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Cunnilingus and the Female Chauvinist Pig

Khia+_photoshoot1A few years ago, I was sitting in my apt on the UWS when one of my roommates started laughing hysterically in her bedroom. When I went in to see what was so funny, she was Skyping with her teenage sister about a song – Khia’s “My Neck My Back”. This song is dirty in a hilarious way, and we all laughed about it and mimicked it for months. However, I recently heard it again, and it made me want to write an article about how truly awesome it is. How it depicts female empowerment and gender equality.

I’ve been listening to a lot of black, female rap and hip-hop artists lately, and a number of them have songs depicting getting men to perform cunnilingus on them. At first, I was super into them. Missy Elliott’s “Work It” (“go downtown and eat it like a vulture”), and Lil’ Kim’s “Not Tonight” (“the moral of the story is this: you ain’t lickin’ this, you ain’t stickin’ this”), for instance. But then I looked at the entire lyrics for these songs, and I’ve come out feeling conflicted, frankly. I want to hear these songs and be like, “yeah, bitch, get it!” but I can’t quite.

At first, I thought Khia’s song was great because the woman in it didn’t appear to be subjugating herself or acting as a female chauvinist pig (as Ariel Levy puts it). She’s  not acting girly, obsessive, or heartbroken, and she doesn’t appear at first to be  objectifying herself. However, she is clearly acting like a stereotyped male figure. From aggressively telling the man she wants to get with that she’s the best in the room (“I’ll make you see you bitches ain’t got shit on me”), the use of the term “busting nuts all over your face” to describe herself coming (a term and fetish that’s obviously associated with men and male genitalia), lyrics such as “just like you should” in reference to going down on her, and forceful directives like “get on your knees”, she depicts herself not as an empowered person feeding her healthy sexual appetite (which, by the way, happens to be solely physical) but as a women acting like a man.

The reason I wanna shout, “get it, girl,” is because I’ve been taught, like so many of us, to value this recast female as male figure. Whether or not Khia really feels the way this song portrays her to, or how much I agree with the idea of women portraying and being comfortable in dominant roles, it’s still glorifying sexism in both men and women, and, it turns out, she is objectifying herself (among other examples: “with a unit on my face, so mean”). Look, if you like having a penis on your face that’s cool by me. If you don’t personally feel subjugated or objectified by that, I believe you. However, not everybody is so solid in their self-worth and identity, and we should be aware of that when we say things like this.

Khia-1I’m super for women educating men on the concept of our equally virulent sexual appetites and the need for equal participation and pleasure, but, as I said, these songs seem to do that through a recasting of women as male figures, just as the “badass” girl in an action movie is nothing but a hot girl acting like a stereotyped man. This recasting is not a healthy way to portray women. A good female role model is not a woman that acts or thinks like a man, but a woman who is a full and complete being in and of herself acting in alignment with her individual nature and regardless of gendered traits.

Additionally, the blatant flaunting of genitalia/ass (“pop your pussy like this” – a dance move I’m wholly mesmerized by), competition with other females for male attention (again “you bitches ain’t got shit on me”), and the focus of the song being about attaining this male favor, sadly, make me second guess its worth. Doesn’t mean I’ll stop listening to these songs in the spirit in which they were written, or enjoying them, but their worth as vehicles of social change in my eyes is certainly diminished.

I want to be clear – the problem doesn’t lie in the song itself, but in the massive amount of identical songs. This idea of a hot woman with the mind of a man doesn’t teach us gender equality, it teaches us, yet again, that women can only be admired if they act and think like men. In this song, Khia goes to a club where women are objectifying and sexualizing their own bodies to win male approval and sexual favors. While, in a way, she takes the dominant role by showing up without a man and being the aggressor, her purpose is still acceptance from the opposite sex. She wants him to agree that she’s the best, go down on her, and have sex with her.

Lana-Wallpapers-lana-del-rey-29229644-1024-768Now, admittedly, I don’t know a great deal about the history of rap and hip-hop. I listen to it, but I’m no expert. But this portrayal seems almost more dangerous than, say, Lana Del Rey’s “Off to the Races” in which she glorifies her obsession with her man who’s obsessed with her muse-like super-youth, and because he saves her all the time from herself (fyi – I absolutely love listening to this song regardless and, in part, because of its sick message). The reason the female as male recasting is more dangerous is because it’s harder to detect the sexism. Women are not magically made strong by beating men to the punch; we simply become active participants in our own oppression.

We write songs, stories, poems, make art, all about the human experience. From confessional poetry to science fiction, we talk about what it’s like to be human. So, then, what’s the harm in writing a song about part of that experience? What’s the harm in writing a song about something fun that feels good? Well, largely nothing. We run into the problem when we look at the fact that thousands of these songs and also songs by male artists depicting sexually subjugated women are produced and perpetuate unhealthy female stereotypes and expectations of women that limit our mind’s ability to creatively think about who we are as individuals (both male and female) and be able to then actualize our true natures.

So, I’m not saying we, as women, shouldn’t sing about getting eaten out, or that we as an audience shouldn’t listen to songs in the spirit with which they were made, what I’m saying is that stuff like music on major record labels doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and the way it’s written can be highly detrimental. Writing, particularly poetry, may be a different story. I hope that’s true, considering the title of the book I’m currently working on.

