POWERS: T-Pain and the assault on Old Campus

Two years ago, the Ying Yang Twins were paid to perform at Spring Fling.

At the time, I was on the Yale Women’s Center Board. I spent that week bristling at the Spring Fling Committee’s decision to invite them, putting up signs in protest, writing an incendiary column for the News and bitterly realizing that the Ying Yang Twins, those beloved identical spouts of rapist rallying tunes would — without question — come to my school.

In the days before the Twins’ arrival, I became powerfully aware of my own impotence: I could do very little to prevent the Twins and their euphoric, carnivalesque brand of patriarchy from coming to Yale, short of physically barring them entry, which would have been a comedic occasion for all parties. (Hint: I would have lost that game.)

Effluvia poured forth in a place where we learn. The Ying Yang Twins came, and your money, classes of 2012 and 2013, paid them. Fueled by the dues we all pay to the Yale College Student Activities Fund, with the majority of Yalies blithely carousing before them, the Ying Yang Twins unloaded their hateful speech — “you screamin’ you can’t take it no more. Beat the pussy so bad we done fell on the flo” — on Old Campus.

The Twins’ performance would not be the only misogynistic act between High Street and Phelps Gate that year. In October, the brothers of Delta Kappa Epsilon paraded around Old Campus, chanting “no means yes, yes means anal.”

T-Pain is coming to Spring Fling this year. Get ready to be dazzled.

Known for crooning “couple more shots you open up like a book” in that ditty “Blame it on the Alcohol,” which the Washington City Paper included in a list of the top 5 Rape Anthems, T-Pain will sing his songs and marginalize half of Yale’s student body, and we will pay him to do so.

T-Pain’s tunes neutralize sexual assault: “Baby let me rope you up / Tie you down / No matter how hard you buck / Gonna get wild all night.”

According to his lyrics, any woman is worth only as much as the pleasure she provides to the male population: “Take your motherf—ing shirt off, hey!”

T-Pain’s lyrics relegate the female sex to an infantile status: “Back breaker, put you over my knee woo / Put you on punishment woman and I’ll spank you.”

Good, T-Pain. Good, that’s what all Yale women want. Oh, and let me take my shirt off while I’m at it.

If you think I speak derisively, you’re right; I’m tired of writing dour, anti-Spring Fling columns. But lest my choleric voice cause you to ignore me, know that I want to save something you and I both love: Yale University.

Events like the Ying Yang Twins’ performance, DKE’s parade and T-Pain’s impending arrival have a common source. Our culture deems this rhetoric acceptable.

Only diction differentiates lyrics like “I’m going to f— you til you cry” from the equally violent, equally terrorizing “no means yes, yes means anal.”

These events reveal the toxic, subterranean aspects of a culture that is on the surface beneficent and smiling. These events tear us apart.

In recent months, our campus has undergone a revitalizing exfoliation in the attempt to change the sexual culture at this school. Gender is oft-discussed on this page, Yale has created a University-Wide Committee to manage sexual assault claims and Yale has created a position to manage Title IX complaints and policy integration.

Administrative discussion is not mere institutional cant. Even if it progresses rheumatically, Yale is not failing us. Administrative action is the best chance we have.

After Title IX, Yale’s administration is moving. But there’s much to be done. The Spring Fling Committee is importing a discourse that degrades and threatens members of our community. Yale women will to go to Spring Fling, and they will have to listen to someone disparage them. The decision to invite T-Pain is cavalier and disregards any progress we’ve made. Such a decision assaults our convalescent culture.

T-Pain’s unresisted authorized arrival is not an exception but an exemplar of the times: It shows us as we are and what — apparently — we want.

We’ve made strides in my years here, but sexism at Yale remains a severe problem. Our space is not T-Pain’s to desecrate. The adjustments we’ve made are fragile. They must be fortified.

T-Pain is not going to protect what we’ve built. Will you?

Kathleen Powers is a senior in Branford College. Contact her at kathleen.powers@yale.edu.


  • Rex_Smythe_Higgins_III

    As a point of correction: “Back breaker, put you over my knee woo / Put you on punishment woman and I’ll spank you.” — This is a line by rapper Ludacris that appears on a T-Pain song (Chopped N Skrewed). It is not sung/rapped by T-Pain.

    I have my own thoughts on the substance of this piece, but I’m sure they could be copy & pasted from any of the Ying-Yang Twins Op-ed comments.

