Sex, Sexism & the Search for Pleasure in Hip Hop - #cconhiphop

CatalystCon Ebony A. Utley Saturday, September 15, 2012 12:00pm-1:10pm


  1. Hip hop is routinely lambasted for being primarily about sex and for being predominantly sexist, but Dr. Ebony Utley argue that critiques of hip hop must become complex enough to account for its pleasure principles. Of course, exploitative sex in the form of sex trafficking, sexual assault, pimping, or the imagining of said activities is inexcusable because it becomes an opportunity for masculine-indentified individuals to use sex as a form of power over the feminine. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with sex or sexual exchanges between consenting adults. Oftentimes this sexual activity needs a soundtrack. Rap and rhythm and blues can and should provide music for grown folks to have sex to. Unfortunately, the sexism that permeates much of this music objectifies and degrades women in blatantly disrespectful ways. But sexism persists among men and women within hip hop because it creates hierarchies among women that allow one group (e.g. video models) to feel more powerful than another group (e.g. strippers). Understanding the impact of the physical pleasure that comes from having sex combined with the psychological pleasure of feeling superior provides a nuanced foundation for understanding hip hop’s complex relationships to its women artists and women fans.
  2. Ebony A. Utley, Ph.D. is an expert in popular culture, race, and romantic relationships. Her critically-­‐acclaimed book, Rap and Religion: Understanding the Gangsta’s God addresses all of the above by closely examining the juxtaposition—and seeming hypocrisy—of references to God within rap music. Utley asserts that religion has always been part of the urban environments that birthed rap music, and she shows exactly how a God-­‐sanctioned gangsta identity can be empowering.

    In her other research, Utley examines how Americans talk about race and racism, asks probing questions about women’s experiences with infidelity, investigates beliefs about marriage, and explores the tenuous relationship between hip hop and love. Her writing has appeared in a variety of high-­‐profile publications, including Black Women, Gender, and Families, Critical Studies in Media and Communication, Truthdig, Ms. Magazine, Religion Dispatches, and Women and Language.

    In addition to national radio, print, and online appearances, Dr. Utley lectures at universities across the country and is an associate professor of communication studies at California State University Long Beach. She resides on the web at