Since Friday when “WAP” debuted, there has been a lot of conversation about women and sex. Apparently, the world still does not know that women have sex let alone like sex. (Even “respectable” women.) While I was waiting to work on a series about sex, “WAP” seems to be the herald that is ushering the series in.
If you haven’t had the time to listen to “WAP,” it is a song about getting it in. Figuratively and literally. It is bright, fun, raw, and is an homage to 90s up-dos (I can remember the time spent under the dryer achieving something similar) and women MCs/pop stars who paved the way by talking about a subject once considered taboo for women.
WAP by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion
Hearing women rap boldly about sex may not be your cup of tea, but it shouldn’t really be surprising in 2020. While seeing a certain member of a famous family in the video was NOT my shot of Henny, the song made me smile and proud that we are in an era where women can say loud and proud what they like.* I understand that conversations about sex make people uncomfortable and that is fair. It may not even be to your liking that anyone sings very boldly about sex. And that’s fine, too. But the truth is plain. Women have and like sex. Moreover, “respectable” women like sex. And maybe this is the issue because although it is 2020, society is not ready to accept this fact.
It is puzzling to me that we are in a society that has accepted that some version of the dystopic hell of A Handmaid’s Tale could exist, but are disgusted about a song where women flaunt their sexuality.
As I sat in the back yard enjoying the California evening, the sounds of Lil Jon’s “From the Window to the Wall” in my neighbor’s backyard interrupted my thoughts for a moment. My neighbor, like me, believes in the explicit versions of songs.
It has often been a common practice for rappers and male singers of all genres to talk about sex, so the coincidence of this song being played at this moment was not lost on me. Men discussing their sexual prowess and their proclivity for objectifying women’s bodies is accepted as standard. Even in the 21st century, sex can only be comfortably viewed through the male lens.
Of course, you have a right to not listen to certain music and not watch certain videos. Exercise that right. But if you are in the process of growing, ask yourself why hearing women talk about sex vocally without using euphemisms makes you more uncomfortable than the thousands of songs that men have written, rapped, and sung. The songs you listened to and sang along with. The explicit version and the radio edit.
We are in the midst of a pandemic, and a nice catchy tune is just what we need. Whether you are trying to date during the pandemic or whether you are leaning into the partnership you are in, you’re probably having sex (or at least thinking about it). And hopefully it’s fulfilling. You should be able to enjoy every aspect of your life. Work. Home. Dinner. Sex. Adults of legal age should be able to enjoy a romp or two if they so choose. Even “respectable” women.
This should not be a big deal, but it is. When it all boils down, people are mad about a song sung by women who enjoy sex. It does not matter that one of the women on the song is married and gushes about her sex life with her husband. (For the record, it doesn’t matter if you’re married or not, it’s just that in a culture that tries to say that only married people should engage in sexual activity, it is a little strange that even married women aren’t allowed to enjoy the sex they’re having with their spouse. We saw this before with “Drunk in Love.”)
Apparently, no “respectable” woman can talk about enjoying sex at all. I don’t remember anyone being this angry about lyrics like “sweat drops down my balls.” I don’t remember people being this angry at the Ying-Yang Twins “Wait (The Whisper Song)” song. In fact, I can’t remember anyone being angry enough to tweet that men have set the men’s movement back because they dared to talk about sex explicitly.
There is so much controversy about a song no one is being forced to listen to.
People who are into respectability politics are having a field day discussing the type of “respect” that one should be afforded. I must confess, I used to be a subscriber to this type of mentality but I can proudly say, I have shed myself of it and it was a hard process to undo. So many things are couched in the idea of what it means to be respectable, but that’s not really the issue.
When you unpack respectability, you realize that it is about seeking validation and acceptance from oppressors. Respectability politics is not about respect. Everyone should be respected. The problem with respectability politics is that it is created by a system designed to keep a said group acting within its parameters in order to be afforded respect. And I hate to tell you this, but even if you subscribe to respectability politics, your oppressors, will never accept or respect you. The whole concept is bullshit. People should be respected. Women are respectable whether they talk about sex or not.
If you want to keep your sex life private, more power to you. That’s respectable. If you want to talk about it, as long as you have a circle of people who are comfortable hearing and talking about it (consent y’all), then talk about it. That’s respectable. And since we’re discussing it, I would add though, if you’re keeping your sex life private because you feel that “good women” and “respectable women” don’t talk about sex, maybe it’s time to re-examine where that came from. Did it come from a religious institution? The same religious institution that teaches you sex is sinful until you’re married and then it’s okay? What are the parameters? How does that even work? Is there a switch that is activated once you’re married that moves the idea of sex from sinful to respectable? Can you talk about it? Who controls the switch? It seems like an awful lot of work. It seems like an awful lot to have to deal with.
And that is a problem.
I remember being 20 something. I remember feeling that the only thing I could ask a man to do was to wear a condom and since that was already infringing upon his good time, I had no right to ask him for anything else. And so sex just became something to do. The men I was with in my 20s never asked what I liked and I never spoke up, so I had sex that may have been gratifying for them, but it didn’t do a thing for me. Besides, I felt I was sinning all kind of ways so maybe if I didn’t talk about it, it wasn’t really happening. Good women kept things private. All things. Respectable women didn’t talk about it. Even wants and desires. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy sex very much throughout my 20s.
I am 40+ now. Not speaking my mind about what I want, what I desire, and what I deserve is not how I’m going to spend my remaining years on this earth.
Why do I like the song?
For one, it’s fun. It makes me feel good about my body. Additionally, it makes me remember that my wants and needs should be prioritized. I like the song because both women own their sexuality. They own what they like. And they say what they want. They are proud of their bodies and the fact that they like sex. It reminds us that our bodies are not just for working or just for procreation. It reminds us that respectable women demand what they want.
Sex is pleasurable. Sex is freeing. Sex is about those involved having a good time and enjoying it. Sex is ethereal. If you can’t say what you enjoy and what you want, sex really isn’t worth the effort. It’s one thing to have to work on things in the bedroom, but it’s another thing not to even speak them. Say what you want. Stop letting others control the narrative. Consenting adults can and should demand what they want.
Before we enter the age of extreme Puritanism (once again The Handmaid’s Tale is a warning not something to aspire to), it’s time for you to say what you want in the bedroom. It’s time for you to be confident about what you’re bringing to the table. Your body is beautiful, and your confidence is sexy. State what you want and demand that you get it. Sing about the wonderful quality of your vagina. Sing about what you want to feel. Sing about how amazing you are at knowing your own body. Sing about how you will make your partner fall to their knees.
And let your partner know, another could never. Own that. Own your WAP. Respectable women state what they want and need. If people don’t like it, they can stay mad.
Of course, there is another option. You could remain quiet, remain unfulfilled, remain “respectable,” and wind up 8 years into a celibate sort of companionship, and you won’t even know how you got there.
*I must apologize for an earlier sentence I wrote. What I said was untrue. My IBS will not stomach brown liquor so there is nothing that is my cup of Henny. It’s more like my cup of vodka.