WAP: it's time to celebrate female sexuality

Phoebe Eyles and Dominic Lee discuss the importance of celebrating female sexuality in music.

multiple writers
21st September 2020
Image: @iamcardib (Instagram)

Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know that Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion released the song WAP last month. It's safe to say the song's explicit lyrics and messaging have caused controversy since it came out.

The song is currently number two in the UK showing that the hype has yet to calm down. Yes, the song's explicit version has vulgar lyrics, but it is time to celebrate female artists taking control of their sexuality. Society needs to stop making sex an acceptable topic for men but a taboo topic for women.

"We listen to songs by male artists with explicit themes without giving it too much thought yet as soon as a woman is singing about female pleasure it seems much more outrageous."

Sex has been an incredibly popular theme in music for years now, yet when women write songs about sex it is seen as demeaning. We listen to songs by male artists with explicit themes without giving it too much thought yet as soon as a woman is singing about female pleasure it seems much more outrageous. Women celebrating their sexuality needs to become the norm. WAP needs to be the last song where women face critique for being sexually empowered.

"Women do not exist simply to please men and songs like WAP need to become normalised."

There is an argument that the song is inappropriate for children to listen to. Whilst this is completely valid, the debate over what children should be listening to seems to occur more regularly in relation to women's songs about sex as opposed to men's. Whether we like it or not, sex is a powerful theme in music and we should allow women to celebrate themselves in this way just like men have been able to do for centuries. The patriarchy dictates that men should control female sexuality. There are countless successful songs where men have objectified women, from Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' to 'Fine China' by Chris Brown. Women do not exist simply to please men and songs like WAP need to become normalised as women are able to celebrate sex and our own sexuality.

It is important to challenge the patriarchy and songs like 'WAP' have encouraged conversations about why female sexuality in music is so frowned upon. Sex is just as important for women and non binary people as it is for cis men, and it is time to stop pushing women down for being empowered.

Phoebe Eyles

The music video for WAP has also caused controversy.

The subject of female sexuality has always caused mass division in society, with many seeking to deny women the freedom to celebrate their bodies or sexuality. This attempt by the patriarchy and those of a more conservative leaning is no clearer than in popular culture and in particular music, as demonstrated by the outrage shown in response to ‘WAP’ by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion.

Headlining the list of people quick to criticise the lyrics of the song was American right-wing commentator Ben Shapiro, who referred to the lyrics as “vulgar”. Shapiro went on to argue that the feminist movement was about the song’s titular acronym- “wet ass pussy”- rather than equal rights. The song was met with further right-wing backlash when Republican congressional candidate James P. Bradley tweeted his disgust, saying that the song reflected what happened when young girls are raised without God and a strong father figure. As ludicrous as these claims are, particularly as Bradley claimed to hear the song “accidentally” which is a blatant lie given the specificity of his comments, they reflect a troubling truth within our society.

“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!”

James P. Bradley on Twitter

This truth is that some men are uncomfortable with female sexuality and are threatened by the possibility that women can discuss or initiate sex independently or from a position of control. These men are uncomfortable when women are talking about sex from their perspective and reflecting their own personal desires or how they express their sexuality. The men offended by this probably aren’t offended by women celebrating their bodies or the concept of a “WAP”, what they’re offended by, or more likely scared of, is the thought that women can be in control of sex and can express their sexuality independent of men.

Clearly what we’re seeing here is double standards in the way that male and female musicians can talk about female sexuality, which reflects wider issues within our patriarchal society. There are a plethora of male artists who have not faced the same derision for lyrics about women’s bodies, how many women they’ve slept with and what they have done when they did. It’s fair to say that songs of this nature have been met with more criticism in recent years such as The Weeknd’s track ‘Lost In the Fire’ featuring Gessaffelstein. However, when female artists choose to champion their sexuality and use it as the base for their music they’re criticised for vulgarity and called bad role models.

This criticism reflects the unwillingness of the patriarchy to respect the rights and freedoms of women when it comes to expressing their sexuality and independence in general. From evidence it seems that a lot of men are only inclined to discuss female sexuality when they are in control and when the discourse is shaped by them. ‘WAP’ is another reminder that as men we need to focus less on restricting the freedom of women and more on the fact that we’re still not comfortable with women being sexually independent.

Dominic Lee

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