Fortress Press

Erotic Defiance: Womanism, Freedom, and Resistance

Erotic Defiance

Womanism, Freedom, and Resistance

Courtney Bryant (Author)


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The West fears desire. It fears ecstasy. It fears flesh. It copes with its fears by deploying its intellectual, political, and religious instruments to regulate, discipline, and punish. Western fear of the erotic has led to its regimes of racial and gender hierarchies, institutions of repression, and dehumanization of large portions of the human family. In the face of anti-erotic hegemony, Black women have too often yielded to Western Christianity's anti-erotic culture, its misnaming of the erotic as evil, and its denial of the erotic's relationship to the divine. But they have also resisted. They have also defied. This book is rooted in that tradition of defiance.

Erotic Defiance considers the sacred and transformative power of the flesh through investigating the ethical and theological dimensions of the erotic experiences of Black women and performances of Black womanhood. Drawing on womanist and feminist analyses, Courtney Bryant approaches the erotic as a divine energy that manifests love in and through the flesh.

Such love takes many forms. It extends beyond the sexual to include passion, spirituality, community, and self-love. By positing love's manifestations as sacred work that cannot be accomplished without the divine, Bryant presents the erotic as a collaboration between Spirit and flesh. This collaboration results in unique, liberating properties that make possible the kind of healing, resistance, and self-making necessary for Black women's self-actualization in a world hell-bent on their erasure and demonization.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506478692
  • eBook ISBN 9781506478708
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 148
  • Publication Date November 7, 2023


Courtney Bryant's Erotic Defiance offers a refreshingly clear case for the erotic serving as a source of Black women's moral agency and demonstrates the value of striving for the possibilities created in the flesh. The chapters present erotic defiance as acts of care, acts of sexual agency, and acts of protest that provide novel ways forward to those seeking wholeness, mutuality, and justice. Ultimately, Bryant's unique gift to readers is an expansion of the erotic beyond sensuality, making this text a significant resource that reconnects us to our bodily autonomy, self-determination, and innate divinity.

Monique Moultrie, PhD, author of Hidden Histories: Faith and Black Lesbian Leadership and Passionate and Pious: Religious Media and Black Women's Sexuality

A song of love for Black women's flesh, Erotic Defiance mines the moral potential of Black women's embodied agency. Bryant skillfully posits Black women's bodily practices of loving care as mechanisms of power that reveal a defiant womanist sacramentality that collaborates with the Spirit of God in its opposition to a racist-patriarchal status quo. There is no doubt that Erotic Defiance propels the field forward. It is a must-read for anyone compelled by Christian theological studies and Black womanist religious inquiry.

Eboni Marshall Turman, PhD, associate professor of theology and African American religion, Yale Divinity School

There are books you read for knowledge, and there are books that do more than convey knowledge; they move you--to joy, and to tears. Courtney Bryant's Erotic Defiance is the latter. Drawing from, and extending, the womanist theoethical tradition, this text offers the erotic as a spiritually empowering and liberative ethical force in the world. Seriously researched, passionately argued, and beautifully written, Erotic Defiance is a work of love--a love that you can feel on every page.

Dr. Biko Mandela Gray, associate professor of religion, Syracuse University, and author of Black Life Matter: Blackness, Religion, and the Subject