Sexyy Red Doesn’t Owe You “Classy” Nor “Respectable” But She is Owed Protection
by: Toni A. Wilson, Director of Culture & Narrative Shift
Hip Hop, much like many other career fields, is a male-dominated sport. As much as women have been running the rap game,dominating the charts for years, and have built up so many aspects of Hip Hop and rap culture, they still struggle to garner the respect and credit they deserve. Women, specifically Black women, have kept the wheels of Hip Hop turning and have consistently called on Hip Hop and the culture to do better and be better. Oftentimes the culture of Hip Hop and the ways Black women have been treated have indeed mirrored the way Black women are treated in society in terms of race politics. Our history has often called for Black women to prioritize their race over their gender, leaving them to abandon their womanhood for their Blackness. Hip Hop has been no different. This act of Black women consistently being forced to put their Blackness first is a common theme in Hip Hop and what women who want to be a part of Hip Hop are forced to do. In abandoning their womanhood they therefore abandon their sexuality; all of what the public declares Black women who rap, such as Sexyy Red, do in Hip Hop. Black women have been sexualized in this country since its inception and it’s powerful for Black women such as Sexyy Red to claim their own sexuality, voice it, and reject respectability politics even in the face of rape culture.
Slut Shaming & Respectability Politics
Since Sexyy Red’s explosive hit, Pound Town, took off on the charts she has rightfully gained more exposure and more fans. But of course, with more exposure comes shamers and people who oppose her authentic St. Louis demeanor and sexuality expressed in her lyrics. She’s taken a lot of hits from the industry and even on social media, she’s continually experiencing behaviors from online users that straddle the borders of sexual harassment and sexual assault with her comment sections and quote retweets often being plagued by porn images and videos. And now while Sexyy Red is being met with misogynoir and slut shaming, her partner has leaked their sex tape without her consent on Instagram stories leaving Sexyy Red susceptible to victim blaming. She took to X, formerly Twitter, shortly after it happened and expressed that she was heartbroken and also said, “anybody that know me knows I wouldn’t do no goofy stuff like that.”
Respectability politics, something deeply rooted in white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and the church, has been used as a way to keep Black people in line. It’s been created and maintained as a way for Black folks to maintain their proximity to whiteness and ensure that we’re pushing away and rejecting all ideas and notions of stereotypes within our community.
Political views and opinions aside, I feel deeply hurt for Sexyy Red. Holding her to political beliefs, which is made evident she is still learning about and working through, as a means to no longer see her as worthy of protection isn’t fair to her and does not make it okay for her body and privacy to be sexually violated. Black women are sexually violated all the time, so frequently, without any regard for us being seen as women and treated as people. Our bodies are used as excuses as to why we deserve what has been done to us and our sexual identities are often wrapped around adultification and Black girls trying not to be perceived as “fast” when growing up. But Black girls aren’t “fast” and their bodies are theirs to explore and adorn in any way they choose. It doesn’t make Sexyy Red any less deserving of respect because she chooses to rap about the inside of her vagina being pink and her bootyhole being brown. In fact, Sexyy Red’s clear defiance against respectability politics is important as she has single-handedly forged a path forward and given Black women space to talk about taboo topics such as hyperpigmentation in areas that we’re taught to be shamed about.
I recently attended an event, Paps on Taps hosted by KIMBRITIVE, a space dedicated to the sexual health and wellness of Black women, and the amount of Black women who found Sexyy Red’s declaration that her booty hole was brown, was insurmountable. We can all relate to her and her message and it shouldn’t matter how the message is wrapped or what the package looks like; so long as the people who need it are receiving it. It also doesn’t matter what she chooses to rap about; revenge porn is wrong and illegal.
