The Game thegrio.com
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 23: The Game plays basketball at the Celebrity Basketball Game Sponsored By Sprite during the 2018 BET Experience at Los Angeles Convention Center on June 23, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for BET)

In an attention-seeking quest for modern-day relevance, another washed-up rapper is using women and weaponizing sex to make industry ripples. On a song that was supposedly leaked, The Game, the former G-Unit rapper who hasn’t had a song break the Billboard top 20 in 14 years, rapped about choking Kim Kardashian West during sex, among other things. Once news hit social media, people were appalled by his hypocrisy and disgusted by the obscenities he used, in part because…who is he again? He also rapped about her younger sister, Kylie Jenner, intimating that he had sex with her too and I’m left wondering why he thought this was information anyone actually needed. While not everyone is a fan of the Kardashians, enough people agreed that “leaking” this song was nothing more than a ploy to have the internet buzzing about him…and it worked.

I love hip-hop and was raised in the culture, but as a feminist woman, I do not condone the sexually violent themes and hateful disrespect of women, particularly Black women. It is no secret that hip-hop culture is rife with misogyny and, for decades, many male artists have used women as bargaining chips to gain respect and validation from their peers. We hear it over and over when men brag about the many ways they’ve sexually degraded women, and The Game’s recent boasting highlights a long-standing cultural contradiction. Men build careers on rapping about sleeping with women as a way of proving their virility, then insist that by agreeing to have sex with these rappers, women degrade themselves and therefore deserve no respect. When I was younger, I internalized quite a bit of the negativity, happily rapping along and dancing to the beats, and it took some time before I realized my love affair with the music was fading. I’ve grown increasingly wary of the incessant blathering about “bitches” and “hoes”, and I now prefer music that doesn’t use women as verbal punching bags and weapons of toxic masculinity.

“I slept with your girl” is one of its oldest stories in hip-hop lore and the declaration still resonates as an offensive insult. To be clear, hip-hop music isn’t the only genre we see this type of disrespect for women–we still live in a society that insists women’s bodies belong to and their sexual activity should be controlled by men, so a man telling another man he slept with his female partner is considered a slap in the face. Game knew exactly what he was doing by reminding us that he had sex with Kanye West’s current wife and mother of his children, and that they did some rather explicit things together, things that people generally associate with debasement rather than with pleasure. Kanye still grabs headlines and since his wife, Kim, has been publicly connected to several different men since becoming a household name, she remains an easy target for anyone wanting to take shots at him for clout. That’s how our sexist society is set up. It’s just really sad that he resorted to such a cheap shot to get attention and the clapbacks have hopefully made him take a seat.

There’s another matter here, though, that reminds me how far we have to go when it comes to sex positivity and respecting sexual agency. Game described choking Kardashian West during sex and ejaculating in her mouth to which many reacted, horrified. On the surface, there isn’t anything wrong with doing these things if she consented to them. The issue is that, because we generally regard these acts as either violent or inherently degrading, many still believe good, quality women shouldn’t enjoy these things. Let’s be real, many people enjoy choking and/or being choked, also known as erotic asphyxiation, and when done safely and with consent, it can bring about great pleasure. There’s also nothing wrong with swallowing semen, yet it’s often regarded as something forced upon women or that women are coerced into doing, because no woman who respects herself would ever willingly do that, right? In this instance, Game is essentially telling West that he degraded his wife before he married her and somehow, she’s forever tainted because of it. And if we’re keeping it all the way real, a lot of people are reacting as they are because, deep down, they agree that it’s demeaning and think he’s foul for insulting Kanye, not necessarily Kim, in such a way.

We seriously need more conversations reminding people that consenting adults are allowed to have different sexual interests and enjoy different things. We also have to take more nuanced approaches to discussing the difference between being upset at someone for weaponizing sex and violating a person’s consent or agency and being upset because they engaged in a sexual act that we think is “nasty” or “wrong.” What works for some, doesn’t always work for others and we have to be OK with that.  The Game will quickly go back to being a non-factor, so we should use this situation as a teachable moment. Our focus needs to remain on fighting against sexual assault, eliminating sexual shame, and holding accountable those who weaponize sex and sexuality in violent ways to silence or harm others.

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Feminista Jones is an author and activist currently residing in Philadelphia, PA. Her new book Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World From the Tweets to the Streets is in stores January 2019 on Beacon Press.