Earlier this year, XXL Magazine, a hip-hop magazine that is popular with teenagers, posted a video on XXLMag.com of rapper Too $hort offering fatherly advice to middle- and high-school aged boys. In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month we have decided to dedicate this blog post to discussing the troubling messages offered in Too $hort’s video, the effects they can have on his audience, and why we should care about this issue.
In the video interview, Too $hort details a scene of sexual violence. He offers male viewers “a couple of tricks” to achieve what he calls “mind manipulation.” He urges his audience to “[push a girl] up against the wall or [pull] her up against you while you lean on the wall,” insert a spit-covered finger into her underwear and rub her “general area down there” to “watch what happens.” He never mentions consent. The video caused an immediate uproar and was subsequently removed from XXLMag.com, who issued an apology.
While Too $hort’s video focuses on sexual assault without specifically mentioning dating or domestic violence, research shows that 40-45% of victims of domestic violence are experiencing or have experienced sexual assault at the hands of a current or former partner. Too $hort urges his audience to use force to gain control over a girl and manipulate her into getting what he wants. This scenario exemplifies characteristics of an abusive relationship, which can be illustrated in the Power and Control Wheel. Coercion, intimidation, and force are examples of behaviors that can create an imbalance of power in a relationship and results in one partner having more power and control over the other, evidencing an abusive relationship. Sexual violence affects our clients and potentially the young adults we reach out to in our Start Strong programs.
Videos like this cause us to stop and think about the messages that permeate pop culture to affect the opinions and actions of kids and teens. Stars such as Lady Gaga, who advocates for LGBTQ rights, and America Ferrera, who promotes positive body image, can serve as great role models for teens. However, Too $hort, who has produced explicit songs such as “Gettin’ It”, “More Freaky Tales”, and “Porno B*tch”, is sending a dangerous message. Dani McClain, a writer for MomsRising.org, believes that “Too $hort’s rhetoric implies that hypersexuality and manhood are one and the same, and implies that consent isn’t required for sexual contact.”
Sexual harassment and sexual assault are real problems that teen and pre-teen American girls are facing. A 2011 study conducted by the Association of American University Women shows that one in four adolescent girls are the victims of sexual assault or harassment in the seventh through twelfth grades. Another recent study by Black Women’s Blueprint reports that three out of five black girls experience sexual assault at the hands of black boys and men by the age of eighteen. 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.
Too $hort has taken to Twitter to express his opinions on XXL Magazine, his video, and the public’s response. [In response to the criticism he’s received, Too $hort has posted statements concerning the video on Twitter. On February 14th he wrote, “Sorry if it offended U not sorry for telling a bad joke.”] Why not do the same? How do you feel about XXL Magazine’s response? What do you think the posting of the video says about how our society and the media treat sexual violence? Organizations, such as MomsRising and We Are the 44%, have asked for the resignation of XXLMag.com’s Editor in Chief Vanessa Satten and Too $hort’s completion of education and sensitivity training on sexual assault and rape, among other things. What would you like to see happen in response to Too $hort’s troubling video? Share your thoughts!