It’s your typical hip-hop and R&B video. Scantily clad women. An outdoor pool. Champagne bottles. Lesbians. Yes, lesbians. These women may not be your typical idea of a music video cameo, but it’s becoming more common for male R&B and hip-hop artists to sing and rap about discovering their girlfriends with other women. In their songs these men aren’t upset about the adulterous discovery; on the contrary, they are requesting (or demanding) that their girlfriends include them!
This male fascination with lesbian and bisexual women is nothing new and certainly not exclusive to hip-hop and R&B. More recent songs by artists, including Omarion (“Think My Girl Is”), Lil’ Wayne and Drake (“Every Girl”) and Ray Lavender (“My Girl Got A Girlfriend”), can now be added to the playlist of songs that mention women being both attracted to and intimate with other women.
“It’s becoming more popular because it’s more acceptable,” Sherise Malachi, Director of Marketing at Radio One, Inc., says. “Ten, fifteen, twenty years ago, [being gay] was taboo. Because we see more of it, people, just like with anything else that’s common in their life, they talk about it.”
While women (and men) have been critical of hip-hop’s more blatant lyrics and videos that objectify women, some don’t seem to be up in arms about its portrayal of same-sex relations.
“I wouldn’t think two sh*ts about it,” says Modupe Akiwumi, a 25-year-old lesbian from Hyattsville, Maryland.
Akiwumi adds that the women portrayed in these videos do not reflect the type of women she dates so she is unaffected by their depiction. “Some girls are open to that – whether gay or straight – you know the whole ménage [á trios], fulfilling guys’ fantasy type of thing. I just date girls that are into girls,” Akiwumi says.
But should women be concerned about lyrics that declare, “Havin’ two chicks is better than no chicks/I’d rather just join in/Keep my girl and keep the other one too?” Natasha Forrester, a 21-year-old from New York City who considers herself heterosexual, believes they should be.
“Whether the women are gay or straight does not matter. The problem is that they are being objectified and hypersexualized,” Forrester says.
Dr. Nicole Taylor, a Howard University professor of a hip-hop culture course, agrees. “It is an extension of the misogyny and male privilege within hip-hop,” she explains. “There has always been the habit of constructing women’s sexuality, especially Black women’s sexuality. The Black female body is supposed to be available for the gaze and sexual pleasure of men.”
And that is exactly where these artists draw the line. There is never any mention of the two women actually loving one another or having a sexual relationship that is mutually satisfying. According to Dr. Taylor, these male artists don’t allow this because privileging females over males disrupts the gender hierarchy. If it’s not for them, then these brothers aren’t for it.
So why should women care?
“Music can be a powerful tool to educate people and provide a perspective,” Rashad Robinson, a spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), says. “What people see on TV and hear on the radio can shape how they treat people in their community. Black lesbian and bisexual women have always been a part of our communities and it’s unfortunate that so much of the music has marginalized their existence to sexual objects rather than celebrating the vast array of contributions they’ve provided.”
This issue extends beyond the gay community and may have repercussions for all women, regardless of their sexual orientation. Dr. Taylor notes, “Anything within society that works to construct women’s sexuality in a way that does not give them empowerment is detrimental. When you look at a society that further works to construct the Black female body in a way that is advantageous or lucrative for men, that is serious.”
However, for women like Akiwumi, these lyrics and videos simply aren’t that serious. “I just think they’re silly guys fulfilling their fantasies,“ she says. And perhaps critics do need to cut these “silly guys” some slack. Marketing director Malachi, for example, believes these artists should be able to sing and rap about what they please.
“They should be just as expressive about [two women sleeping together] as when they were calling women ‘b*tches’ and ‘hoes’ in rap songs,” she says. For Malachi, music is an “art.” She notes, however, that like any other creative medium, music is susceptible to ignorance and women reserve the right to be just as vocal.
“If someone really feels passionate about [the lyrics demeaning women], they absolutely should say something about it.”