I’m Sex-Positive and I Think Ben Shapiro is Right About WAP
When it comes to talking about sex, in my opinion, there is sort of a Goldie Locks situation. Too much, not enough or just right. Unfortunately, not many people find that healthy in between, that allows us to discuss sex in a mature way, having no shame, yet understanding that some things are meant to be private. Or at least that there is a time and place to talk about them and that nobody is to be shamed for not wanting to hear the details.
Like all of us, Ben Shapiro is wrong about many things, and rap not being music is one of them. Like all of us, also, he is right about many things, such as saying that the new hit by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion is vulgar and degrading to women.
How much do we disagree on what is and isn’t appropriate for a public forum, and on what we find is and isn’t a healthy expression of sexuality
As in sex itself, there is a sweet-spot, a “just right” to talking about it, in my opinion. Not prude, not vulgar, just an adult conversation — and art that emerges from it- that can be fun or serious or, preferably, both. Not many people are even interested in finding the sweet-spot, though, and that is the real shame. Men never were, and women, as they are finding their voice in the issue, are not stepping up to the plate.
It’s funny how one song can get so many people so riled up, but that’s probably a sign that it touches upon a very important issue. In this case, the ways in which we discuss sexuality and how much we disagree on what is and isn’t appropriate for a public forum, as well as what we find is and isn’t a healthy expression of sexuality. Let’s forget about Ben, Cardi and Megan for a second and think about the people in our lives. Do you have a friend that will refuse to even talk about anything related to intercourse? One that would never even laugh at a risky joke, and with whom you could never discuss a problem you’re having, or share a story that makes you happy? Do you have one that shares too much, at inappropriate times and makes you uncomfortable by getting too graphic when you didn’t ask for any details? How many people do you have in your life with whom you can talk about sex like you talk about anything else? More importantly: which one are you?
Let’s go back to the song.
The never-ending exchange of ideas that emerges from art is one of the things that makes it so fundamental to humanity.
Critique is essential to art, one cannot exist without the other, because art is meant to provoke a cognitive and emotional response. If you put a work of art into the world, it doesn't matter what your gender or the color of your skin is, it is subject to critique, and that is a very good thing. That means the artwork is serving its purpose: to reach people in some way. The critique of art, such as art itself, is also one of the ways we can look back on history and infer a generation’s thoughts and feelings about a given topic: in this case, sexuality.
Critiquing a work of art means absolutely no inherent disregard for freedom of speech. Quite the contrary, if you ask me. The never-ending exchange of ideas that emerges from art is one of the things that makes it so fundamental to humanity. That being said, it is perfectly reasonable to call for a certain work to be age-restricted or to have viewer discretion warnings. It’s not only polite, it’s essential in a culture that is starting to value consent as much as ours is.
I have no problem with the theme of female arousal, I just like my art with a little subtlety.
As for my critique of the song and video themselves, they absolutely are vulgar and gross. Conveying meaning without rubbing it in people’s faces (that is either a great or a terrible word choice) used to be an appreciated skill. I have no problem with the theme of female arousal, I just like my art with a little subtlety. A metaphor, maybe a euphemism here and there.
I do have a problem, though, with the glamorization of having sex for money. Call it being a sugar baby, a sex worker, or a whore… It doesn’t matter, those are all different ways to say the same thing, technically speaking. Are there people who have sex for money and are happy with that lifestyle? Probably. But I’ll risk being wrong and I’ll say that it’s a residual percentage. Yet, we seem to be fascinated with the idea of sex work, as if it’s a glamorous and empowering choice when the reality is that the potential for exploitation is endless.
Are there people who have sex for money and are happy with that lifestyle? Probably. But I’ll risk being wrong and I’ll say that it’s a residual percentage.
To the many have gone on and made fun of “the prudes who don't want to hear about female arousal” and the “misogynists who don’t want to see women take charge of their bodies”, I say, As I understand it, that’s not the theme of the song. The theme is… well, being a “whore”. It’s about performing degrading sexual acts for a man’s pleasure in exchange for material goods. Call me old fashioned, but that’s degrading.
It’s not about doing it for shared pleasure, instead, it’s just a graphic account of prostitution within the confines of a relationship. To me, that’s not only a missed opportunity to add a little maturity to the way we women talk about sex, it’s even more degrading than selling your body on the street.
I find it more shocking when women degrade themselves than when men do it. Because the truth is that in this day and age, women don’t have to put up with disrespect. They can make their own rules, so when a man sings about degrading women, it's easy, at least for me, to ignore it and move on. He’s not in charge of anything, so why should I care? But when a woman, who is in charge of her own body and her own career makes this type of artistic choice, to me it screams lack of self-respect, which is more worrisome. It makes me wonder whether we’ve made any progress at all in regard to gender equality.
It’s about performing degrading sexual acts for a man’s pleasure in exchange for material goods. Call me old fashioned, but that’s degrading.
Let me clarify that I am not on board with purity culture's definition of respect within sex either: the idea that a man can only be respectful if he’s not trying to have sex with you and that you, as a woman, can only have self-respect if you refuse. As if sex, itself, was degrading. That's one end of the spectrum, and WAP is the other. My question is where is the healthy middle? When I agree with Ben Shapiro, someone I’ve always thought was on the unhealthily puritan side, that’s a sign that the Overton window has shifted too far to the side of depravity.
Not many people are even interested in finding the sweet-spot, though, and that is the real shame.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t have a positive attitude towards sex. I can’t speak for Ben Shapiro, but again, if women are going to talk about sex in this way, they’ll be met with criticism, just like men always have. And that’s fine! The fact that I’m even writing about this means that the song has fulfilled its purpose: it has provoked a reaction. In my case, it was cringe and disgust, but nonetheless, a reaction.
Shapiro has said this on multiple occasions, so forgive me for not directly quoting, but to conclude, I’ll paraphrase:
It used to be that we thought men were acting like pigs and that they should do better. Instead, women decided to also act like pigs.