Have you heard the new song WAP by Cardi-B? There’s a lot beneath the surface of the new hit single and people’s reactions to it-sexism and female narratives around pleasure. Have you been tapping your feet to this song, and wondered what all it takes to make a wet-ass pussy?
Is Cardi-B a feminist icon?
Sowmya Srinivasan is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Law honours from Tamil Nadu National Law University, Tiruchirapalli. They enjoy research and writing, and advocate for LGBT+ rights and mental health. They actively participate in debating, and when free, indulge in painting.
The release of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s hit song “WAP” has definitely stirred the pot surrounding conversations of sexual autonomy. The music industry has long been dominated by male artists who center their music around women, with hip-hop music videos often sexualising them. It is commonplace for videos like ‘Blurred lines’ to exist, where women are paraded around partially or completely naked, or for mainstream rappers like Lil Wayne talking about how much sex they have, money they make and drugs they consume. The commercialisation of this narrative has been one solely reserved for men, however, and any attempt by female rappers to reclaim their sexuality or center their art around this sexualisation has been met with criticism due to the prevalence of the male gaze in our patriarchal society.
The music industry as it exists glorifies and accepts men for sexualising women, but punishes women who choose to reclaim their sexuality and talk about enjoying sex. Patriarchal narratives revolve around the subjugation of women, and black/women of colour have commonly been over-sexualised in American history, seen as sexual objects. The feminist movement has long fought for sexual liberation in the past, but mainstream feminism as it stands today has been restricted to white, affluent narratives. The release of WAP is another form of reclamation as well, reflecting the intersections that feminism has to cater to when discussing autonomy and sexuality.
The backlash against Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” is yet another chapter in the history of women in rap being condemned for owning their sexuality. None of this is new. Millie Jackson’s 1974 song “The Rap” started her legacy as the raunchy godmother of soul and rap – but, like other trailblazers since then, she was met with misogyny. The stars who did rise in the ‘80s, like Queen Latifah and Roxanne Shante were celebrated for going toe-to-toe with the guys, as long as they dialed back their femininity. The revolution came with Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown; their willingness to self-sexualise themselves set them apart, but the backlash was strong. The 2000s were the golden era of sexed-up women in rap, from Trina to Jacki-O, who smashed their way into the game with explicit lyrics. There’s still a long way to go before women can own their secxuality without backlash, but the difference now is solidarity. In the past, women have been pitted against each other for the singular “Queen of Rap” spot. Now, collaborations rein supreme, and women are more dominant and unified than ever.
One of the key reasons the music video and the song gained as much backlash as it did from conservatives was the unpalatability of watching two people of colour rap about sexual desire and explicitly detail their arousal. It is quite hypocritical to claim this – men get away with sexualising and profiting off of women’s bodies and their sexual desirability in their often explicitly sexual music videos, but women are always ostracised for attempting to reclaim this narrative for their own.
It is considered shameful for women to talk about their body parts. The conversation around women’s sexual health is also one that has been stirred by the release of this music video. Popular conservative columnist Ben Shapiro, while commenting on the lyrics, stated that the song seemed to be alluding to Cardi suffering from an STI, and that it was abnormal for women to have wet vaginas. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The vagina is a mucus membrane, and one that is self-lubricating. Lubrication is a natural part of the vagina’s function, and protects the genital area from injury or tearing, while also keeping the vagina clean and moist. The degree to which this wetness is felt depends on several factors, including hormones, where you are in your cycle, age, medication, mental health, etc. Wetness can be caused by two factors: the Bartholin glands, which are two small, pea-sized glands located inside the vagine that lubricate the vagina to prevent excessive dryness (also responsible for producing moisture during sexual arousal); and the cervix, which produces a mucus-like fluid throughout a person’s menstrual cycle. As ovulation approaches, there is an increase in vaginal wetness as the cervix increases fluid production at this time.
Higher estrogen levels can increase vaginal wetness by causing the Bartholin glands to produce more fluid, which is common during sexual arousal. This fluid helps lubricate the vagina during sexual activity, which decreases the risk of painful friction and injuries. When vaginal fluid changes or a person produces significantly more than normal, this may indicate an infection. Yeast infections cause thick, white, cottage cheese like discharge, which may cause itching, burning or feel very sore and try. Other infections such as trichomoniasis (an STI) may cause yellowish or greenish discharge. However, normal discharge is the sign of a healthy vagina and a sign that the body is working well.
The conversation surrounding women’s health is always one that is sidelined, particularly due to the stigma and shame attached to these topics. The WAP music video is a great step forward not only because it is a representation of black women unashamedly owning their sexuality, but also allowing them to express themselves in the same way men have always had the leeway to do so. Conversations around lubrication and wetness are also required to bust the myths that conservatives and right-wingers have thrived upon- feeling wet is not indicative of an STI (most commonly), and is part of a natural bodily process. The threat that conservatives feel is farcical – there is nothing dangerous about a sexually liberated woman, and it is empowering to own a narrative that has been controlled by men for too long.
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