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Growing up in Canada, a country that (without knowing it) struggles immensely with sexual inhibition, training myself to say “pussy,” and retire the horribly heartless term, “vagina,” has taken a little time. But, being a lover of language, it was just a matter of studying and sounding out the words; it wasn’t long before pussy prevailed. If anyone, maybe after the craze of Cardi B’s anthem, has visited the etymologist and asked about “pussy,” they’ll have found that its denotations are far more generous to the feminine than the more couth term, “vagina,” which, at its core, means something like, “a sheath for a sword.”
Please pardon my own tardiness, if “pussy” came quickly and un-apprehensively to you.
(When we give the reins of voice to our sexual spirit, we reject a language that flattens our bodies in scientific terminology. We want language that will amplify that spirit. Latin terms like “copulate” and “phallus” are for the stuffy refinements of the classroom; Germanic outfits, like “fuck” and “cock” are better suited for our sexual worlds.)
Enter Cardi B, in August 2020, whose song, WAP, (an acronym for Wet-Ass Pussy), imposes “pussy” on the world, instantaneously delighting, empowering, and antagonizing Western listeners.
Word of the song’s flood eventually trickled through Ludditic walls to reach me; I visited youtube to investigate, with a specific interest in how the song was being received by the more repressive forces that be.
These are some findings:
Firstly, I don’t think it’s Cardi B’s phallic requisites that put some male listeners on edge; what really provokes discomfort is the feeling of being objectified, which, while a daily experience for women, is an unpleasant novelty for men. It’s important, if this discomfort resides, to look at it — it’s illuminative.
The song, it’s important to realize, is not voiced by Cardi B, but by Cardi B’s own sexual spirit, whose tone is low & menacing, and whose style is raunchy, feral, and hyperbolic. To feel the song is to have it awaken your own libidinal resource, and let that voice well up and usurp you, so that your lens becomes awash with throbbing appetite. When that voice speaks, you might surprise yourself; you might also sound raunchy and feral.
The body behaves differently when our erogenous spirit takes over — things really transform. We hear this when Cardi asks her stud to “beat it up…,” and face the fact that sex itself is, and can be, extremely violent. But it’s provisional violence, violence hued by its context so that it bears almost no connection to what is considered violent outside that space. That is why a couple can cuddle at dawn, and strangle and abuse each other with joy at dusk.
Any listener should really come to enjoy the sheer audacity of Megan and Cardi’s bars. I find myself whimsically laughing, now, thinking of MtS sneering and, with viscous enunciation, stating, “If it don’t hang, then he can’t bang.” While some of the poetics of the song are more elaborate, many lines, like this one, are composed of simple, classic rhymes stated with force unabashed. Cardi’s opening line is abidingly fierce: “Certified freak, 7 days a week” (italics, bold — this medium can’t relay how Cardi produces this line — it’s fantastic) … and, following this up by rhyming “week” with “weak” delights poetry-lovers like myself, who adore rappers with the adroitness to rhyme homonymic words. (Rick Ross, I might add, is an absolute maestro of the same-word rhyme).
In touring the media’s coverage of WAP, I encountered William Singe, an Aussie R&B singer, mostly known (if known) for covering popular hip/hop songs, most recently, Cardi B’s.
At first, I relished the crooning of Singe, whose voice sounds like Chris Brown, but as I listened to his song over the course of the week, it started to bother me. Singe changes WAP’s speaker from a woman to a man, inverting the interlocutor, and stripping WAP entirely of the female voice. It tames a song not meant to be tamed, turning it from a radical imposition of the feminine to a familiar, and the very boring tale of male virility.
Even though I liked the flavour of Singe, these emendations subdue the song’s original energy.
I started noticing other moves Singe makes that also disservice Cardi’s piece. Notably, Singe changes “swipe your nose like a credit card,” to “swipe my tongue…”
This … this is an unacceptable edit.
If Singe were universally shy towards that kind of carnality, that might be understandable, but it’s obviously not the case, given that Singe retains the (also graphically raunchy) line, “spit in my (“your”) mouth.” Singe, then, is happy to own the image of spitting in your (her) mouth; presumably, it maintains the kind of power dynamic that he identifies (or wants to identify) with; putting his nose in “your” (her) pussy, however, is an image Singe avoids. He’s happy to appropriate the song, inserting himself within the lyrics, (conveniently, as the imaginary stud of Cardi’s mating call), but he is too cowardly, it turns out, to actually get his feet wet (nose wet) in the essence of the song. He is worried, as men unproportionally are, that someone will think they are, not homosexual, necessarily, but gay, in the slanderous sense.
… But all this talk, this dry commentary of mine, is far too dull for Cardi’s tremendous number. While I hope to champion, rather than diminish, as Singe does, her work, I think it’s fair to say that there’s only one true way to properly homage WAP … and that is to let your body be taken over by the same spell.
The more I listen to the song, the more I feel a deep harmony between the masculine and feminine (call it the Yin and Yang of our composition, if the gendered nomenclature is not your thing). Cardi is both in WAP — lion and lioness — for, while the song’s lyrics are overtly obsessed with cock, is the song, title and all, not an erogenous tribute to pussy? And it makes me feel privy, as a male listener, to both the aquiferous wisdoms of pussy, and the famous tumesce of cock. I feel, incredibly, listening to Cardi, as if I have personal access to both within myself, even though I’m only furnished with one set of genitals. I feel from her song further convinced that no one is purely straight, but that we all come from and reside in a blendage of Yin and Yang, an entwinement of sperm and egg, no matter our sex-habits and preference in sex-parts.
Embrace this, WAP listeners, and find yourself in the orgiastic eye of a sperm-squeezing Ishmael, or the “cock and endless balls” of Ginsberg, or now, the volupte and mean-mugged prowess of Cardi. Take her energy, and be panamorous in spirit, even if you are straight in your sexual taste.