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The Conservative Crusade Against ‘Wet-Ass Pussy’

The spirit of “WAP” should’ve been unimpeachable. Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s ode to the universal benefits of “wet-ass pussy” and female pleasure seemed like the rare issue impervious to controversy. Watching the two rappers unite at the peak of their pop-music-making abilities to deliver an Olympic-level twerk routine should be enough to convince anyone to rebuke their life of dry genitalia. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t have nice things. So when conservatives began to advocate for a world full of misery and devoid of lubrication, it came as no surprise.

“WAP” wasn’t 24 hours old yet before Republicans tried to steal the spotlight and stoke a meaningless backlash. James P. Bradley, a Republican congressional candidate from California, could barely wait until 10 a.m. on the morning of the video’s release to condemn the song. “Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion are what happens when children are raised without God and without a strong father figure,” Bradley wrote. “Their new ‘song’ The #WAP (which i heard accidentally) made me want to pour holy water in my ears and I feel sorry for future girls if this is their role model!”

It’s unclear how Bradley “accidentally” heard a song. This isn’t A Clockwork Orange, and no one is forcing Bradley’s eyes open to watch a viral twerk video. On the same day, DeAnna Lorraine, who recently lost a Republican primary election in Nancy Pelosi’s California district, claimed on Twitter that “Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion just set the entire female gender back by 100 years with their disgusting & vile ‘WAP’ song.”

“Remember, Bernie Sanders campaigned with Cardi B. Kamala Harris called her a role model,” she continued. “The Democrats support this trash and depravity!”

It got even worse on Monday. Clips of right-wing troll Ben Shapiro reading the lyrics to “WAP” aloud and lambasting the song’s creators began to circulate, in a scenario perfectly set up to stoke further faux-outrage. “This is what feminists fought for,” Shapiro said. “This is what the feminist movement was all about. It’s not really about women being treated as independent, full rounded human beings. It’s about wet-ass p-word. And if you say anything different you’re a misogynist.” Shapiro added that he had consulted a doctor, who also happens to be his wife, on what might possibly cause a woman to obtain a “wet-ass pussy,” which is a punchline in and of itself that doesn’t need further clarification. But it was the lifeless, nasally voice of Shapiro reciting lyrics like “Put this p-word right in your face/Swipe your nose like a credit card,” that set the internet ablaze. Immediately, disturbing remixes of Shapiro rapping over the Ayo & Keyz-produced beat began to disseminate.

The result of all this trollish behavior? Four days after its initial release, “WAP” has transformed from a supremely enjoyable Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion song into a symbol of something different, yet equally interesting. According to conservatives, “WAP” threatens the very future of women everywhere. In a way it does, if the right wing wants to keep its oppressive vision of the world intact. Contrary to popular belief, Republicans aren’t offended by the thought of sex — if they were, Donald Trump’s multiple sexual misconduct allegations would have impeded his political aspirations. What they are furious about is the racial and economic make-up of who gets to enjoy and speak about sex. A former sex worker and VH1 reality star turned full-time rapper isn’t supposed to have the political sway necessary for Bernie Sanders to meet with the musician on her terms. By doing so last year, Cardi B broke the barriers that are designed to keep historically disenfranchised communities away from the elected officials meant to advocate for them.

When Shapiro, Bradley, and Lorraine get incensed about two women of color rapping about sex, it’s not a coincidence. Women, specifically women of color, will likely be one of the most important groups of people deciding the upcoming presidential election. Any chance for pundits and politicians to criticize an African-American woman and a woman with Dominican/Trinidadian family roots is as much a brand-building exercise for them as it is a strategic, racially motivated move. A new, sexually explicit pop song arrives every day, and these same pundits generally aren’t claiming the downfall of humanity when Ariana Grande or Dua Lipa arrives on the scene.

Cardi became a further target for these insincere attacks the moment she backed Bernie in the primary, and again when she supported Joe Biden in the general election. “It’s either, like, we go with Joe Biden or Donald Trump,” Cardi told Sway In The Morning during the promotional push for “WAP.” “I’d rather go with Joe Biden. I have spoken to Joe Biden before. I think he gets it. I don’t know if it’s sympathize, but I think that he understands what we want. I think he understands that what we want are simple things.”

Luckily for Cardi and Megan, outrage is by far the most powerful currency in the modern music market. The video for “WAP” came out on a Friday, and it’s still launching clickbait, think pieces, and reaction videos days later. Over a year ago, Cardi released “Press” — a long-awaited single meant to launch the post-Invasion of Privacy portion of her career — and was met with a comparatively lackluster response. “Press” has garnered 76 million views since June 2019; that’s not nothing, but it’s only taken “WAP” five days to reach over 70 million. “People haven’t seen a music video from me for, like, eight months, so they’re expecting greatness. And I have to deliver,” Cardi told ELLE. “I didn’t really like how my last song performed. So I just got my creativity back.”

A song about women of color enjoying their wet-ass pussies really shouldn’t be a radical gesture. But if summer 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that black women can’t get justice when they’re murdered — let alone get the room to survive and succeed. For a brief moment before the right’s rage and the misogynistic backlash, “WAP” was a pure moment of horniness and humor. Cardi made a triumphant return after many counted her out. Megan fans got a chance to celebrate her continued growth as a rapper and performer after weeks spent watching her deal with the trauma of being shot in the public eye. “WAP” begins with Al “T” McLaran‘s sampled voice bellowing, “There’s some whores in this house.” Megan and Cardi turned that into a proud declaration, and no amount of misguided politics can make them leave before they’re ready.

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