The Salem Witch Trials Reboot Feat. Normani

Or, nobody got mad when Cee Lo sang about necrophilia in 2006

Welcome back to Going Downs, a weekday newsletter about the intersection of celebrity and politics.

I could have told you how the release for Cardi B. and Megan Thee Stallion’s viral video for “WAP” (Wet Ass Pussy), would go, because I’ve lived on earth long enough to ride this merry-go-round.

It’s a time-honored tradition: a group of women publicly state that they enjoy sex, mysoginists feel threatened and vilify them.

Policing, criticizing, and suppressing women’s sexuality goes back to the Salem Witch Trials. It goes back to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” video being slammed by Catholics. It goes back to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” being banned at school dances. It goes back to Janet Jackson being professionally blacklisted for something she didn’t even do. I watched Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” spark disgust in Al Roker in 2014 on national television.

This go around saw conservative talking head Ben Shapiro engage in self-repulsion as he read lyrics from “WAP” on his live show. His point was pretty quickly undermined on Twitter.

Cee Lo Green, a rape apologist and someone who pleaded no contest to once drugging a woman, said

Attention is also a drug and competition is around,” suggests the singer. “Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, they are all more or less doing similar salacious gesturing to kinda get into position. I get it, the independent woman and being in control, the divine femininity and sexual expression. I get it all,” for Green, he can’t help but ask, “it comes at what cost?”

He apologized yesterday. Then there’s California Rep. James Bradley: 

Two conservative candidates for Congress in CA:

A candidate for Congress in Texas:

And, a pretty prominent music video director and producer who seems like he sucks. 

In many ways, I think if it’s getting to them, it’s working. Good art is subversive, and when you punch up at the power structures (men), people who are in those power structures (men, politicians, women who have internalized misogyny, religion), get mad. The madder they get, the more people listen to the song, the more normalized the song’s message becomes. 

What is the message? Sex positivity. “WAP” provides us with a world in which demanding cunnilingus from your partner is fun and normal. Penises are big ass trucks, vaginas are little garages and sometimes mac ‘n cheese. Live a little. “WAP” is written in the female gaze. It objectifies men, in the way men have objectified women for thousands of years in art. Most importantly, the world of “WAP” is a world where sex is consensual, non-violent, and honestly kind of sweet. Claiming you’ll “Switch my wig, make him feel like he cheatin'” is extremely innocent in the context of a committed relationship.

For pearl-clutchers, the P.O.V. in “WAP” is from the perspective of a wife telling her husband these things. We’re not even talking premarital cunnilingus here! (I don't cook, I don't clean But let me tell you how I got this ring).

And, unlike most male-written rap songs about sex, “WAP” gives reciprocity. In Megan’s verse, she offers oral sex to the point of asking to have her man’s dick “Touch that lil' dangly thing that swing in the back of my throat.” Now that’s karma. Let it also be known that no uncensored version of the “WAP” music video exists that I can find online. Only audio streams of the uncensored track can be found. So before you get upset about “the children,” the children are relegated to watching Cardi and Megan sing the Dr. Seuss-like chorus of “Wet and Gushy.”

The criticism of “WAP” by conservatives reminded me of my high school dances at Catholic school in which Khia’s 2002 classic, “My Neck My Back (Lick It)” was banned from the DJ request, but 2002’s “Get Low” by ‘Lil Jon was deemed okay (The sweat drop down my balls /All you bitches, crawl). In some ways, seeing words like “promiscuous” and “vulgar” retraced into the public discourse brought me back to when male teachers and administrators would complain they could see female students’ bras through our shirts if the shirt was too tight. In the eyes of many men and people in power, women and teenage girls are at risk of either outright singing “WAP” or they might be singing it in their heads.

Conservatives and the religious right’s laser focus on this aspect of hip hop because women need to be in their place. It’s up to them to decide when and how women get to be sexual, how their bodies get to be used, and why. To add to this, concern trolling about pop music at all is often a form of racism (see: a history of conservative pundits reading rap lyrics).

But the outrage often ends at women overtly promoting their own sexuality. If these critics really cared about “vulgarity,” they could at least focus their protests on the countless examples of pop songs that include lyrics about rape, domestic violence, and murdering women. 

Where were these critics in 2010, when Eminem rapped on Nicki Minaj’s “Roman’s Revenge” that he “Caught her stealing my music so I tied her arms and legs to the bed, set up the camera and pissed twice on her”?The teachers at my middle school mixer had no problem letting us dance to Ja Rule’s 2001’s “Always on Time,” in which he sings, "I got two or three hoes for every V and I keep 'em drugged up off that ecstasy." I’d ask Cee Lo the same question, but in 2006, his band debuted the song “Necromancer” which includes the lyrics, “Necrophilia / Without a care /I'm compassionate about killing her/ I'd have my way with what's left of the will in her.” 

Conservatives should be mad that R. Kelly’s songs are still available on Spotify and YouTube. Despite being indicted on numerous charges of child exploitation, child pornography, and kidnapping, and sexual assault, we’re all able to stream Aalyiah’s “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number,” which Kelly produced and is about their illegal marriage when she was 15. Just yesterday, three of Kelly’s associates were arrested for years of threatening and intimidating his victims.

But, sure. Be mad about “WAP.” 

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