Women of Color in Hip Hop: The Pornographic Gaze

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Institute for Teaching and Research on Women, Towson State University


The lyrical content of hip hop music is a widely contested, yet understudied popular culture phenomenon. This article presents a content analysis of the lyrics of the 49 most popular mainstream rap songs over a two year period. The analysis revealed three over-arching themes regarding women of color: 1) consistent with trends in mainstream pornography, women are commonly characterized as sex workers, particularly strippers and prostitutes, 2) women's voices are used strategically in songs to "sell" particular images of women and gender ideologies, and 3) women are often valorized for their loyalty to male partners despite danger to themselves. We find that popular rap music draws heavily from mainstream pornography contributing to a "pornification" of youth culture.