A Message for Fans and Haters
A small group of Sisters of Resistance recently spent an evening talking about OG Niki, real name Nikesha, and listening to her interviews, ‘spit your game’ and her tunes. Here we reflect on this discussion and offer our support to her and other young women who’ve had similar experiences. We also look at some of the underlying issues raised by her lyrics and peoples responses to them.
OG Niki has received a lot of attention because she spits about her sexual experiences. Despite being only 17 years old, she describes having sex with six men in a row, being “fucked in the mouth” and refers to herself as a “freak.” While young women who do group sex and other controversial sex acts are often shamed into silence about their experiences, Nikesha is honest. Many people have responded by labelling her a “whore” and in her home town Birmingham, she is known as “loose.” As well as being insulting, these labels are dangerous – women described in this way find they don’t have the power to refuse the sexual advances of men who assume they are always available for sex. Providing men with sex however and whenever they demand it is part of the identity enforced upon women categorised as “hoes.” This categorisation contributes to the culture of sexism that maintains male domination and reflects society’s unfair over-policing of women’s sexuality.
“you can’t keep goin on like that”
In a voicenote leaked on Youtube, Nikesha describes having sex with six men. She doesn’t mention her own pleasure or orgasm but notes when the men “buss.” She expresses surprise when they exchange places suggesting she did not know beforehand how many men were going to be involved. She tries to refuse the last two men. She states “nah, I’m not doing it” to the fifth man who demands oral sex but goes through with it anyway “in the end.” Of the last man she states:
Then Hecky (sp?) come. And obviously – Do you know how long I was- Do you know how long I’m sayin to Hecky now, nothing is gonna happen between us because obviously Kevin is my bredrin. He’s sayin to me “nah man, you can’t keep goin on like that, Kevin’s in Leicester” I’m saying to him [raises her voice] “I’m not fucking you, nothing is going on.” [Lowers voice] But obviously Hecky sweet talked his way round and Hecky got his and Hecky was going for a good hour coz I was at Scorps’s (sp?) from 12 ‘til 6.
“Line-ups” are common but this does not make them right. In the UK, footballers have been caught doing it and in the USA, where it’s called “running a train”, there was a case involving an 11 year old girl and 18 men aged from 14 to 27. With Nikesha, when she said she was not willing to have sex with them, those men should have listened to her. Coercing women into sex has another name: rape. Nikesha seems to be using her lyrics to talk about these very difficult experiences in a positive way perhaps as a coping mechanism but this arguably has the unfortunate effect of normalising gang rape.
Nikesha’s lyrics might be controversial and shocking but explicit sexual content is nothing new. Rihanna recently did a mainstream song about sadomasochism and most female artists and women in music videos are hypersexualised and objectified. With internet access on mobile phones and ever more explicit imagery in music videos and adverts, Nikesha is from a generation that has seen hardcore porn go mainstream. With this context in mind, it becomes clear that Nikesha’s actions and lyrics are the logical conclusion of a dehumanising capitalist culture in which sex is used to sell us everything from cars and clothes to perfume and music.
Nikesha’s generation lacks strong female role models but there are some female rappers such as Lauryn Hill and Akua Naru, and other female artists, Erykah Badu, India Arie and Etana, who resist consumerism and express their sexuality in a way which rejects male domination, reflects their humanity and complexity and doesn’t support the division of all women into two simplistic, sexist categories: hoe or housewife/sket or wifey. The conscious artists who do not endorse the idea that sex should be used to sell us things we don’t need do not get the same support from corporate record labels as those who reduce life down to money, meaningless sex, cars and alcohol. It’s interesting that within a month of her “spit your game” Nikesha has already been presented with a management deal while more experienced female MCs from Birmingham are overlooked.
“When men boast about sex they get ratings so why can’t women?”
Not everyone has responded to OG Nikesha in the same negative way, she has almost 20,000 followers on Twitter and seems to be building a substantial fan base. On Youtube and Facebook there have been numerous comments pointing out that when men boast about sex they get ratings so why can’t women? While these comments are right to point out the unfair sexual double standard that has long oppressed and policed women and their sexuality, the context is not the same. Men and women do not have equality; men have more financial, political, social and cultural power. Men do not rap about eating pussy and swallowing come or getting fucked by six women in a row and even if they did, because the context is different, it would not have the same implications. Under patriarchy, women have never had full control over their sexuality. From the days of the chastity belt to the modern stigma attached to women who enjoy sex, male desires and demands control women’s bodies and their understanding and enjoyment of sex. Nikesha’s music must be placed in this context.
“she’s doing anything I say no longting”
Nikesha’s lyrics rarely mention her enjoyment; she does not promote a model of sex that encourages freedom and respect for women. She simply fulfils pornographic male fantasies that suggest women’s role in sex is to only please men. A clear example of this is her tune with Sneakbo, in which he says of Nikesha “she’s on this, doing anything I say no longting.” This is a model of sexual relationships in which the man makes demands and the woman simply complies. The woman does not have her own desires separate from the man’s and she cannot refuse him. In this track Nikesha’s explicit and controversial lyrics are matched by Sneakbo who boasts about his virility in keeping with racist stereotypes of masculinity that hyper-sexualise black men.
As a young black woman explicitly discussing her sexuality, Nikesha demonstrates how racism, sexism and issues facing young people today overlap. No one from the media or the grime community has expressed any concern that Nikesha has experienced such sex acts despite not yet being old enough to vote or drink alcohol. Her explicit lyrics and claims that she has had “a lot of sex” can’t be seen as separate from the sexualisation of young women which is also undeniably linked to issues of race and gender. Whilst all young women are increasingly sexualised and exposed to sexual images, the historical role of the myth of the promiscuous black woman or “jezebel” is especially relevant here. With the half a million views her video has received and her status a global trending topic on Twitter, you can be sure that if she was white her sexual experiences would have produced sexist outcry from the tabloid press and aroused racist interest from the police.
“Sex and violence don’t mix”
Nikesha and young women like her deserve consensual sexual relationships that make them feel happy and fulfilled. No one, of any race, gender, age, background or sexual orientation, deserves to be mistreated, labelled or violated. Sisters of Resistance actively support the expression and exploration of sex and female sexuality. But we also fully reject sexual acts that leave any or all of the participants feeling misunderstood, disrespected or dehumanised. We fight against a sexist and racist dominant culture that normalises violence against women, stereotypes black women and men and destroys a potentially beautiful act of physical unity. Sex and violence don’t mix.
For people who wanna read more:
This introduces the history of the Jezebel stereotype: “Still I Rise !”: The African-American Woman, and Her Struggle with the Jezebel and Mammy Stereotypes
bell hooks on black masculinity: http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=OaaqBUsmUV4C&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=bell+hooks+black+masculinity&ots=P0SLZTvQV5&sig=5-HLpCSidD_t2Z7z7OYoW66IiMI#v=onepage&q&f=false
“Four Brief Critiques of SlutWalk’s Whiteness, Privilege and Unexamined Power Dynamics”: http://www.peopleofcolororganize.com/activism/slutwalk-whiteness-privilege-sex-trafficking-women-color/
Angela Davis on the way the myth of the black rapist has been used against black men: http://sex-and-race.livejournal.com/374708.html
An article about how men can fight rape (written in the context of the gang rape of the 11 year old mentioned above): http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/03/earlier_this_week_i_wrote.html
Black men rejecting sexism and the objectification of women:
Kevin Powell on overcoming his own sexist attitudes
Tony Porter on the Man Box
Byron Hurt documentary on sexism and masculinity in Hiphop (he touches on lineups/trains and sexual violence): http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2020029531334253002#