Can I tell you what a song about cunnilingus should sound like? I’m not sure that I can. I grew up in this society, watched Married with Children from a young age, was raised by a mother born in 1945 who cooks every single meal and does every load of laundry for my father. Life’s messy, but we gotta figure this stuff out. It’s our job to learn how to be defined by who we are, not by men, male society, or society at all. It’s a well-known concept, it’s basic, but it still needs to be repeated over and over and over until we all actually get it.

So, to recap, women love sex and cunnilingus just as much as men love sex and blow jobs, and, dear men, going down on us UNTIL WE COME is not a favor or a gift. It does not make you special, or extraordinary, or “one of the good guys”; it makes you a considerate, respectful human being. Women should sing and write about it as much as they like, and if they feel aggressive about it that’s fine too, but they should be aware that it may be perpetuating stereotypes.

And if it does perpetuate stereotypes then there should be a purpose to talking about it that way. After all, great art isn’t just about butterflies and constructive conversation. It’s great for both men and women to hear that female oral sex is something that should happen on as regular a basis as male oral sex, and that it’s absolutely part of getting with someone just as much as blow jobs and intercourse are. I once dated a guy who told me that once his dick was hard that meant it was time to put it in. He was 30 years old. I rest my case.

[Note: This is a wildly complicated issue, and I do not support censorship. The opinions in this article are stated as an acknowledgment of things we need to think about as people and artists, not as a plea for censorship.]

Alyssa Morhardt-Goldstein received her MFA in poetry from The New School, and her BS in classical vocal performance and literature from Mannes Conservatory. She was selected by Matthea Harvey as The New School’s 2012 Chapbook Contest winner in poetry, and is the founding editor of SOUND, a daily literary magazine on contemporary musico-poetics. @Elkawildling

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6 thoughts on “Cunnilingus and the Female Chauvinist Pig

  1. Pingback: Guys: Is it bad to ‘go down’ on your girl? | Bazaar Daily News

  2. The following sentence only raises further questions for me: ” A good female role model is not a woman that acts or thinks like a man, but a woman who is a full and complete being in and of herself acting in alignment with her individual nature and regardless of gendered traits.”

    On one hand here we’re talking about gender equality, right? But on the other hand we’re telling women what is “good” for them to be, as if it needed sussing out. In my opinion, a good role model is a good person. I don’t think gender has to play into it, and maybe that’s why I have a hard time understanding the feminist movement (or the majority of movements). Couldn’t a male be a good female role-model, and a female be a good male role-model?

    This blurry line in discussions about gender always hits me like a brick in the face. One thing I’ve come to realize the more I ruminate on gender is that gender, like sexuality, can exhibit amazing fluidity. A woman acting and thinking like a man does not necessarily a bad role-model (or bad woman, or bad man, etc…) make. Her objectifying herself (or anyone else) is rotten, no matter the reason (empowerment?) or the label (feminism?) one attaches to it. The stereotypes _themselves_ are the issue. The lines that divide us, telling us that acting one way is “female” and another is “male” – I think those are the lines that need to disappear.

    I also don’t think it’s fair to say that women love sex and cunnilingus as much as men love sex and blowjobs. Again, I feel like this is missing the bigger issue. By using generalizations like this I wonder if we aren’t furthering the stereotypes that are dividing us.

    There is a good possibility that I am simply not allowing myself to see the issues close up, and that I am the one missing the point. This isn’t the first time I’ve struggled to see eye to eye on subjects like this, but I toss my pennies into the fountain nonetheless.

    • I love the points you bring up, Cassie. Instead of good and bad let’s think in terms of healthy and unhealthy. I don’t think anyone is qualified to tell another person what it’s best for them to be, but at the same time I think that many girls and women don’t see the ways that they are being limited or participating in their own limiting, so examples of healthy views of oneself do need to be presented. There’s no black and white, but alternative viewpoints and reframing need to be presented so that women can make informed decisions.

      I totally agree that a good person is a good role model regardless of gender, that both men and women can be good role models for each other, and that gender fluidity is a natural and healthy thing. I say here that women shouldn’t model themselves off of the stereotyped idea of what a man is, not what an actual man is. So, I agree again with what you say about the stereotypes themselves being the problem. Those do need to disappear.

      And, yes, you’re right, not all women love cunnilingus and sex as much as men love blow jobs and sex, but I think we have to look at the part society and gender modeling play in that truth. It’s no mystery that most women are taught to fear, be embarrassed by, be grossed-out by, or otherwise disconnect from their genitalia. These are not starting-off points for pleasure. Nonetheless, I agree, generalizations probably always further stereotypes, and stereotypes are never beneficial.

  3. Pingback: Women don’t know what they want; Men Stereotype | peaceandhonestlife

  4. You’re right, Lynsey. It’s not necessarily our job as artist’s to do anything but make art. I think a lot of artists do want to change their audience’s perceptions or feelings about the things they think are important, and for those people this may be a topic they want to represent in a more constructive light. Though I started out writing this article about the music industry, I wound up bringing a wider world of art into the mix, and that’s when things get exponentially more confusing.

  5. This always brings up the question of artist’s responsibility for me. On the one hand, I want artists to do the right thing with their art. To make a statement. But at the same time, is it the artist’s JOB to fix things, or just to make art? Tough questions. Definitely worth discussing. Glad to read this!

Want to join the discussion? Luna Luna encourages well-reasoned, thoughtful, useful, civil, constructive, respectful and intellectual dialogue. That said, we're not into name-calling or bullying or character attacks. Violating comments will be deleted. Please read the post thoroughly and try not to make assumptions about the writer's perspective. Let's start talking!

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