Josie Farmer dives deep into ‘WAP’, making a noise for women’s sexual pleasures in hip hop’s murky waters.
“Wet-Ass Pussy” is the phrase on everyone’s lips. But who thinks they can shush it? Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s hip hop sensation ‘WAP’ caused a tidal wave after its release back in August. If you’re a fish out of water, we advise three steps: stop reading, watch the video, keep reading.
This collaboration from the leading US rappers has held the internet in its firm yet contentious grip for over two months now. With public responses ranging from glorified appreciation to downright repulsion, it seemed everyone had a thinkpiece up their sleeve on the song’s subject matter. As suggested by the titular acronym, the song details Cardi and Megan’s standards of sexual satisfaction, and thanks to the accompanying music video, not much is left to the imagination: “Make it cream, make me scream / Out in public, make a scene.”
“We are policing the way women talk about their own bodies”
If the song’s somewhat taboo content wasn’t striking enough, its release was record-breaking. With 93 million American streams, (the most ever in the first week after release), ‘WAP’ secured a debut spot on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 1. But could two women speak so candidly about sex without the internet losing its mind? Still, in 2020, it seems not. Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion have well-established themselves as frontrunners in their artistic field, and yet it appeared ‘WAP’ was fair game to keyboard warriors and Congressional candidates alike, all foaming at the mouth in their haste to debase them.
No one was surprised, or even frankly bothered, when the grisly old guys took issue with women talking S-E-X, but as usual, the danger lay in the “more tolerant” responses. The responses that insisted they agreed that women should have space to state their sexual preferences, but “not like that,” because Cardi and Megan’s choice of expression is “too vulgar” for young girls to hear… Are the young boys doing OK? For once they seem to be left out of the conversation entirely. While expressed through what we might presume to be genuine concern for the over-sexualisation of young women, this notion of censorship only further suppresses women’s voices in expressing their own sexual needs. In demanding a “softer” form of expression, we are policing the way women talk about their own bodies in a way that men are never reprimanded. And if we’re really ready to ask why, it’s clear. Patriarchal societies thrive off women’s subordination and insecurities; we are still conditioned to find women who know what they want to be an uncomfortable, almost inappropriate, concept. Unfortunately for female rappers and queer artists, but in particular Black women in hip hop, this is not the first time, nor probably the last, that their respectability as artists will be brought into question.
“The issue was never the explicitness of the sexual demands, but the gender championing them.”
When we feel compelled to invalidate or restrict women’s voices on the topic of their sexual demands, we must interrogate what kind of standards (or lack thereof) we are upholding for their male counterparts. Whether this means in fields of artistic expression or simply during day-to-day life, we hear men detail their sexual expectations all the time. Some of the most sexually explicit lyrics have been written by men, many of which might now be considered “classics”: ‘Slob on my Knob’ by Three 6 Mafia, ‘Superman’ by Eminem, ‘Oochie Wally’ by Nas, ‘Pleazer’ by Tyga… Each song features crudely explicit depictions of self-aggrandizing sex with women popping up like props: showgirls in an egregious performance of masculinity. And yet, while MTV might have banned their videos from their platform back in the day, repercussions rarely cut deeper. Public declarations of abhorrence, appeals to end careers, and for some, even suppression from their own record labels, became the resentment reserved solely for women. From Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown in the mid-90s, to Trina and Khia in the early 2000s, female artists who dared to challenge the mainstream narrative around sexual pleasure with their own exacting commands joined the uphill battle. The issue was never the explicitness of the sexual demands, but the gender championing them.
When young people are not exposed to expressions of enthusiastic consent, and sex centring women’s pleasure and predilections – whether that features a WAP or not – we deprive the next generation of their chance to get it right: the possibility to develop a healthier, well-rounded understanding of the importance of everyone’s right to pleasure, not just men’s. Whether it’s through their music choices, GTA game-play or interaction with porn, we know they are seeing the other side, day-in, day-out. The impression that men are constantly craving and obtaining sex is everywhere.
Without actively welcoming women’s desires to the table, or bedroom, we keep them silenced and objectified; things can be done to women, but not for them.
Black women, non-binary and queer artists have been censored and silenced for decades, if not centuries, through our consumption of media. And yet, it’s these exact identities who have consistently fought for, and vocalised, women’s sexual pleasure through art and music, and which white, modern feminism has often failed to commend. We owe it to this generation’s leading voices to show up, loudly, in support of their art, vision, and relentless resistance to conform. All praise to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion for reigniting this conversation, once again – and for reminding the world that our WAPs are here to be heard.
Make It Nasty: Black Women’s Sexual Anthems and the Evolution of the Erotic Stage – Alexandria Cunningham
Visit Reverb Music on Spotify to stream our playlist inspired by this discussion:
Written by: Josie Farmer
Images: Atlantic Records