Scandal 416: When Problematic Opinions about Black Women, Sex, and Sovereignty Become a Learning Opportunity

This post is not the promised analysis of Olivia Pope in the context of themes from It’s Good to Be Kink  (416), and the broader trajectory of season four. It’s also not about my other thoughts and concerns about the episode (Fake again? WTF; Really, Mellie, Really?!). No, all of  that has to come second because people are out here acting a gotdamn fool over the fact that Olivia had sex with a (foine ass) stranger. It is one thing to disagree with the course of action Olivia has taken in this particular instance, but quite another to make disparaging and downright dangerous comments that go well beyond the scope of the fictional character.  Yesterday, as the day went on, the reactions became more and more problematic, causing my reactions to progress from

to

and finally

And then I woke up to new bullshit. So, here I am. 

In most cases I have paraphrased real comments from real people that have either been sent directly to my inbox, Tweets, or posts I have come across.  A few of these are direct quotes (have fun deciphering!).  If you are concerned about my methodology, I have actual screen grabs to back up all of the comments below.  Because I do not wish to attack individuals, but instead to unpack the faulty logic and dangerous ideology behind the comments, I have declined to assign identities.

The ‘IT’S NOT ABOUT FITZ, WE’RE CONCERNED ABOUT LIV’ Category:

Sleeping with random men does not solve Olivia’s problems just as leaving DC did not. Will she feel more ‘empowered’ the next day after sleeping with this guy? Have fewer problems?

Sleeping with random dudes does not solve multiple problems, but it sure does feel good for one night. Would you deny her that? And it’s a hell of a lot better than her usual, and actually sad schtick of work and isolation with wine and popcorn.  I’m also pretty sure neither the episode, nor Olivia, suggested a one-night stand is a panacea.  

Sleeping with random men means Olivia has experienced ZERO growth. Isn’t she just repeating patterns of her party girl past? She is on a hamster wheel going nowhere.

Faulty logic. Olivia slept with one man, one time. This has nothing to do with growth.  Is sexless-ness or settling into a monogamous relationship criteria for ‘growth’? And do we want to qualify ‘growth’ as going from  a party girl past to sleeping with a married man? Yeah, I thought so. Also, how can nothing have changed yet people also want to go back to season one Olivia? Riddle me that.

We have no sense that Olivia is ashamed of her dating past. Many people are making  assumptions that female promiscuity is a bad thing, when they would not make the same assumption with regard to Russell. No one is concerned for his safety, or outraged that he has chosen to go the home of a woman he has just met.  

In 403 when Catherine brought up Olivia’s party girl ways, Olivia was on professional business with her employee, Quinn. Olivia’s past is not Quinn’s business. Her refusal to revisit that past is not proof of shame, or regret. Sometimes we have a phase and then we move on. We are also entitled to revisit that past, as and when we want to and for however long it pleases us.

Yes Olivia owns her body, but she needs to get her act together first, then she can go after whatever she wants.

Paternalism. So, only women who have their  ‘act together’ should be allowed to have sex with whomever they choose? Or, sex impedes one’s ability to get one’s ‘act together’?

Olivia is going to wind up pregnant, or with an STI because of this irresponsible behavior!

Bullshit. Girl, GTEntireFOH. Where was this concern when Olivia was sleeping with Edison, Jake, or Fitz? At least one of those men intermittently sleeps with another woman when he’s on the outs with Olivia. God knows, Olivia whipped Fitz’s dick out entirely too fast on that Resolute desk (208) and in that server closet (214) for there to have been any condom use. Nary a fuck about pregnancy could be heard from y’all then. So, spare me the faux concern. Besides, Olivia is a grown, responsible woman who values herself. I’m pretty sure contraception was handled. More importantly, you have no indication that it wasn’t. 

 The MISUSE OF AGENCY, AUTONOMY AND SOVEREIGNTY Category:


How can women justify Olivia’s behavior as some kind of feminism and sexual agency that will lead her to healing?! That’s plain insane!

Misapprehension. First, I have not seen a single soul who believes that a single incidence of getting new dick will act as a sprinkling of fairy dust over Olivia’s life. Secondly, you don’t understand feminism and sexual agency. A feminist ethos that lacks paternalism embraces sexual agency, and does not pathologize the exercising of said agency. Again, Olivia made the decision to sleep with Russell out of a sense of curiosity and autonomous desire. Supporting her right to follow those things—for a night, or a lifetime— if they are her choice is feminism.

Olivia’s goal isn’t sovereignty because everything she does, or reacts to, is about Fitz

This is patently false. Sovereignty, when applied to an individual, is a state of self-governing; the rule over one’s self.  Let’s forget that in this very episode Olivia was protecting Abby, not Fitz, or any of the men connected with Fitz. No, it was about Abby, her friend and family. Let’s also forget about the two seasons in which Rowan actively tried to control Olivia’s personal and professional life, and the many ways she tried to defend herself against those interventions. Let’s  also forget the entire story line this season created around Olivia liberating herself from her father’s control, culminating in a metaphorical shot to the heart. And, lastly, let’s forget that Olivia herself has told Fitz 

This is not about you. My whole life is not about you. I have goals. I have DREAMS! I did this for me.”— (“We Do Not Touch the First Ladies”, 312)

So, yeah, Olivia’s life is totally about being an appendage to Fitz.

There is a larger point to be made, the dismissal of which, has caused some to argue that Olivia has no identity outside of Fitzgerald (weirdly, in an episode that had nothing to do with the two of them). To oversimplify, Olivia’s life is actually about following her autonomous desires, and dealing with the compromises and challenges to achieving them. ‘Desire’ is not a synonym for  ‘sex’ or ‘romance’. However, in the case of Olivia Pope, those elements are part and parcel of her desires.

