Updated: Nov 14
Rap stars like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion celebrate female bodies, sex and sisterhood. They represent a new third wave feminist self-perception.
The release of the song WAP – short for Wet Ass Pussy – caused a wide range of reactions throughout the western public. Some celebrating the liberation and self-determination of female sexuality, with others wishing to wash their ears with holy water after hearing what the two rappers sang. The republican politician James P. Bradley tweeted:
“Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion are what happens when children are raised without God and without a strong father figure. Their new “song” #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!” (1)
WAP is not only a summer hit of 2020. It is also at the center of one of the most absurd debates about third wave feminism this year. Quickly summarized: Two women release an explicitly vulgar and sexual song about what turns them on and how they like to have sex with men.
The result: number 1 on the billboard-charts, 93 million streams in one week alone – an all-time record. “Bring a bucket and a mop for this wet ass pussy”. (2)
Not a long wait for harsh criticisms from the conservative side: is this the kind of feminism mothers wish for their
daughters? Ben Shapiro adds a day later that he’s concerned about the vaginal hygiene of the two rappers, referring to his wife – a gynecologist – stating that the Wet Ass Pussy is sign of a sexual disease. (3) Politicians and others condemn the rappers for releasing such a vulgar and disgusting song (protect our innocent children!). From being responsible for the downfall of good Christian values to not less than the destruction of American families – we heard it all. The republican DeAnna Lorraine tweeted that this world would definitely need more Melania’s and less Cardi B’s. (4)
The problematization and tabooing of female sexuality is rooted in old traditions. The reactions to WAP in 2020 prove that the double standards towards men and women (and especially their sexual behavior) are still dominant in society and pop culture. That right-wing conservatives get angry about obscene and sexual lyrics rapped by two women – and on top of that women of color (!) – is not very surprising. But even the R&B singer Cee-Lo Green, for example, called WAP “shameless” and “sheer savagery”: a singer who got accused of rape after drugging a woman and having non-consensual sex with her in 2012. (5)
The reactions to WAP clearly demonstrate how sexist stereotypes, gender specific expecations and misogyny still structure our society today. In patriarchy, female sexuality is only allowed and appreciated when men can control it and profit off it. Rap music celebrates strip clubs but condemns strippers and sex-workers.
This debate is not about content or lyrics of a new hit song, it’s about power. And because it is about power, the sexpositive movement – including WAP – is so important. It is the pop-cultural expression of a new feminist self-understanding which is opposing and dismantling toxic masculinity and patriarchy. The feminism of Gen Z is intersectional and aggressively sexpositive, which is, I think, a good and necessary thing.
What is also important to mention about this development of popfeminism is the fact that female artists claim male power symbols for themselves: Vulvas can be “thicc” and Beyoncé raps “get off my dick”. Declaring that women do not need men for their own pleasures, for their power and for their sexual liberation goes alongside the strong emphasis on sisterhood. In collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion (“Savage”), Beyoncé sings: “I’m a bad bitch, she’s a savage, no comparisons here” and expresses a crucial point of female empowerment in pop culture: cooperation instead of competition. Why fight against each other over the few places women are allowed to obtain when you can also march unified against patriarchy, claiming the space together? There is room for more than just one Queen of Pop.
The debate about WAP is not a debate about taste. It is a debate about power. It is about a new feminist wave re-claiming female sexuality for itself and fighting with an aggressive in-your-face-method for the liberation of female pleasure. I introduce: women who publicly rap about the pleasures of having a wet ass pussy.
drawing by clark-van-der-beken