanted to say again, you did an amazing job.” My discomfort is immediately evident in my face, yet I do not speak. “How long are you here for? When is your next bout? Are you going to the Erotic Haiku slam? I think I may go.” My male teammates answer each question for me. I lose my voice to anger, my anger is the kind of monster that will snap my throat into silence.

iii. Flash forward yet another 20 minutes, we are walking to Shooting Star- a mediocre Chinese restaurant that happens to always be open. I have a coach to my right when I feel as if something is intently staring at me. I am met with a: “Yo ma, you’ve got a fat ass,” to which my coach responds with, “Chill man. Leave her alone.” I keep my head facing forward as we cross the street. I hear them respond in anger. Their entitlement weighs heavy in the air. I hear a woman say, “Did you really fucking talk to my cousin like that? Nah nah, come here.” This is a lesson on how the ignorant are always protected for the sake of their own bliss.

iv. I meet a nice boy poet. A mama’s boy. He is polite, articulate, got the kind of smile that leaks out the sun, and I am already halfway in lust. We roam Jack London Square at 2 am bouncing questions between each other. He makes me laugh; asks questions with intent. I tell him of my family, how I found poetry, and the men I’m trying to forget. We arrive back, when I realize I can’t take an Uber home because…my debit card was busy being a loose jawn.

“Well, you can Uber to my hotel and walk from there,” – he offers.

“Well I’d still have to walk 1.5 miles so it’s kind of pointless.”

He offers no alternative. Calls his car and leaves. I walk back to my hotel. It is 3am in Oakland and in this moment, I am wondering if people will find me if I were to go missing; I wonder if New York in April 2013 will repeat itself, if I will be yet another vessel for a brutal man to pour desire into. I cry when I make it “home” safely. This is only night I happen to be wearing a baseball cap, jeans, my hair tied up, and a sweatshirt – I wonder how different this story would be if I looked more like “a woman.”

v. Standing inside Shadow Lounge is what I imagine standing inside of a cotton candy machine would be like. There are pink and blue lights strobing, a tunnel of white noise, and I am by the bar hooting and hollering throughout San Diego’s prelim bout. A brown man. Built like a monument stares at me. I turn to make eye contact only to find him looking me up and down,  licking his lips. I am a feast for his gluttonous hands. He is drooling over everything he wants to do to me. He does not need to say anything for me to understand his intention.

vi. It is my second prelim bout, last round, when I remember the definition for resurrection after performing a group piece on Suicide. I am walking out the venue, with salt still lining my cheeks and my knees quivering, when man from (ii) grabs onto my arm. “Hey, I came to see you. I came here just for you. Good job.” I stare in horror. This is how the reckless intrude. This is how the hunter preys. This is when I put a sweatshirt on over my tank top, tie my hair into a bun, but his eyes still won’t look away. Anxiety electroshocks my hands, I feign for a cigarette, and yearn to disappear into smoke.

vii. More men stare on the street. Their eyes, enough of a catcall, they need not howl.

viii. I wish I brought more pants. I wish I brought more sweatshirts. Cover myself into invisibility. Suffocate and sweat into heat wave rather than be a wicked thing of temptation and breathing. I am more fantasy than human. More open mouthed desire than anything. I am angry with how I stay silent when I come face to face with volcanic entitlement. I am so angry, my body clenches into a fist but I do not punch. I do not speak.

ix. I tell the boys. The boys I don’t like.

That I have a man waiting back home.

Which is….partially true. Not really.

I [think] I am in love with a man whose heart

belongs to a woman whose city I am competing in.  

I [think] I am in love with a man who is drowning.

I [think] I have a savior complex so I shape myself into rescue.

I [think] I can save him better than she can.

I [think] I am in love with the idea of saving him.

He says everything that’s problematic.

Asks what I was wearing the night I was assaulted.

Says I shouldn’t talk to anyone else while his phone is a merry go round of women.

Says a lady doesn’t say “nigga” “nah” or “chill.”

When I ask if I should wear an apron too, he calls me “over dramatic” “crazy”

I am the one constantly apologizing for not keeping my mouth shut when she calls.

For how angry I become when he is able love this body. But not the woman inside it.

We are never in public together but he says in private

….in private, he tells me things he’s never told anyone.

I [think] I am in love with a man who is a disease.

Sometimes, I laugh at how I call myself a feminist.

How I caress this animal who is all bite and no bark – a sleeping monster.

How all this “leaving” has become a synonym for staying.

I have lost my voice in silence again.

x. My granny once said,

“We love what we are used to.”


KiNG is a 21 year old gender fluid, bisexual, biracial, spoken word poet, as well as co-founder of SLiM Poetry (an open mic at the Container Yard in the Arts District). Through writing and performing, I seek to create dialogue and develop a rapport with readers/audience members. I also intend to shatter stigma pertaining to mental health, feminism, racism, and anything social justice related as well as encourage creative communities to integrate and innovate. 


Instagram: @king.among.men