So I watched that video at 6 am, after my baby woke me up, with the volume on low because I didn’t want the beat to disturb her block play. And I loved it. It is one of the few things, recently, that has made me blush. I tried to listen to the explicit version while I was making the bed, after the baby had peed in it, but my mom came into help me which was much appreciated but also meant I couldn’t listen to anything about a wet ass anything while she was around.
WAP reminds me of my love for lewdness, specifically for lewd women, for their talk. I was thinking about it today, as I walked the baby around the neighborhood, how nasty women have made my closest friends. When I was in third grade, I made best friends with a skinny, loud, wickedly funny white girl who could swear anyone under the table and do it in a variety of accents—cockney, South Boston, Southern. That was part of the fun. I have never, could never, understand the admonishment that swearing or speaking explicitly about sex, death, or the gut made you dumb. It seemed, instead, a special kind of knowledge.
As an adult, it only recently occurred to me that the taboo of women speaking frankly about sex is as much about making sure we can’t compare notes and ask for better as it is about any moral panic. It’s easy to assign this squeamishness to conservatives or religious people but I hear the fear of sex talk every time a self-proclaimed feminist says that women talking about sex isn’t elevated enough, is a silly subject, sets us (who is the us?) back 100 years.
So many people across idealogical spectrums believe that women’s sexuality is beneath notice, beneath curiosity, that when we direct our curiosity to it, we are doing something rash and dangerous and deserve whatever terror may come our way. The idea that a single Black woman’s sexual desire and sexual experience means that every other Black woman’s personhood is erased and the Negro race is doomed is a very old one. Harriet Jacobs wrote of it and battled it in her slave memoir. Jacobs wrote of the sexual and emotional abuse she endured from the man who owned her, while also reconciling this with the semi-consensual sexual relationship she entered into with another white man in her town. It is a trajectory that made many readers—still makes many readers—uncomfortable and led to the dismissal of Jacobs’ memoir for a generation. But Jacobs, despite that, still wrote this: “It seems less degrading to give one's self, than to submit to compulsion. There is something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you, except that which he gains by kindness and attachment.” Think of that first sentence for a minute. To write to a group of most likely white abolitionist readers, who despite their antislavery stance still held racist views about Black women. To still write “there is something akin to freedom” in a woman giving consent, specifically sexual consent. Its a sentence that is still radical today.
When we render something unspeakable, we erase it from history and experience, among other things. Think of the all those literary writers who say the best way to write about sex is to leave a big blank space on the page. Think of all those women’s magazines that claim the best experience of sex exists outside of language in some mindless, indescribable place that we never discuss. Bullshit.
Anyways, Cardi B and Meghan Thee Stallion don’t pay any of that any mind. They layer metaphor on top of ridiculous, silly, hilarious metaphor with the same fervor we used to trade profane insults on the playground. I want you to park that big Mack truck right in this little garage/Make it cream, make me scream/Out in public, make a scene/I don't cook, I don't clean/But let me tell you how I got this ring.
When I was in middle school, my sisters and I spent every Saturday together with my mom, driving around in her car. We did this despite the fact that my sisters were older-in high school and college. We’d drive around staid-ass Cambridge and my older sister would roll down her window in the backseat and holler at men walking by the car. She didn’t care that she was in the backseat of her mom’s car. She didn’t care that we all crouched down and hissed at her to stop. She didn’t care that she was boy watching in Harvard Square, possibly the place least conducive to hollering at anyone on a corner in the Greater Boston area. She rolled down that window and called out for the pleasure of hearing her own voice.