Anyone who has listened to a Lil Wayne song knows that his punchlines are more in service of rhyme than fact. Any listener of rap knows that casual misogyny and absurd metaphors for vaginas are par for the course. But I was curious to see exactly how off-the-mark rappers are when it comes to the bodies they croon about. When I called up Dr. Colleen Krajewski to "fact check" a list of lyrics on the subject of female anatomy, however, I was surprised by how serious—not silly—they actually are.
Of course when Lil Wayne says Weezy fuck the world, yeah I fuck it until it ovulate / Get her to the crib, get in that pussy, and just dominate in "Bill Gates," he is being sexist—and gynecologically inaccurate—but Dr. Krajewski points to a bigger problem. The expert consultant at Bedsider, a non-profit birth control support network operated by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Dr. Krajewski specializes in family planning and unplanned pregnancy, so she sees a lot of it. Depressingly common in her practice is reproductive coercion, a form of domestic abuse in which a woman's partner tries to control and sabotage her birth control methods. While most men dread getting a woman that they're hooking up with pregnant, some men want to get a woman pregnant as a form of power.
"Reproductive coercion is a form of intimate partner violence," Dr. Krajewski explains over the phone. "It can be either coercing someone to get pregnant or interfering with their birth control. So many of these lyrics are pretty much describing birth control sabotage and reproductive coercion."
Take Weezy's "Bill Gates" lyric, for example. Literally speaking, it's impossible to make a woman ovulate by having sex with her. Ovulation occurs only once every month, regardless of Lil Wayne's skills or intent in bed. Through the lens of reproductive coercion, however, Wayne's hypothetical dominating of a woman as he would the world takes on an even darker tone. "He wants to dominate a woman with the intent of getting her pregnant. That's what that lyric tells me," Dr. Krajewski says. "That's pretty much reproductive coercion in two lines."
A 2010 survey of a cross section of women in five family planning clinics in northern California revealed that one in seven had experienced birth control sabotage at some point in their lives. The study found that these abused women faced difficulty negotiating condom use, were told not to use birth control, and in some cases had their partner threaten to leave them if they didn't get pregnant.
While the masculine bravado in rap songs is seemingly performative—and some might even insist harmless—it reflects these harrowing real-life circumstances. On "Send It Up," Kanye West raps about not pulling out, especially when he's not wearing a condom: When I go raw, I like to leave it in / When I wake up, I like to go again. Dr. Krajewski explains how this lyric dangerously exemplifies reproductive coercion by focusing on Kanye's wants regardless of his partner's. "This lyric is saying that he's not wearing a condom and he's not pulling out, and she can't say no," she says. When it comes to preventing unplanned pregnancies, pulling out is the least a guy can do if he's not going to wrap it up.
If I ask, 'Is there a reason why you don't use a condom?' I get a lot of tears.
In Dr. Krajewski's clinical practice, she often sees women who are afraid to bring up condom use with their boyfriends. But she has even more difficulty broaching the subject in the first place, and she associates these under-recognized behaviors with an increased risk for unintended pregnancy. "Women don't bring it up on their own, but when I ask [about condom use] I have so many patients that cry," she says. "A lot of my patients who come in to have abortions aren't using birth control, so I just try to ask about their contraceptive methods in a nonjudgemental way. If I ask, 'Is there a reason why you don't use a condom?' I get a lot of tears."
The northern California survey also showed that reproductive coercion often occurs simultaneously with physical violence. Three quarters of women reporting pregnancy coercion also reported a history of partner violence. In a fact sheet on intimate partner violence and and reproductive health, Planned Parenthood outlines that the two forms of abuse "are closely connected issues and one cannot be properly addressed without addressing the other." Unfortunately, this was one of the only major studies conducted specifically to measure the prevalence of birth control sabotage and reproductive coercion—there's still minimal research on the effects of reproductive coercion and its contribution to unplanned pregnancy rates.
There is, however, no doubt that sex as a form of control over a woman's body is a common trope in rap lyrics. Though rap is not the only genre that often celebrates abuse against women, it is perhaps the music where examples reach their peak; Rich Gang's nearly incomprehensible breakout single "Lifestyle" typifies this. I won't do nothing with the bitch, she can't even get me hard / Somethin' wrong with the pussy / Even though I ain't gon' hit it, I'ma still make sure that she douche it, raps Young Thug on the track, in a rare moment of clarity. Here, he's less espousing his ideology about vaginal cleansing and more blaming his potential partner for his lack of virility. "He also says, 'I can't get caught up like that, no way. We don't have time to go see doctors,'" Dr. Krajewski brings up. "So he's telling this woman to douche because he doesn't have time to see a doctor. He's having a problem with his junk, so it must be her problem."
Reproductive coercion can be even more extreme than directives and shirking condom use. Dr. Krajewski has seen women who have had their IUDs pulled out by abusive partners, and on Bedsider Dr. Grace Shih writes about a patient whose boyfriend would physically rip her birth control patch off her arm. To curtail abuse by birth control sabotage, Planned Parenthood recommends "incorporating healthy relationship curricula into schools to increase the likelihood of healthy relationships into adulthood," and screening for reproductive coercion during gynecologist visits. "We're only recently learning how to ask questions about birth control sabotage," says Dr. Krajewski. "What happens if you want to use a condom and he doesn't? What happens if there is no condom? Can you say no? Are you able to say no?
"I am extremely lucky that I can say yes or no to the way that I have intercourse in the way that some of my patients can't, and I learn more about that everyday," she continues. "That's why, when I was reading these lyrics, it seriously gave me a chill."