Pots, Kettles, and Progressives Calling Conservatives ‘Puritans’
Cardi B has a new single out and it’s reportedly about her vagina. It isn’t clear how this distinguishes it from every other Cardi B single, or even from the other songs of the summer, which include a paean to oral sex and various lyric poetry about “bad bitches.” But no matter. Celebrations of raw sexuality are transgressive, our cultural commissars insist in unison, just as they were 55 years ago. Only paternalistic conservatives would dare to arch an eyebrow at Ms. B’s track, which is called “WAP” (you can probably guess the acronym) and features a cameo from someone named Megan Thee Stallion.
One of those conservatives is Ben Shapiro, who was roundly mocked this week for reading the lyrics to “WAP” on his radio show. Admittedly, the video is pretty funny. Shapiro employs an earnest monotone that makes him sound absurdly fuddy-duddy. He also says “P-word,” instead of the original Greek “pussy,” which Ms. B employs. Yet the bit, which Shapiro later admitted to the Spectator USA‘s Cockburn was supposed to be self-deprecating, has inspired several chin-stroking think pieces from the left, which insist it proves that every conservative is deep down a scowling Claude Frollo.
It’s clear enough that Ben Shapiro and Republican candidate James P. Bradley’s puritanical pearl-clutching over Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s (censored!) music video “WAP”…is largely irrelevant.
The world has been making fun of Shapiro for years, and it’s starting to get stale. Yes, the man talks like a VHS tape on fast-forward, has an abundance of poorly thought-out opinions, and a puritanical attitude to fun music videos.
In the time since he got on air to read out the lyrics in the nasally whine of a true nerd puritan, he’s followed up on his success by claiming he’s in on the joke and tweeting about how he can’t turn on his wife.
So now we have a new P-word: puritan. In which case the hypocrisy here is so overwhelming that it barely seems worth pointing out. The same people who spent the last two months trembling in front of Gone With the Wind, fainting amid the racist singing animals on Splash Mountain, cheering the removal of a black woman’s face from a syrup bottle, do not now get to turn around and call anyone else a puritan. These shrinking violets can’t even leave “WAP” alone. At one point in its music video, Kylie Jenner, for reasons unknown, appears and walks down a hallway. This immediately drew a petition demanding she be removed, not because her stroll is apropos of nothing, but because she isn’t black.
So to recap, holding a music video to even a minimal sexual standard is puritanism. Getting triggered because someone of the wrong race appears in said video isn’t. The left is thus trapped between two faiths. It smirks and goes all liberal at any whisper of the old religion, Christianity, and its tenets on sexual morality. Yet it also enforces the new religion, identity politics, with all the fundamentalism of a gray-faced mob bleating in the village square.
As for “WAP” itself, I’m reminded of the novelist Tom Wolfe and the way he depicted sex in his fiction. Wolfe’s sexual encounters, whether between college students in I Am Charlotte Simmons or Miami partiers in Back to Blood, were comically mechanical and reductive. (“Half the girls dancing on the decks, all the decks, had on thongs…cleaving their buttocks into pairs of perfect melons just ripe enough for the picking…”) For this, he won the Literary Review‘s Bad Sex Award, a truly puritanical and boring tradition that we should have secularized out of existence long ago. Yet as Wolfe acknowledged, his entire point was to caricature how we’ve come to think about and portray sex, which is to say in drearily anatomical terms, as towering stacks of undulating flesh detached from any kind of emotion or passion.
Is there any doubt he was right? The most striking thing about the “WAP” video is, as Cockburn points out, how unsexy and unerotic it is. Taking place at a palatial estate, its female leads blur together with the suggestively shaped fountains and wall art. This congruency between people and inanimate objects hints at the real purpose: the commodification of sex. “WAP,” like so many other entries in our porn culture, isn’t real; it’s a confected, made-to-market imitation of the genuine article, available for purchase and consumption the same as a piece of clapboard.
And that’s the problem here. It isn’t that our artists are openly and honestly discussing sex. It’s that, so very often, they aren’t.