Earlier this week, XXL Magazine's online magazine published a video featuring rapper Too $hort giving advice to young men on how to "turn girls out" and manipulate them mentally. In a nutshell, he encouraged them aggressively pin girls that they are interested in on a wall, go under their clothing, and rub their vaginas.
In case you are unsure... The scene I just described IS sexual assault. I'll give you a minute to take that in because I need a minute myself..... [breathes and sends out a quick prayer]
There are so many things I could get into right now. I could discuss the problematic nature of "$hort mode" which he claims (in his apology) to have been in when he gave out this "advice." (How can you be comfortable in any mode that promotes the disrespect of our girls?) I could discuss the racial politics and symbolism behind the fact that the magazine, which targets Black youth and hip hop culture, has a white female Editor In Chief. (I can't help but wonder how the public would react if she, or white middle school girl, were treated in this way.) I could even, and I probably will at a later time, explore the reasons that Black men feel the need to "mentally manipulate" women in the first place.
But instead what I want to focus on is the very real shit that is happening to Black girls everywhere, all the time. Our bodies have never been our own. I'm going to say this again so you can really hear and feel me:
OUR BODIES HAVE NEVER BEEN OUR OWN
And this is supported by ideas like $hort's, that suggests that all women will submit if men can just reach their pussies. It doesn't matter how they get there--force, coercion, manipulation, and aggression are all fair game--just as long as they do. And we will support them in their efforts. Only 1 out of 16 rapists will serve a day in jail for their crime. And before he does, we have to prove her innocent first. (What were you wearing? Did you look at him a certain way? Wasn't he your boyfriend? Why did you invite him over? Why did you kiss him? Why didn't you scream? Why didn't you run?)
We have a responsibility to teach our sons and brothers and fathers and homeboys and nephews and boyfriends and husbands NOT to rape. We have to teach that women's bodies are NOT theirs for the taking. And I am going to give you an example of exactly what happens when we do not:
When we do not teach our men and boys that "no" means NO, even if we've suggested yes before, we raise men (like the one who sexually assaulted me a few years ago) who learn how to tune out words like "stop, leave, get out, and no" simply because earlier, a woman flirted with them. And instead of retreating when sex is not the goal, they try harder to accomplish submission.
And when we do not teach our men/boys that this "additional effort" is considered sexual assault, illegal, and a violation of a woman's body and rights, then we raise men (like the one who told all of the neighbors that I was a liar and crazy) who, even though they may participate in sexual assault, disassociate themselves with "rape"; and not solely because they are interested in respecting women, but because they associate rape with jail.
And when we do not teach our men AND women that just because there was no struggle, no screams, no tears, no police reports, no prior reason to suspect that sexual assault actually happened, doesn't mean that it did not occur, then we raise men and women (like the family friend who was asleep in the next room when I was sexually assaulted) who do not believe or support survivors.
When we do not teach these things, we are supporting sexual violence. So hear is what I wish Too $hort would have said:
I wish that Too $hort would have asked young boys to get to know the girls they were interested in and find out if the feeling was mutual. I wish he would have told young boys that if she was not interested, then they should stop pursuing her.
I wish he would have told young boys build some type of relationship with girls who were mutually interested and have a conversation about sex before they attempted anything physical. I REALLY wish he would have told them that if she was not interested in anything sexual, then do press the issue any further with her.
I wish that Too $hort would have told young boys, especially, Black boys, to be brave enough to be themselves and trust that it's enough to earn love and respect.
I wish Too $hort would have told young boys to respect women and their bodies. I wish he would have told them that they do not have rights to women's bodies or sex from women.
But he was in "$hort mode", so he couldn't. As much as I love "Shake That Monkey", I can't get down with that shit....