It wasn’t the kind of moment you remember for the rest of your life. I couldn’t tell you what day it was or my location. But what I do remember is that I definitely heard about WAP before I actually heard the song.
It was like a gossipy rumour in school – “shocking”, “appalling” and “vulgar”. My mind ran wild – how graphic must the lyrics of this song be for so many people to be so outraged? I was expecting ghetto house; an assault on DJ Assault for being too tame. I expected my jaw to be on the floor like a cartoon character. I braced myself and I listened.
I’ll take a brief pause from the narrative to ask, what did you think of WAP when you listened? Were you outraged? Were you horrified? Shocked?
I was. I was outraged, horrified and shocked at the fact I had been led to believe that my eardrums would be ruptured by the profanity. It really wasn’t that bad. To me anyway, WAP was quite tame. The song clearly is solely focused on sex, but it’s filled with metaphor and double entendre – such as “in the food chain, I’m the one that eat ya, if he ate my ass, he’s a bottom feeder”. It isn’t just sexual for the sake of it – it’s been cleverly crafted.
If we compare it to ghetto house for a hot minute, perhaps you can see why I don’t find it so outrageous. Take DJ Deeon in Ride This MF, “come on girl grab this dick, squeeze it bitch, make it thick”. Or DJ Assault, “hoe don’t cry when I nut in your eye, let it drip down your face, trick how does it taste?” in the aptly named Nut in Your Eye. They are so blunt in their lyric that they genuinely did make me gasp. Ride This MF must have been particularly shocking because I can even remember where I was when I first heard the song – a train journey to York if anyone is interested. In terms of shock factor, WAP just pales in comparison – it lacks the bluntness.
My plan for this article was to just focus on WAP. However, one area of research was looking for songs focusing on sex that are performed by male artists which I was going to compare to WAP. My findings lead me to a Mojo Top 10 Overtly Sexual Pop Songs Youtube video posted in August 2017. I watched, hoping this would help me formulate my theory. There were 14 songs featured in the video and do you want to take a guess at how many were by male artists?
There were 3. Only 3 male artists in the video for overtly sexual songs. I was quite surprised because I went through a noughties playlist and found at least 10. I’ll list the songs that made the cut below:
S&M – Rihanna (which was called “surprisingly progressive”)
Play – David Banner (Mentioned, but didn’t make the cut as it’s not a pop song)
What about Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke, almost any Pitbull song, Sex Bomb by Tom Jones, Rock Your Body by Justin Timberlake? And that’s just to name a few. Some of the lyrics may be slightly more subtle but as a generalisation most songs by male artists are about a man ogling a woman (usually in a club) and him deciding he’s going to have sex with her.
Songs that are “overtly sexual” are only considered so, because of the expectation of women in a patriarchal society. They’re viewed as sex objects by men, but they must also represent the epitome of an ‘innocent virgin’ stereotype without an explicit bone in their body. When a female artist sings about sex, she is immediately deemed ‘overtly sexual’ because she isn’t conforming to the stereotype. Whereas her male counterpart can sing about sex and have naked women in his music videos with little to no reprimand, because patriarchal society accepts and normalises this.
Anyway, back to criticising the criticisers of WAP.
Criticiser number one, Snoop Doggy Dogg, shocked me a bit because he sings about sex quite a considerable amount – but once women are doing it, he goes from a “I got a pocket full of rubbers and my homeboys do too” to “that should be a woman’s pride and possession. That’s your jewel of the Nile… that should be a possession that no one gets to know about…”. How can Snoop Dogg sing Sexual Eruption, Sweat, Gin and Juice but also believe that women need to leave things to the imagination? Oh yeah, misogyny! Cardi B’s husband Offset responded to Snoop’s criticism by saying that “we should uplift our women, and don’t say what they can and can’t do”. Snoop Dogg then explained that he meant no disrespect and his response to WAP may have been related to his age and that when he was in his early 20s, he would have jumped on a remix.
Had he offered a similar critique of male artists singing about sex there wouldn’t be an issue – why is a woman’s sexuality supposed to be a secret, but a man can sing loud and proud about perving on women in a club? And the excuse of age just doesn’t cut it. The 2019 release of I Wanna Thank Me, an album featuring Do You Like I Do and Turn Me On (featuring Chris Brown – need I say anymore?) demonstrates he still treats women as sex objects in his music at the ripe old age of 49.
