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  • Sat, 21, Nov, 2020 - 5:00:AM

Why don't we like it when women sing about sex?

We all know I’m talking about WAP.

In a year full of juicy news, Cardi B’s raunchy single managed to hold its own against other storylines for weeks after its release. It’s a simple song, without a need to mine it for meaning, full of creative euphemisms along the lines of macaroni, garages and credit cards — lyrics designed to make your eyebrows raise.

But I’m also talking about music, by female artists, about sex, in general.

There’s Meg Thee Stallion’s EP Suga, which features the viral song ‘Savage’, full of sensual and steely tracks. Ariana Grande has recently dropped her album Positions, which can neatly be described as if Disney princesses started having lots of sex while retaining their tendency to burst into song.

The thing in common these bodies of work have with each other is that they talk about sex in very explicit terms. And we all know by now that sexually-liberated women receive strong backlash.

American politician James P. Bradley tweeted that “Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion are what happens when children are raised without God and without a strong father figure” and that WAP “made me want to pour holy water in my ears.” That pretty much sums up the sentiments from the world’s conservative base, who think that WAP will lead to the moral collapse of society. Cardi B was criticised for hypersexualising women, and her reaction was essentially: well, duh.

Sex sells.

Cardi B said as much in a video update, explaining “if that’s what people are trying to hear, then alright. [I will] start rapping about my pussy” after her more careful lyrics were met with dissatisfaction and confusion. 

She continued, “There’s a lot of female rappers… rapping their ass off and [aren’t] talking about getting down and dirty… and y’all don’t be supporting them [when they’re] mad dope. So don’t blame that shit on us.”

I like to believe Cardi was simply aiming for a fun, catchy, saucy track. With WAP, whether she gave it deliberation or not, she candidly exposed the hypocrisy within the music industry and society at large. 

It’s the Madonna-whore dichotomy at play again. For all the pearl-clutching, vocal objections to women singing about sex, we really don’t put our money where our mouth is. Female artists recognise that because, unlike tweets, streaming statistics and album sales don’t lie.

What Cardi B did was observe the roles expected of women in entertainment and raise them one higher. She made a song so salacious and brow-raising that we hardly know what to do with it. And while conservatives are having heart palpitations, she’s taking home the coin.

So for all the people who claim to hate WAP from a progressive, feminist position, I’m going to have to burst your bubble. (Looking at you, Bradley, who feels “sorry for future girls if this is their role model”.)

Firstly, since when did we turn to the entertainment industry as our yardstick for moral behaviour? Secondly, would there be nearly as much outrage if a man sang these lyrics?

This might be my age speaking, but I don’t recall I Just Had Sex (or substitute in any song about sex performed by dudes) being slammed for setting the entire male gender back by 100 years.  Nor do I recall Eminem, Tupac, Sir-Mix-A-Lot (again, feel free to substitute artists) being dragged across the coals for setting a poor example for young boys with their explicit lyrics. 

Maybe decades ago rap music as a genre received a fair amount of flack, but the gender differential between how female rappers and male rappers are treated today is undeniable. When a man is explicit, it’s just the nature of the genre. When a woman is explicit, suddenly there’s a moral failing on her part. 

Morality only enters the picture when women toe the line of traditional gender roles. That’s why I’m unbothered about more music like WAP being released, about more women singing very candidly about sex. Sure, I don’t think WAP is a particularly feminist anthem, and I’d never play it in front of any children. But Cardi, Meg and Ariana are well within their rights to make successful music off of peak dirty talk — men do it all the time.

Feminism means that women are entitled to feeling and expressing the full range of human experience. Publicly, loudly, unabashedly.

And that includes sex.


  • Music Industry /
  • Sex /
  • Sexism /
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