Updated: Nov 22, 2020
If you haven’t seen the WAP music video by Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion, I encourage you to look it up on YouTube before reading this post.
WAP has been criticised as “shameless”, “vulgar”, “disappointing on a personal and moral level” among many other things. As an example, James P Bradley, a congressional candidate from California, was the first to express his outrage writing on Twitter:
“Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion are what happens when children are raised without God and without a strong father figure. Their new “song” The #WAP (which i heard accidentally) made me want to pour holy water in my ears and I feel sorry for future girls if this is their role model”
What is important to remember is that this music video happens in a context .Beginning with the commodification of African captives in the slave trade and continuing through the use of Black women’s bodies for gynaecological research history is packed with examples of Black women being cast as objects to be consumed, commodified and exploited for the gain of others. Black people were enslaved in America. Black women have been oversexualised, falsely seen as having animalistic sexual desires to either be exploited or suppressed and now some Black women are claiming their sexuality back.
The criticism of WAP comes from a sex negative perspective, the same view that condemns sex for pleasure. WAP comes across as a threat to some people as it clearly challenges traditional gender-norms and communicates female sexual desire. In demanding, “I want you to park that big Mac truck right in this little garage”, Cardi and Megan assert themselves as agents in their commodification.
It could be argued that WAP is an example of women working within the male gaze in an attempt to take back power. Cardi and Megan seem to perform sexuality for a male gaze in WAP, singing about how good they are at heterosexual sex and talking about genital size. But the question is: Who gets to decide when women are displaying their own sexual power by flipping gender norms on their head, and when they're catering to the patriarchy? The answer: it's fully up to the individual (artist in this case) to decide when and how they express their sexuality. Whether or not WAP is a product of the male gaze, what's important is that it made Cardi and Megan feel empowered.
And for the parents who are worried about their daughter’s sexual behaviour being impacted by this song or similar songs: take some time with your child to talk about what sex and sexuality means to you and to them; give them critical thinking tools to critique things before consuming them, talk about value-based decisions and you will see how your worries will dissolve one conversation at a time. You can also get help from a qualified sexuality educator or sexologist to support you and your teen through this.
Image from vulture.com