Note: this column quotes song lyrics that contain vulgar language.
If the lyrics “Murder my pussy without the gunshot / Just shoot me up my ass crack with a cum shot” don’t shock you, perhaps this column will.
The selection of Elizabeth Eden Harris — better known by her stage name CupcakKe — to perform at Yale’s annual Spring Fling music festival might very well rank as one of the greatest practical jokes in the University’s history, if it weren’t also so tragic.
Call me old fashioned, but I cannot fathom the circumstances under which listening to someone sing “Shove down the d— so my tonsils rip” at 120 decibels constitutes a pleasurable auditory experience.
We have stooped so low in selecting CupcakKe that the bar cannot be set any lower. Did a University administrator sincerely sign off on this decision? Has someone informed President Salovey that “Spoiled Milk Titties” will be performed on Old Campus in a few short months? Do people actually like this music?
Perhaps it’s better that Salovey never learns. I imagine that if the Spring Fling Committee ever played a snippet of “Juicy Coochie” in Woodbridge Hall, the office would spend the rest of the day huddled beneath their desks clinging to bluegrass records.
To call CupcakKe’s music “shocking” or “vulgar” is an insult to what’s truly shocking and vulgar. Songs like “Vagina” and “Doggy Style” are musical porn, plain and simple.
If you’re reading this and thinking “Gosh, this seems like a self-righteous overreaction to a bit of harmless fun” — fasten your seatbelts.
After years of trying to create a safe and healthy sexual climate on campus, Yale students have decided to close out the semester to the tune of “daddy better make me choke.” It would be one thing if CupcakKe’s lyrics were merely sexually explicit, but her words express something closer to pornographic violence, the degrading fascination that feminists so frequently decry.
CupcakKe’s fans have argued that she is a musical maverick, a destroyer of antiquated pruderies and conventions. From her nearly-nude music videos to her unabashedly sexual lyrics, Ms. Harris has been praised as a rising star in hip hop and a champion of “body positivity” and “self-love.”
Her fans also claim she devotes as much time to poverty and sexual abuse as she does to smut, and that a few raunchy tracks do not justify dismissing her out of hand. CupcakKe’s top-listed songs, however, tell a different story. I somehow doubt that most of her listeners are tuning in for some hard-hitting social and political criticism when her most famous song begins with “F— me” sung repeatedly over the sound of an orgasm.
The most pervasive argument has been that CupcakKe’s crudeness and vulgarity somehow reclaim a sexuality that is often forbidden to women of color. But even if CupcakKe achieves some of these goals, it is still horrible, horrible stuff that thrives on shock value and gimmicks. It is the Saw franchise of rap, if you will.
Shock and enlightenment are not the same thing. In defending CupcakKe, Yale students are mistaking the former for the latter, promoting a debased vision of sexuality in which women are little more than a repository for male fantasies and fluids. Yes, Ms. Harris is audacious, perhaps even courageous, for saying what she does: Yet what courage lies in crudeness? What bravery in vulgarity?
Some things are better left unsaid, let alone unsung.
It’s a shame, too, because Yalies could have chosen any number of black female artists whose lyrics artfully explore issues of sexual agency without normalizing sexual violence in the process. Yale could have invited Solána Imani Rowe — more commonly known as SZA — for instance, who performed at Toad’s Place just weeks ago. I think of the honest beauty of her songwriting, the way she calls on men to treat women with the respect they deserve:
“Why you hit me when you know better? / Know you know better?”
Or, as Aretha Franklin put it: “All I’m asking for is a little RESPECT.”
Instead of inviting spoken-porn artists to Spring Fling, we should embrace music and music-makers that espouse healthy, humane visions of sexual empowerment, not those who get off wallowing in their own filth.
See you this spring.
Finnegan Schick is a senior in Timothy Dwight College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .