23 April 2012
Women as Sexual Objects in Rap Music Videos
Historically, the female body has always been represented as an object. Even though women have entered what some label, a post-feminist era, they still encounter various forms of discrimination. They are continually objectified in the media, a major discourse for gender in American culture. One of the most influential mediums is music, and rap music videos of both male and female performers present the female body as a form of sexual gratification and as a possession of the male, which are ultimately distributed to American teenagers, whom interpellate these images as acceptable forms of treatment. This disturbing implication reminds us that women are still not equal to men and that many teens view rappers as role models. Four music videos that elicit graphic sexual innuendos and exploit females are “Rack City,” (2011) by Tyga, “Long Heels Red Bottoms,” (2011) by Trina, “How Many Licks,” (2000) by Lil’ Kim, and “Lollipop,” (2008) by Lil Wayne.
In the opening of “Rack City,” Tyga has a show off with a muscle maniac on steroids. There are many implications in the video that suggest Tyga lives an aggressive lifestyle, which is heightened by strippers, money, and sex. His main tiff is with an overweight mafia member, Mr. Rose, who kidnaps his girlfriend Chyna. She wears tight clothing throughout the video and struts her hips whenever she walks. Stroking hair, sensitive self-touch, childish fingers to or in the mouth, avoidant eye contact, and smiling are all symbols of nonverbal gender displays of subordination (Wallis, 171-72). Chyna plays with the end of a candy cane in her mouth and sporadically twirls her hair. The introduction of “Lollipop” begins with a woman running her fingers through her hair and stuffing a wad of fifty-dollar bills into her bra. Most of the women wear unsuitable clothing. They also have serious expressions on their faces and an occasional grin. There are times when the females are sprawled out on lollipops and sway their bodies. Lil Wayne is usually standing above the women, which suggests he’s in control. Unlike Tyga’s video, the females don’t place any objects near their lips. The women in “Long Heels Red Bottoms” also wear inappropriate clothing and there is great emphasis on the way they handle their bodies while they dance. They place their arms on their waists and thrust them forward in circular motions. In “How Many Licks” the females also wear revealing outfits, caress their hair, bodies, breasts, giggle, and alarmingly lick their fingers.
These nonverbal cues exude negative connotations about women and their roles in society. Since the primary focus of the videos were on the females’ body, this denotes that body shape is a valuable asset to women in music videos. Research suggests that violence, sex, political awareness, and materialism are highly related to gender stereotyping in music videos. Sexual content is either implicit or explicit, violence is both demonstrated through physical force or weapon display, political awareness refers to themes that revolve around government issues or social injustice, and materialism refers to the luxurious lifestyle of music video characters (Zhang, Dixon, & Conrad, 791). All four of the videos contain both types of sexual material, but “How Many Licks” exhibits the most x-rated footage. At one point, Lil’ Kim humps a prison inmate and moans.
The importance of prosperity and monetary tokens, such as expensive cars and jewelry are also highlighted within the videos. Lil Wayne, Tyga, Lil’ Kim, and Trina all have diamonds hanging from their bodies. Previous research concludes that women in highly materialistic or sexual videos have smaller body dimensions, while women in highly political ones have larger shapes. (793). Chyna from “Rack City” has a significantly bigger body frame than the women in the other videos. Overall, this suggests that slim females are desirable sexual partners, while thick ones are unwanted, which emits a skewed message to American viewers, especially youth. “Rack City” is the only video that exposes belligerence and indications of political awareness. There are various guns presented throughout the video and several identities are concealed with former presidential masks, such as those of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The foundation of the video revolves around the political focus of the Iraq War, which is apparent because of Middle Eastern opponents.
These videos are easily accessible via YouTube, Vevo, MySpace, ITunes, and other social networking websites. The primary occupants of these hot spots are teenagers and college students. Studies have revealed that music videos have a significant impact on college populations and their views towards adverse sexual partners (Kalof, 382). Since slender women are the basis of sexual music videos, broad women, such as Chyna aren’t considered flattering sexual partners, which can severely distort a woman’s self-confidence. Research also shows that young women exposed to traditional music video imagery are more likely to accept interpersonal violence than males (383). Since female subordination is glorified in all four of the music videos, it isn’t surprising. The underlying message of the videos suggests that females are objects present to fulfill male desires. In “Lollipop,” the males overlook the females, which demonstrates their power. Chyna is ultimately saved by Tyga in “Rack City,” which illustrates her helplessness as a female. “How Many Licks” begins with naked barbies that evolve into a human Lil' Kim. Her breasts and vagina are the initial parts, and the final is her head, which exposes her vulnerability to males and their sexual desires, as well as feminine lack of intelligence. Lil’ Kim spreads her legs in a sexual manner on numerous occasions, which insinuates that they’re always open for males. “Long Heels Red Bottoms,” also reveals Trina’s susceptibility to sex and men when she sits in a chair and widens her legs. These images impose serious threats to femininity and the purity of personal intimacy.
