The Sexist

Date Rape Anthem: A Tribe Called Quest’s “The Infamous Date Rape”

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Date Rape Anthem: A Tribe Called Quest's "The Infamous Date Rape"

Relevant Lyrics:

I won't cry over spilled milk
If you won't let me take you to the Hilt
I don't wanna bone you that much
That I would go for the unforbidden touch
I'm not the type that would go for that
I'll have to fetch a brand new cat
Baby, baby, baby I don't wanna be rude
I know because of your bloody attitude
I know why you act that way
It usually happens on the 28th day
I respect that crazily
When you're done with the pads can you come check me
This ain't a joint to disrespect you
Because one head ain't better than two
Check it out

Why It's Rapey: Critics have disagreed as to whether this track, off 1991's The Low End Theory, furthers misogyny or simply comments on it. How do we deal with a song that, on the one hand, discourages date rape, but on the other, assumes that the woman only doesn't want to have sex because she's bleeding out of her vagina?

Professor Geoffrey Sirc, in his defense of teaching rap in writing classes, quotes the work of a student named Taika. Taika attributes this disconnect to a "code of the street, that if applied to rap music will explain many of the misunderstood lyrics." Taika writes:

I evaluated the 'Infamous Date Rape' using the code. I looked for a message inside the message and came out with something much stronger that what is on the surface. That is what we as a nation of people need to learn how to do when it come to rap because if you judge rap without the code you are missing a valuable message and sometimes even a warning that is in rap music.

And so, you have the "wrong time of the month" joke layered on top of the warning: "I don't wanna bone you that much / That I would go for the unforbidden touch." But A Tribe Called Quest's ambivalence toward the issue extends beyond period jokes. The song details two "date rape" experiences. First, Q Tip leads with a verse declaring "Listen to the rhyme, it's a black date fact / Percentile rate of date rape is fat," and suggests how men can do their part to prevent it: "If the vibe ain't right, huh, ya leavin." The next verse is less promising: Phife details an enthusiastically consensual sexual encounter which ends with a false reporter: "girly girl cried rape, yo, I didn't really need it."

On the one hand, the song suggests that men can, and should, take responsibility for preventing rape. On the other, it furthers the idea that women only object to rape "when the meow is completed." I think we might be in need of a third, female perspective here—as Q Tip says, "This ain't a joint to disrespect you /
Because one head ain't better than two."

  • Simon

    teaching wrap?

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    oops. thanks for catching when my brain don't work right, simon.

  • Pingback: A Hierarchy of Date-Rape Jams - The Sexist - Washington City Paper

  • Bonita C. Applebum

    Q-Tip is also quoted on Tribe's song "Find a Way" as saying:

    Messing me up, my whole head
    Teasing me, just like Tisha did Martin
    Now look at what you're starting

    This verse is in reference to actress Tisha Campbell's sexual harassment suit against actor Martin Lawrence while the two were filming Lawrence's eponymous sitcom.

    I've never thought the "Infamous Date Rape" was about preventing or bringing awareness to date rape, not from a humanist, anti-violence against women standpoint anyway. Overall, I've always heard the "classic example[s] of a date rape" as a cautionary tale warning men of false rape charges--or so they're perceived--by wishy-washy, vindictive women. The examples are meant to illustrate how these encounters can result in a woman "cry[ing] rape." (They actually use the term twice in the song.) I feel the song suggests men avoid getting "caught up" rather than take responsibility in preventing rape.

    So, if it's anti-date rape, it's anti-date rape for misguided reasons.

    But maybe I'm listening with the wrong ears. I'd love to ask Q-Tip or Phife about it.

  • mac daddy

    Misguided reasons? What wrong reasons are there to avoid rape? ("Date rape" illegitimizes rape, but that's a whole other issue.) Or the false accusation? Is either less of an assault?

    Maybe I'm reading with the wrong eyes...

    Admittedly, I get the sense that there is some misogyny here (in a rap, no less...) But a message regarding the danger of false accusations is a bad thing? Is it not okay for a victim of this to voice their pain/anger (or defiant indifference, as is socially required from young men)?

    Is discussing false accusation taboo because it is offensive to survivors, or is it because it threatens the "perfect weapon"? In the first case, I empathize; in the second, my thoughts aren't fit to print in their purest form. Suffice to say that, if the proponents of its use go where I'd like them to, they won't have problems with chilly toes.

    Oh, and the phrase "enthusiastically consensual sexual encounter" is brilliant!

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