Misogynoir & Objectification
Plenty of people talk about sex in their music and pleasure, especially Black men in Hip Hop, but the disdain is always reserved for only Black women. It’s okay for Black women’s bodies to be the topic of conversation so long as they’re not the ones leading the conversation and showing ownership of themselves. When Black women rap about their bodies and sexuality, the industry uses it as an excuse to prove why they deserve sexual assault and why they deserve to be violated. Sexyy Red’s shaming since the leaking of her revenge porn has been no different. Many people took to X, formerly Twitter, to remind Sexyy Red that the leak served her right and people even laughed and commented about the colors of her body parts emphasizing that it’s “not even pink” and “what did she expect when she laid there and made that video.” Black women singing about things they enjoy in the bedroom or how they like to give and receive pleasure does not permit people to violate their bodies. It does not give people permission to or access to them. This is misogynoir 101. When Black women are harmed in this way, only we’re expected to look the other way. We’re expected to join in on the laughter being caused at our expense because Black women are already looked at as people lacking purity, morality, and are deemed unrapable.
When we think about the way Sexyy Red is being treated and how much her image pushes against what society defines as worthy of protection, it calls into the conversation that Sexyy Red is an unambiguous Black girl from the Midwest who speaks without code-switching, walks around with a stack of money in her hand, has tattoos on her face and makes no apologies for who she is. Black women & girls are not fast and even when we’re sexual, we too, reserve the right to define our sexuality in and on our own terms without violence from others.
Hood Feminist Politic
For us to uplift all Black women and girls whom society deems as ghetto, it’s important for us to understand hip hop feminism which has grown into hood feminism. Years ago in the 90’s, Black feminist scholar and writer, Joan Morgan, called us into understanding the ways Hip Hop and the lives of Black women merged and introduced us to the term, Hip Hop feminist. Hip Hop feminism makes the movement tangible for the everyday Black girl who doesn’t fit the mold and idea of what academia looks like and the academic spaces Black feminism is often associated with. It’s a politic that makes room for people who do not identify with feminism, and would probably never refer to themselves as feminists, but it’s a politic that creates room for the gray areas where those Black girls live. There is no binary of the good or bad Black girl but it calls into the idea that every experience is important, meaningful, and necessary for liberation. We are not a monolith.
If we are truly invested in the protection of Black women, it has to be all Black women and girls. It has to be all trans women and trans girls. It has to be all gender-expansive young people. Hood feminism calls for us to honor the Blackness and womanhood of Sexyy Red and to recognize the humanity of a Black woman with tattoos on her face, a red 30 inch lace front wig, and who raps about her coochie while pregnant and out touring. If we are not praising and understanding Black girls with quick weaves and even quicker tongues, with children from different fathers, who wait for the bus while listening to trap music, who are poor or grew up poor, who don’t code switch; then who are we standing for? There’s a reason why Sexyy Red refers to herself as the Hood’s Hottest Princess. She shows up for herself and women who see themselves in her.
Black Women are Victims Too
To fully see Black women & girls, you need to be able to see their victimhood. To recognize when they’ve been harmed. Sexyy Red deserves empathy & protection, like anyone else. She doesn’t deserve to look up one day and see something she recorded in private on social media. She does not have to subscribe to white supremacist ideals of classy to be worth saving.
Sexyy Red hasn’t been active on social media since the leak but she has been present on her tour and I hope she’s doing well mentally and being surrounded by people who support her and will show up for her. Everyone deserves that kind of community. There is no perfect victim and Black women should not consistently feel pressured to show up as that. No matter your reputation, image, or choice of career it should be recognized when someone such as a partner has betrayed your trust. Sexyy Red’s open sexuality and lyrics did not give consent and she, alongside other Black women and girls, deserve their humanity recognized.
Black women are a part of the foundations of Hip Hop. It’s 2023 and the ways Black women are treated in society is no different in the rap community; a community where we’re supposed to be allowed to be free, to be ourselves. We’ve built up this community that has spanned generations, countries, and worlds and still Black women are in this space, that’s also been created for and by us, and left vulnerable.
I look forward to a culture in Hip Hop where misogyny is disrupted at its inception and Black women are not thrusted into the battle that is rape culture. The price for your entrance into Hip Hop should never be misogynoir.
And may Sexyy Red’s newly announced pregnancy be one of love, ease, and bliss.