Marionette Strings and Headphone Nooses

At the age of six, the distinction between boys and girls became clear to me. Boys had

wild eyes and pop-rock mouths, prone to find entertainment in battles of size and racing on jack-

rabbit feet. Girls were of no less caliber than boys but could not be classified in the same way.

Girls, by contrast, did not exist so loudly or brashly. We were enveloping and abundant in a way

that didn’t demand your attention because we did not need it. We were independent, self-

sufficient creatures existing solely for our own pleasure—engaging in the lovely and simple


At the age of fourteen, a boy kissed me for the first time. I did not particularly want to be

kissed by him, but nonetheless I let him offer his sloppy and invasive declaration of attraction to

my reluctant lips. His sweaty hand remained clutched around my limp one the entire length of

the school dance and I wondered how I had become tethered to this boy. When I arrived home

that night, I quickly showered—scrubbing where his hot breath had burned me.

At the age of sixteen, I began to exist solely for your viewing pleasure. I didn’t

comprehend the illness that had ravaged my mind, but it was undeniably there—yanking on the

strings of my submissive puppet body. Cat-calls were compliments and double-takes were prized

possessions. I became a commodity, falling prey to the consumerism of bodies.

At the age of eighteen, I met a boy for a date. He didn’t remember my name and bought

me the smallest soda Swig had. The boy proceeded to ask me questions that I had already

answered, and I tried to feel indifferent towards the fact that he had not bothered to pay attention

to anything I had said but quickly noticed when my shirt fell off my shoulder. He offered to

show me around Provo, an invitation that clouded his actual intention of taking me to the highest

parking lot on the Timpanogos mountain. There, he kissed me—repeatedly. I wanted to leave but

I was too polite, the distance to my home was too great, the air was too frigid, the battery on my

phone was too long ago expired, the situation was all too familiar. Even the rope-cuffed elephant

can be deceived into believing he cannot escape. This was yet another kiss I did not want but felt

circumstance prevented me from denying, so I let him kiss the curves of stagnant lips. While he

entertained himself with how my skin felt on his fingertips, I entertained the question of how I

could have led him to think this is what I wanted. At great length, I concluded his behavior was

not justifiable upon mine—he did not have reason or right to do something I did not want him to

  1. Until then, I did not realize my body had become a space to be occupied.

My experience is not unique. Women all across the nation can recount occurrences

similar to mine—some ending with horror-stories of sexual assault or other abuses. It is

inarguable that much of America’s culture promotes the objectification of women. This

American culture is influenced by societal trends spear-headed by various forms of media,

including music. Music has been dancing in the background of my entire life. The literal

soundtrack to all of my previously detailed experiences was a continuous stream of rap music,

shattering the silence and breaking through the white noise. It cracked through the speakers at the

school dance, hissed in my teenage ears through serpentine headphones, slithered out of the car


The prevalence of music in the modern-day American’s life is immense. In fact,

according to “The Smart Audio Report” from Edison Research—a private agency with clients

such as Disney, Samsung and Google—Americans listen to “four hours of audio each day”.

These four hours of music can be comprised of several different genres but The Nielsen

Company reports that rap is “the most consumed genre in the country”, accounting for “25.1%

[one fourth] … of America’s listening habits”. It was rap music that sounded at every robbery of

dignity which I underwent, and it is rap music that I believe to be the primary perpetrator of

America’s objectification of women and the promotion of rape culture.

In September of 2017, Apple Music recorded that nine out of ten songs on the “Top

Charts Playlist” were rap songs. In these songs, women are often referred to by derogatory terms.

In the currently top-trending song ‘rockstar’ by Post Malone, every reference to a woman is a

curse word. Similarly, in ‘Bodak Yellow’, number two on the top charts, female rapper Cardi B

refers to women with vile terms fifteen times throughout her song. These averages are far from a

rarity and are one of the largest proponents for the objectification of women in today’s society.

Use of this negative terminology defaces the value of women and damages both men’s opinion

of women, and women’s opinion of themselves.

Another common characteristic of rap music is the rampant habit to sexualize women.

While listening to rap music, it is not uncommon to hear women described solely by their

bodies—often through crass appraisal of their feminine features. In ‘Bank Account’ by 21

Savage, the rapper comments “Bad b*tch cute face, and some nice titties.” Similar remarks are

seen in the third best-seller, “I Get the Bag” by Gucci Mane, in which he says, “Lil mama a th*t,

and she got *ss.” These crude evaluations which degrade women as being nothing more than a

sum of their parts are often frequently followed by statements from the rappers of what they

intend to do to these aforementioned women. The behavior they describe can easily be classified

as degrading and sometimes even morally reprehensible. In the best-selling single “rockstar”, co-

writer 21 Savage raps, “Hit her from the back, pullin’ on her tracks, and now she’s screamin’

out, ‘No más’.” The actions described in this line are violent and non-censual based on the

women’s plea for ‘no more’. This rapper is describing a literal rape, and yet we blast his

disgusting message on the radio, throwing millions of dollars at his feet while we’re at it. Why

are we rewarding the “creative genius” of a man when the actual application of his lyrics would

make him a criminal? These types of songs portray women solely as objects to be used. They are

given no ability to act of their own free will. Consequently, rap music taints the listener by

making this behavior appear as a normality—promoting rape culture by desensitizing the

expansive damage of objectification and the brutal nature of sexual assault. Songs such as these

make causal that which is an abhorring act.

Although an artist’s intentions can be ambiguous, it is undeniable that a large portion of

rap music contains lyrics with violent connotations. Coincidentally, we have been counseled by

prophets and apostles to abstain from listening to certain genres of music—of which rap music

can be categorized. In his BYU address titled “The Power and Protection of Worthy Music,”

Elder Russel M. Nelsen stated, “Many youth listen to music that can be described as loud and

fast, becoming louder and faster. It aims to agitate, not to pacify; to excite more than to calm.

Beware of that kind of music.” He continues to say, “Do not allow unworthy, raucous music to

enter your life. It is not harmless. It can weaken your defense and allow unworthy thoughts into

your mind and pave the way to unworthy acts.” Here Elder Nelsen addresses a particularly

important reality of human nature: thoughts shape actions. Therefore, believing Elder Nelsen to

be a reliable resource, one could conclude that rappers who have songs containing violent and

crass messages about women are more likely to objectify and assault them than artists whose

songs do not contain such ideals. Additionally, utilizing Elder Nelsen’s principle that exposure to

violent music can produce inappropriate thoughts, which can lead to immoral action, it is entirely

reasonable to say that those who listen to rap music are at a similar risk for committing such

revolting crimes. At the very least, we are encouraging such behavior by buying songs and

standing as a fan-base.

Ultimately, listening to rap songs which contain violent messages does not make us

rapists. However, it does not leave us blameless when rape culture continues to consume women

of America as a result of the industry which we fund—an industry that by-and-large is founded

on the philosophy that women are objects and rape is okay. Are we alright with that? Are we

sure we want to support this, knowing that because of it, eleven-year-old girls walk with arms

folded across chest—cheeks aflame as they feel wandering eyes ravage their bodies? Knowing

that, because of this, it is estimated that one out of every six American women will be the victim

of an attempted or completed rape? Knowing that it is a very real threat to the women in our

lives, so much that they sprint streetlight to streetlight when they walk home in the dark—

holding their house keys between their fingers like the claws of ancient tigers? Have you noticed

the noose around your neck that your headphones have formed? It is best we get out now, and

not when the step-stool of denial topples out from under us.

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