Recently, Blac Chyna has been relegated to being nothing more than a sex worker by opponents and supporters alike, people who reference her “finesse” and gloss over the abuse she’s suffered, reinforcing a dangerous narrative. Her humanity and her role as a mother are edited out of the persona people are now creating for her, as if being a sex worker makes those things less authentically part of her.
Blac Chyna is a mother who left her abusive partner Rob Kardashian several times in the last few months, and had his abuse of her play out in the court of public opinion. She happens to have been a stripper, a model, a sought-out video vixen, and a business owner of multiple companies not related to sex work, so to reduce her to a one-dimensional caricature of a sex worker strips her of every bit of her life off the pole.
Men are resources regardless of your occupation. Cis men come with access to respect, personal safety, often a degree of financial stability, and societal power that women are so often denied. To comment on what Blac Chyna was or wasn’t given during her relationship with Kardashian and cite it as the only reason she stayed exhibits a myopic and biased view of a person who engages in sex work. All people can benefit from proximity to men, proximity to whiteness, and the combined resources of both identities. That’s not exclusive to sex workers. Furthermore, financial abuse is often a tactic used by abusers, especially ones of Rob Kardashian’s means, and we can’t ignore that he got even more generous with his gifting once she started leaving him. We can’t blame her for being pulled into a cycle of abuse, and we shouldn’t keep running score of what women and femmes receive in a relationship as a ledger of emotional and physical debt they owe to the provider, regardless of their occupation.
I first became aware of Blac Chyna when friends would tag me in posts of a trailer video for Kardshian and Chyna’s then-upcoming reality show, Rob and Chyna, in which Chyna screamed into her phone at Kardashian: “Are you still texting bitches, yes or no?!” It was supposed to illustrate how possessive and mentally unstable she was. All I saw was someone responding to a deep lack of trust in their relationship and obviously being emotionally tormented by their partner’s actions. I felt her pain and empathized with her reactive search for reassurance from the one causing it. Sis knew he was talking to other women as sexual interests and she had just lost her first child’s father, Tyga, to his pedophilic interest in her current partner’s teenage sister, Kendall Jenner. I didn’t see anything funny to laugh at in that trailer video.
People would tag me in these posts because I too am the black woman afraid to love and be hurt. I went through my own series of relationships with no stability, shaky trust, and high stakes, and those relationships will make you act out in ways no one should ever witness. But the world witnessed Chyna’s abuse from day one, and to justify enjoying the abuse of a black woman as entertainment, we made her over as a heartless sex worker with a devious master plan, devoid of any authentic emotion. All the trauma and abuse she was subjected to were part of a manufactured soap opera to a lot of people, and surely none of it could be real. Only, we’ve seen time and time again that it is.
Chyna left Kardashian shortly after the birth of their child, Dream, and endured more public scrutiny for taking her child’s father out of her life. She endured the pointed comments on photos of her kids about how she was nothing more than a gold-digging sex worker and a horrible mother for walking away from the abuse we loved to laugh at. She left the comfort and security of her new home with Dream and abandoned the financial and logistical support she had access to while still in a medically fragile post-partum state because…she was a gold-digger. And she still celebrated Father’s Day with Kardashian, took family photos for him, and put herself back in her abuser’s grasp for the sake of creating that memory for her child.
She tried moving on with her life and started dating a black man, only to have Kardashian continue to whine in her inbox about how he was owed access to her body. Kardashian shared screen-capped text messages in which he begged to touch her when he released Chyna’ personal phone number to the entire world through social media. Knowing the hate she gets on her pages and knowing how often she puts up an expression of happiness or self-love only to delete it later after hours of absorbing death and rape threats, Kardashian posted his baby’s mom’s private phone number to the very crowd that threatens and despises her, but she’s the one labeled as a toxic manipulator and abuser.
Kardashian also shared nude photos of Chyna post-surgery, and people still argue over whether that’s revenge porn. On ABC’s Nightline, Chyna said that Kardashian’s Instagram and Twitter outbursts terrified her: “I was very fearful because I was like, ‘If you could do this, what else could you do?'” Even Chyna’s most recent romantic partner, the third party in Chyna and Kardashian’s very public fallout, has now been accused of filming her in intimate situations without her knowledge and shopping around nude photos of her to tabloids. Rarri True has himself been rumored to engage in sex work in Atlanta, but that seemingly hasn’t made him more sensitive to Chyna’s situation. He’s been called out as a scammer by prominent gay men in Atlanta who claim first-hand knowledge of his emotional manipulation. But the men in Chyna’s story are not facing the same degree of public opprobrium for their abusive behavior.
Meanwhile, the media and the public have taken all of Chyna’s personhood away and played into the dangerous narratives that black women can’t be emotionally vulnerable; that sex workers and black women in general can’t be trusted; and that black women are always the aggressors, even in the face of obvious and confirmed emotional, sexual, and physical abuse. Black women aren’t allowed victimhood because we aren’t allowed emotions or even basic humanity. The perception that Chyna was always in control and always working towards an opportunistic and vengeful end goal feeds into the daily misogynoir and whorephobia that so many of us face.
Now Chyna has reached out to a very prominent women’s rights lawyer, Lisa Bloom, and is getting the legal protection and, hopefully, the emotional support she needs, to actually be free of her abuser—as much as a mother who still has to raise a child with one can be. On Monday, she was granted a temporary restraining order against Kardashian, barring him from coming near her or posting about her online. Chyna graphically recounted Kardashian’s physical abuse and constant manipulative threats of suicide in her petition for the order, and in a pre-taped Good Morning America appearance with Bloom earlier that day, she said she was “devastated” by the cyberbullying. Despite this, people who call themselves her supporters continue to rally behind their vision of her as the vengeful whore getting back at everyone’s most hated family. We still aren’t acknowledging the abuse she suffered and spoke out about, her real pain, and her complexity as a single black mother and sex worker. We still require her to be the stoic and sassy black girl who can handle it all. Chyna chose a lawyer that we can hope will keep her strong and away from her abuser as long as possible, because she knows she needs that. She didn’t go through a lawyer she’s worked with before or a family lawyer for her domestic issues. She went to Bloom, a women’s rights lawyer with a record of for calling for true accountability and advocating for women who aren’t able to stand for themselves. Chyna is just as vulnerable and fragile as any domestic violence survivor, and even if she was the master manipulator people imagine her to be, she’s a multi-faceted person before she’s our hoe idol.
We have to allow black women and sex workers their vulnerability and a full range of human emotions. The message being sent about Chyna from both sides continues to deny that.