Singer Ray J recently released a single charmingly (read: offensively and horrifically) entitled “I Hit It First.” The song is very obviously about Ray-J’s ex and, now, Kanye’s pregnant partner: Kim Kardashian. (You may recognize Ray J from films like the sex tape that made Kim famous in 2007.)
In the lyrics and the music video, Ray J makes a number of blatant references to Kim – including featuring a Kim look-alike as the female lead in the video. The cover art on the single is even a blurry version of what is most likely a picture of Kim on the beach.
I am absolutely disgusted by the song, the music video, and of course, Ray J himself. Watch at your own risk:
First and foremost, his actions are blatantly disrespectful – I’m not Kim Kardashian’s biggest fan, but under no circumstances is it appropriate to publicly call out personal details about your sex life with an ex. It’s a violation of her privacy and an offense to her current relationship with Kanye West. It’s also just pathetic, because he is clearly using Kim’s fame (which is far greater than his) to garner media attention and promote his music and career. It’s sad watching him get attention, even if it’s negative. That’s what he wants, and at too high a price.
“I Hit It First” is degrading and incredibly mysogynistic. After reading the title (an abridged version of the song’s imaginative chorus, which goes: “I hit it, I hit it, I hit it, I hit, I hit it, I hit it first”), you might innocently wonder what the “it” in question is. A wall, perhaps? A baseball? Maybe a tree that he ran into with his car? But then you realize, oh no, wait – he’s talking about an ACTUAL HUMAN BEING. He is literally referring to this woman that he slept with as “it.” IT. As in, the same pronoun that you use when describing your toaster oven or the copy machine at work. She is not a person, not a partner – she is “it.”
Look up objectification in the dictionary and you could find a downloadable MP3 file of this song. Ray J’s language is dehumanizing; he dismisses this woman’s personhood, reducing her to the status of an object for fucking. Her sole value derives from her body and its sexual functionality – except for it’s not really her body, but his; his to look at, to touch, to fuck, to sing tacky songs about and to use as he pleases. Because, as this song makes brutally, unavoidably clear, we live in a society that consistently tells women that they have no rights to or control over their bodies. Our culture overwhelmingly refuses to acknowledge women’s sexual agency, the fact that women are individuals who possess both desires and the capability to decide for themselves how to act on those desires. “I Hit It First” is a particularly shameless example of that mentality – by using the words “I hit it,” Ray J establishes himself as the dominant figure in this encounter - in all encounters - implying that the woman, his partner, played no active role in the “really bomb” sex that was had, and that he benefitted socially from the encounter and the fact that everyone knows about it:
I had her head going north and her ass going south
But now baby chose to go West
We deep in the building she know that I kill ‘em
I know that I hit it the best
Candles lit with that wine, money still on my mind
And I gave her that really bomb sex
No matter where she goes or who she knows
She still belongs in my bed
Going hard in the streets, mobbin with my homies
Sippin’ on good, blowin’ on OG
Me and ghost sittin’ clean with the matching rollie
I did that first so everybody know me
Why Ray J feels that allegedly being the first person to sleep with Kim Kardashian (or any woman) gives him some kind of bragging rights is honestly beyond me. Kim is not a prize – she is a person who (regrettably, it seems) decided to sleep with Ray J, and that’s about all there is to it. Being the first person to have sex with a woman does not give you any kind of claim to her. I don’t care if you were the first, the last, the only or one of 55 – the ONLY person with ownership over a woman’s body is the woman herself. Not her husband, her wife, her father, her brother, her boyriend, or any other person she’s ever looked at, spoken to, or slept with. Only her. And the fact that we still seem to struggle with this concept is a key reason that rape and all other forms of sexual violence are still so prevalent in our society.
The media coverage surrounding this song has focused almost exclusively on Ray J’s subtle-as-a-gun references to Kim Kardashian and their relationship. Which, while mildly entertaining, is extremely problematic. Really, it doesn’t matter who “I Hit It First” is about – the real outrage should be focused on why Ray J, and countless other artists (Kanye West included), feel that it’s acceptable to speak about women in such despicably disrespectful terms. Why, WHY, do we let this slide? Why does equating a woman to a disposable item make a man a badass? Why are we teaching boys that it’s cool to disrespect their partners and girls that they’re only worth something if men want to have sex with them? These are messages that stay with us even in adulthood, degrading our most intimate experiences and fostering a sexual dynamic that is toxic for men and women alike.
So, what can we do about that? For starters, do yourself a favor and never, ever listen to “I Hit It First” again. Seriously. We all had to hear it once to be part of this conversation, but honestly, the music video alone sets the entire feminist movement back about 50 years. Check out this great article from Feministing to read another perspective on why the song is so harmful to women. And beyond just that, start paying attention to the media you consume. Take a moment to think about what you internalize when you hear the Ying Yang Twins tell you to “shake that shit, bitch,” or when Nate Dogg says “I’m looking for a girl who will do whatever the fuck I say, every day she be giving it up.” Lyrics like that do something to you; they influence the way you think about yourself even if you’re not actively aware of it. So be aware of it. We can’t stop this barrage of grossly misogynistic media overnight, but we can take steps towards shielding ourselves against its negativity.