This is not a good way for someone experiencing PTSD to behave! It seems like a stretch to believe she would be mentally stable enough to guard down and have sex with someone she met at a bar, let alone take him back to her apartment! For someone so concerned about her safety, why would she do that?

Consider that PTSD is not a fixed state that grips a person 24 hours a day. Like depression, it can be an ongoing thing that people struggle with, and to varying degrees. Olivia seems to be a highly functioning PTSD sufferer. I note that no one has questioned her ability to remain brilliant at her job while dealing with PTSD. Yet, somehow the decision to have a sexual encounter is null and void because of it? Error 404, girl. Fucking is way less complex than devising a strategy to clean up a political mess. Sex is really not that deep (no pun intended).

Olivia took Russell back to her apartment because foreign spaces actually leave her more vulnerable after the kidnapping (that’s why the confined space of the bar’s bathroom brought on an episode for her). The entire encounter was about having this sexual experience on her terms, and getting over her fears. Bringing him back to her turf fits in with that. Trust that the gun was likely not very far away.

The  TYLER PERRY SCHOOL OF FEMINISM Category:

All this talk about owning your own sexual agency is hogwash if you mean sleeping around like dogs.

Again, paternalism, misogyny and a healthy dose of smh. Please see the above section about sexual agency, and what it actually means.

Every woman has value, and her love is a gift. If you open up your legs to just anyone,  for free, with no strings attached, you are demeaning your gift. This is especially true if you do so after experiencing real love.

-___-.  Having a vagina is not a gift; it is a fact of life. Therefore, being a woman is not like being a piece of property that depreciates over time, or gains value based on the number of owners between whom we’ve been traded. Our worth is not based on those to whom we grant access to our bodies, and the number of times we do so. Our worth is inherent because we exist as living, breathing beings in this world.

Secondly, y’all have got to get off this romance novel/Hollywood Rom-Com bullshit. Sex and love are not synonymous. It is entirely possible to have sex with someone without being in your feelings, even after you’ve experienced deep soulful love.


PTSD suffers can sometimes ruin the emotional bonds they have with loved ones after acting out  in sexual ways. Olivia’s wild behavior could ruin things between her and Fitz.

Besides the fact that they haven’t been together all season, this could possibly be a thing if Olivia and Fitz had any agreement on sexual fidelity. Obviously that’s not part of their relationship. So, Olivia’s one-time (as it presently stands) behavior has literally nothing to do with Fitz.  

Lastly, have you met Fitzgerald? Have you not watched four seasons of Scandal? The only way to ruin things between Fitz and Olivia (besides death to one of them) is for Olivia to finally and definitively end things with Fitz. Olivia could bone every man this side of the Potomac and Fitz would still be like

over Olivia.  


People are only calling Olivia a whore because the writers have called her whore since season one! Even Olivia called herself a whore! You can’t blame the fans when they do it, too.

Oh, I will absolutely blame fans each and every time they call Olivia Pope out of her name. The show is not instructing anyone to call Olivia a whore.  The derogatory words fans use reflect their own  sense of morality and respectability politics. By the logic above, the show is also instructing us to call Fitz ‘weak’, a ‘devil’ and a’boy’; and Olivia is ‘the help’.  Clearly we don’t agree with that. Why would ‘whore’ be different.

I’ve already discussed Mellie’s use of the term on several  occasions, and frankly, it made sense for that character to do that. I will remind you that I predicted Mellie would cease calling Olivia a whore once her rape was revealed to Fitz. But I’m sure some of y’all want to believe that your outrage posts and letters magically made this happen.

This Olivia is displaying loose behavior that is not in line with season one Olivia. She would NEVER have stooped to this level.  It is clear that she does not respect herself, and now, neither do I. I’m out!


As for the rest of it, do people not see how contradictory it to request a return to some mythical season one Olivia (because, y’all, she was so perf!) while also talking about how nothing has changed? Non-sequitur as fuck. The less people knew about Olivia, the more pristine their projections remained. With each season that came tumbling down.

Moreover, what is the ‘level’ to which Olivia has ‘stooped’? Is this not the same woman who had been sleeping with a married man? Or maybe that is on a different ‘level’ (higher or lower?). Also, this is the woman who has a history of sleeping with a bevy of powerful, older men.  She seemed to have respected herself all these years. So… the attempted point being made above:


I’ll conclude by saying that everyone is entitled to reject a storyline on the show. That’s not my concern. The language some of us use to voice our displeasure reflects our own complicated politics about representation, sexuality, gender roles, etc and reveal patterns of thinking that are highly problematic. Some of us, including myself, come from conservative cultures where some of the above ideologies are normative. Listen, the patriarchy is real and you don’t need to be a man to uphold it. All of the above comments came from women who have bought into patriarchal notions that women, especially black women, are expected to uphold [religiously] prescriptive standards of sexuality and morality in order to have value and ‘earn’ respect. It’s important that we challenge these patterns of thought because they are oppressive rather than liberating.

Ok, that’s all I’ve got. Have you seen any problematic comments that I haven’t covered? Are there gaps that you would like to fill in? Especially if you disagree, I’d love to hear why.

Cripping chivalry

This morning a woman using a cane got on the bus. I stood up and asked if she would prefer to sit. She said, “no, I’d like to stand.” I sat back down and carried on reading my book. When I got up to leave she tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Thank you, dear, for being a gentleman.” And then she winked at me. Her comment had this fabulously subversive edge to it—-like we had just participated in some grand smashing of ableism and patriarchy by rewriting the script for chivalry and so-called common courtesy. In our telling, women and crips have agency and consent with a side of “when I say what I want, leave me the fuck alone.”

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