    • Goldsmith11

      Maybe it’s irrelevant, but Ludacris has a personal relationship with political philosophy professor and former Branford Master Stephen Smith. On several occasions, Master Smith hosted Ludacris overnight in the guest suite in Branford, including during his own Spring Fling performance in 2006.

      Irrespective of its lyrical content, T-Pain’s music is mostly crap, and he’s been irrelevant himself for the past several years.

  • krfo24

    I could not agree with this article more. The problem truly is, do people even know these words of the sings they so ignorantly follow and promote? Do they even realize that it’s not “about the good beat” of the song? You can’t respect woman on one hand and PAY someone to degrade them with the other hand.

  • DarkHandYCC

    I applaud this piece. I too have been fighting, albeit from the shadows – as is my wont – to end the selection of such musical acts. Know that the dark hand stands behind you – waiting for the mythic dawn of reason on this campus.

  • alsoanon

    I’ll be the first one to agree that misogyny and sexism are alive and well and deeply problematic at Yale, but I think articles — and complaints — like this one miss the point.

    First of all, I take issue with your characterization of the lyrics you’ve quoted in this particular column as equivalent to the explicitly harmful and non-consensual DKE chant. T-Pain’s lyrics are about rough sex, yes, but rough sex CAN be consensual. To say that rough sex, bondage, or equivalent acts are the same as rape hugely devalues women’s sexual agency and trivializes actual rape at the same time. Who are you to tell me, for instance, what kind of sex I should or should not be enjoying? Maybe I want to be roped up and tied down. Maybe I don’t. But it’s my choice and it is NOT the same as rape.

    That said, I am not trying to argue that T-Pain’s lyrics aren’t problematic in certain ways; certainly, they don’t emphasize consent and he uses misogynistic language. But I’m concerned about the way that outrage over misogyny in music seems to spring up only when rappers come to Yale. Where were the complaints about 3rd Eye Blind lyrics like “Those little red panties/ They pass the test / Slide up around the belly / Face down on the mattress” (Semi-Charmed Life! I know, right?). Or MGMT’s objectifying and dismissive declaration that they’ll “find models for wives” and “fuck with the stars”? Obviously, I’m exaggerating. But I’m tired of people getting so outraged over rap when I quite honestly find lyrics like One Direction’s condescending assurance that “you don’t know you’re beautiful / that’s what makes you beautiful” to be far more dangerous because they are so veiled behind teen pop meaninglessness.

    Anyway, TL;DR: it’s okay to enjoy rap music and rough sex. It doesn’t make you any less of a feminist. And I’m excited to see T-Pain.

    • btcl


    • sexpositivefeminist

      It seems to me that the operating phrase in the contested quotations – is “No matter how hard you buck”, which certainly does not ring of any female agency.
      Such phrases bespeak a stereotypical, masculine aggression and an equally stereotypical feminine reaction or acquiescence to sexual activity.

      The lyrics of T-Pain that discuss rough sex do so in an manner that is unequivocally non – neutral. There is an aggressor and a reactor, and the aggressor is rarely – never – female.

      Saying to a sexual partner ‘ no matter how hard you resist me, we are going to go crazy all night’, is not in the spirit of consent. The character of the T-Pain male (as developed in his lyrics) wants you to have rough sex, but on his terms and in his way.

      • River_Tam

        > “No matter how hard you buck”

        Note he did not say “and there’s no safe word”. Rough sex and domination-style sex can still be consensual sex.

  • River_Tam

    If we’re going to call T-Pain and Ying Yang Twins misogynistic, can we also call bondage porn screenings as part of Sex Week misogynistic as well? Can we call the celebration of porn stars (all of whom have appeared in roles that are far more degrading that anything that Teddy Bender has ever sung) misogynistic?

    If not, why not?

    • eli2015

      The difference is men degrading women or women degrading themselves. Because women participate in porn and degrade themselves by doing so, it’s “liberation,” rather than male rappers degrading women and not giving them a voice.

      • River_Tam

        > The difference is men degrading women or women degrading themselves. Because women participate in porn and degrade themselves by doing so, it’s “liberation,” rather than male rappers degrading women and not giving them a voice.

        Do you really believe this?

        If so, then the numerous Yale women who celebrate T-Pain and the Ying Yang Twins are not participating in degradation either, I suppose?

        Please read:


        • eli2015