Piping up next is CeeLo Green, who complains there is “a time and a place for adult content.” I would have thought that the place for expressive content would be in the creative industries. It’s the listener that gets songs into the charts, thereby the majority are choosing the place of the song. Its number one because of its popularity. He then went on to say, “I get… the independent woman… and sexual expression… but at what cost?”. Literally, what cost? I can only assume he is referring to the men crying about women reclaiming their sexuality instead of allowing themselves to be subject to the male gaze in the media. Though he apologised for his comments, I’d say the ultimate cost is that we are now all going to “Forget You” CeeLo Green. (This joke worked better when I sung it to my friends, trust me).
There has been criticism from people worrying that children might hear the song. Understandably, children shouldn’t intentionally be exposed to sexually explicit content. Cardi B even said she wouldn’t want her two-year-old daughter Kulture to listen to the song because its “for adults”. I can remember back in the old days when I was a youth, mam had a CD and on it was the infamous My Neck, My Back (Lick It) by Khia. It was only the radio edit but I knew all the lyrics and always sang along when we were in the car. I had no idea what it meant until many years later and I wouldn’t say knowing those lyrics as a child was a defining moment in the journey of my sexuality. Nowadays we still have radio edits and though we have the internet, we also have parental controls. It’s just a shame people don’t kick up such a fuss about songs such as Sexy Chick by David Guetta featuring Akon, which promote the culture of men watching a woman dance; suggesting that one woman is better than the others and getting close to the ‘sexy chick’ because you fancy them. While WAP is sexually explicit in its nature it doesn’t pit women against each other or try to appeal to men, its sexually liberated women talking about what they enjoy doing.
If you say the phrase ‘sexually liberated woman’ then it will summon the final critic of the article – Ben Shapiro. He read out the lyrics and censored any mention of genitalia – saying “that’s some wet ass P-word”. Oddly, he didn’t censor “whores” which opens an issue in itself that he is more comfortable using a term that is derogatory towards women than a slang word for vagina and penis. Anyway, he then goes onto mock feminism and sarcastically states that “this [WAP] is what feminists fought for.” In a sense, yes it is. Kyle Kulinski points out that there are different schools of feminism which will have differing views on WAP. Liberal feminists would agree that WAP is what they have fought for because it allows them to speak freely and openly, as men do, about sex and be empowered by this. Radical feminists on the other hand, would criticise WAP’s overt sexuality and argue that it plays into the male gaze thus encouraging the objectification of women. Neither school is right or wrong, it’s all in the theory, but a feminist critique of WAP at least comes from a place of equality between the sexes which doesn’t even appear to be considered by the other critics of the song – or at least those highlighted in this article.
Kulinski elaborates on how Shapiro wrote a tweet after his criticism of WAP which explained that his wife is a doctor and she said if someone has a wet ass pussy, they probably have a medical issue. If anything, I think this highlights how society has viewed life through a male gaze for far too long. Where women are given the opportunity to create content through their experience; their gaze then everyone can learn something (including but not limited to what happens when a woman is aroused) and come one step closer to attaining a more dynamic, inclusive and perhaps sexually fulfilled society.
Granted, for the pop charts, WAP is a bit on the raunchy side with the lyrics. But as we have discovered it isn’t the first and it won’t be the last. Male artists constantly sing about women in the context of objectification, but society is numb to it because the default is seeing things through the male gaze. So, when female artists reclaim their sexuality and sing about the same thing, it is deemed inappropriate and vulgar.
Whatever anyone else’s views on WAP, I have cold hard evidence from Spotify Unwrapped that it was my most popular song of 2020 (aptly played 69 times). I believe the true crime of the song isn’t the lyrics, but the fact that the patriarchy can’t handle women owning their own sexuality along with the devastating reality that we won’t be able to experience the absolute scenes of this song being blasted in clubs at the height of its popularity due to Covid-19. I’m just glad that WAP managed to prevail despite having to contend with a wet ass patriarchy and wet ass pandemic.