Navigating Black gay sexuality is difficult enough without worrying about being drugged and murdered in a raggedy Los Angeles apartment. But that’s not the case, as evidenced by the repeated alleged assaults on at-risk Black gay men by Democratic political donor Ed Buck. Multiple Black gay men have come forward to testify against Buck, who has been charged with a total of nine felonies relating to solicitation, forced drugging, and distribution of narcotics resulting in death. Whether it be the over-sexualization of Black bodies, dehumanization through forced addiction, or simple racism at work, Black gay men are targets for the sick fetishes of their wealthier white counterparts. Though Buck has been arrested and charged, there is still a great deal to flesh out when discussing what led to his years-long reign of terror.
Hypermasculinity tropes have plagued both Black men and women’s navigation of romance and sex. Often assumed to be aggressive, insatiable, and dominant, Black people encounter varying degrees of fetishization when dating interracially. The reduction of Black men, specifically, to vectors of sexual gratification for other races stems from slavery propaganda. Black male bodies were either “good,” meaning sexless and subservient, or “bad,” negatively sexualized, and equated to rape of white bodies. The “bad” archetype has been beaten to death in interracial pornography, specifically in gang bangs by one race over another.
Sexual fetishization of Black gay men has intensified in recent years through an ever-expanding hookup culture. As this is supported by smartphone apps and socially encouraged, many Black gay men find themselves subjected to one-word messages of “BBC” (Big Black Cock) or completely rejected from entire dating pools simply for their race. In order to participate in social, sexual activity, Black gay men often have to subject themselves to some level of degradation. This isn’t to say that there are no safe spaces for Black gay men to explore their sexuality (we have Atlanta, I guess), but rather that the gay majority in the U.S. is white, and everything associated with gay culture caters to that demographic. Outside of run-of-the-mill fetishization, white men often use their social and financial status to facilitate racist fantasies and experiment on Black bodies.
Ed Buck’s reported predation of Black men, while extreme, is not uncommon. Shortly after stories of the more than 10 victims who had been terrorized by Buck in his LA home began to break, BuzzFeed published an article detailing similar stories of abuse of Black and Latinx men at the hands of wealthy white men. The use of drugs to control often young and low-income Black men is the common thread in these and similar stories. The goal in drugging anybody is to take advantage of them, but racial violence appears to be the ultimate motive in these violent, sometimes deadly, encounters. Chemsex, or sex with the aid of drugs (often meth/GHB), has become commonplace within the gay community. Originally used by a white majority, the face of this drug has shifted to Black and Brown gay men in recent years. All one needs to do is ask their friends how many times an older white guy has offered them meth as opposed to asked them on a date, to see how commonly these drugs are being pushed on minorities.
Many stories about these predatory interactions begin with survivors stating that they were first introduced to these addictive substances by white men. Instances of “race play,” or sex where racist power dynamics are explored, are usually described shortly after. Violence, rape, and simulacra of multiple Black, drug-addicted slaves are also the norm. The sadistic breaking of will, through sexual violence and forced addiction, is the end goal of these predators—if not the death of their victims. While “race play” certainly needs to be unpacked, by definition it’s between two consenting adults. Consent was a non-factor in Ed Buck’s and his faceless peers’ destruction of human life. These are crimes of opportunity based on class disparity.
By nature, predators look for weaknesses in victims and systems to exploit. In the case of Gemmel Moore, who was found dead in Buck’s home in 2017, Buck was able to avoid penalization. Operating in the world as a well-connected and affluent political figure shielded him from incarceration. While many may view his predation of Black men as racist, I would argue that Buck is first and foremost a predator, depending on racist systems to obfuscate his behavior. Buck was so confident in societal disregard for Black gay men that even after Timothy Dean’s body was found in his apartment in early January of 2019, he went on to prey on yet another Black gay man. There was no investigation into Moore’s death until 21 days after his body was found, and in both deaths, Buck was not detained.
Black gay men, especially those who engage in sex work and/or drug use, are an unprotected class within the gay community—and society as a whole. Had it not been for the activism of Moore’s mother and the larger community, both deaths, and the stories of many victims, would have been cast aside and forgotten. The advent of #TimesUp, #MeToo, and #BLM has shown us how much pressure is needed to speak to power. For these men, whether survival sex workers, homeless, addicted, or all of the above, the same level of dedication is needed to make predators wary of pursuit.
Hypermasculinity and the over-sexualization of Black men in this country are also to blame in the tragic deaths of Moore and Dean. These systems do not allow for men to be seen as victims, or to receive the help they need after being victimized. The stereotypes placed on Black men equate them to sexual acts; therefore, they cannot be sexually assaulted. The phrase “asking for it” also comes to mind. Similarly, the preconception of rampant drug use within Black communities disallows addicts to be seen as sick and in need of help. Juxtapose that with the dramatic response given to white opioid addicts, and the problem becomes quite clear. Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, said her son “cried out to so many people, and we all failed him,” an-all-too-familiar realization in the aftermath of addiction.
Sex work also played a key role in how victims were perceived. Again, lack of empathy disallowed for any type of investigation into who these men were outside of stereotypes and labels. Despite Buck’s arrest and impending trial, the responsibility of protecting at-risk Black men will still largely fall on their respective communities.
Ed Buck was able to repeatedly prey on homeless and addicted Black men because societal value for their lives is low. He was able to murder two Black men and nearly killed a third before justice was served, for this very same reason. The stereotyping and societal dismissal of Black gay men from certain walks of life leaves those very men at risk of losing their lives to predators. Understanding the power dynamics within gay culture, specifically regarding race and class, is the first step to identifying how to protect the most vulnerable of us. Going further, identifying stereotypes that lead to dehumanization and fetishization makes the experience of Black gay men more real and relatable to everyone. The deaths of Moore and Dean, and the torture of Buck’s countless victims, only occurred because we didn’t identify with them as one of us. We cannot afford to keep moving like that.