Young individuals formulate their personal narratives and identities from what society presents them. Music videos are powerful artistic instruments that influence youth lifestyle choices and knowledge development (Chung, 33). Therefore, pessimistic messages about females and their placement in rap videos affect an individual’s partner selection and possible conduct. Tyga’s video shows Chyna blindfolded with her hands bound behind her back and two males standing over her. Videos like “Rack City,” enhance male authority and their stance in society, which may discourage females from challenging them. In the other videos, women model for the men and follow their every command like puppets. Since “How Many Licks” and “Long Heels Red Bottoms” are executed by females, it would be expected that they were in control. Instead, they stand in front of males and acknowledge that they’re present for their satisfaction.
The high sexual impact of the videos encourages audiences to engage in sexual intercourse. They also communicate emotions and ideas that manipulate a teenager’s perception of others (34). Males are persuaded to have multiple partners and to avoid monogamous relationships. “Lollipop” introduces a limo full of female possibilities, while “Long Heels Red Bottoms” limits itself to women on the dance floor. Various versions of Lil’ Kim (brunette, redhead, and blonde) and background dancers are presented in “How Many Licks,” which is unique because her own persona is altered. “Rack City” concentrates on Chyna, strippers, and Mr. Rose’s beefy woman, who is as unattractive as he is. Men are presented as pimps in videos through camera direction, which zooms in on focal points that include images of the female body, such as the breasts, buttocks, and hips (35). Mr. Rose watches his woman play golf, while he chows down doughnuts. All four of the videos present a dominant focus on breasts and buttocks.’ In addition, “Rack City” demonstrates Tyga’s binocular view in the outline of breasts or booty. Hip shaking is also established and shown in slow motion.
Unfortunately, the male body structure isn’t concentrated on as often as the females.’ “Rack City” is the only video that exposes diverse male body frames, but the camera doesn’t zoom in on them. The men in “How Many Licks” and “Long Heels Red Bottoms” also have their shirt off, which reveals their chests, but they all have the same trim and muscular figures. Young individuals are presented a partial view of sexuality. Since the images are not equally represented, male approval is the key motivation. Some investigators argue that this genre of music has the potential to educate youth about love (Utley & Menzies, 76). Rap music videos are inappropriate measures of instruction, regarding the concept of love because they avoid it. If young people were solely taught affection through rap music, their personal and social relationships would self-destruct. Women are referred to as “bitches” in “Rack City” and “Long Heels Red Bottoms,” which also mentions “fuck.” “Pussy” is referenced in Lil Wayne’s and Lil’ Kim’s song, which also states the word “dick.” This language is extremely tasteless and inapt for an individuals developing vocabulary.
Thankfully, some parents monitor what their children watch and are able to eliminate rap music from their lives. Teens that listen to rap music become a destructive member of society. Therefore, many new rap music videos use consumerism as a means for women and men to connect. They also use product placement to attract their audiences to buy certain objects, such as sex, liquor, jeans, phones, and women’s sexual performances in strip clubs (Hunter, 30). “Rack City” mainly sells strippers and drugs, “Long Heels Red Bottoms” advertises Christian Louboutin shoes, Rhythm Vodka, and “private dancing,” “Lollipop” promotes the Chicago Cubs, the New York Yankees, white zinfandel, the Boston Red Sox, lollipops, and women, and “How Many Licks” publicizes “edible dolls”, Chanel earrings, and Pop Tarts. Most of these objects are top shelf and require individuals to dish out large sums of money, but worst of all they all revolve around sex and men that use women for their selfish pleasures.
Race plays a crucial role in the interpretation of rap music videos. Most of the individuals in the videos evaluated are African American. Three male individuals are white in Lil’ Kim’s video, a dozen male performers barely visible to the audience’s eye are white in Trina’s video, Lil Wayne’s video doesn’t contain any white characters, and Tyga’s video demonstrates six white individuals both men and women. Studies show that there is an unequal sexual reality and gender stereotype that exists among African Americans and Whites in music videos (Turner, 189). All of the videos analyzed, demonstrate the disparity among races, but if the videos were compared to those of white rappers, such as Eminem, the results would be diverse. All individuals are affected differently and the influence of rap music videos on youth is a sensitive subject. Many African Americans are insulted by the despicable behavior of females in the videos because they don’t want their children adapting those behaviors to their personalities.
Overall, all races experience the negative influence of rap music videos. Females are meticulously distorted and accepted as sexual objects. Tyga, Lil Wayne, Lil’ Kim, and Trina disrespect female bodies and transform them into objects of desire. American children that watch these videos relate their individuality to the rappers’ treatments of women and deem negative behaviors suitable. These videos elicit graphic and offensive material that is highly intolerable and should be constantly monitored. Men must respect females and females must learn to value their bodies. Future studies should focus their attention on the makeup and hairstyles of women in rap music videos and how it affects a teen’s lifestyle choices.
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