Certified Lover Boys and their invalidation of queer women
On Sept. 3, 2021, rapper and actor Drake released his much anticipated album “Certified Lover Boy.” While the album certainly had highlights and was a hit amongst fans and casual listeners alike, there was one song in particular that has been the subject of much controversy. “Girls Want Girls” by Drake ft. Lil Baby suggests that lesbian women aren’t really lesbians, they are just straight women who have either been hurt by the men they have dated, or women who are interested in other women sexually but only as a performative, frivolous counterpart to their heterosexual relationships.
“Starin’ at your dress ‘cause it’s see through/Say that you a lesbian, girl, me too.” For one, Drake is not a lesbian, and he never elaborates on the assertion that he is. However, by responding to a woman’s assertion that she is a lesbian with “me too,” he confirms he does not see this label as a deal breaker. While this could just be Drake saying anything to get this girl to be interested in him (“Oh, you’re a feminist? Me too!”), it testifies to his perception of the existence of queer women and his feelings of entitlement toward women he’s attracted to, regardless of their availability. This is detectable as early as the first line, but if it weren’t enough, he enhances his point with lyrics such as, “You just got to Miami need hotel rooms/ Ni***s told you that they love you but they fell through.” Lil Baby then follows with a colorful description of how he perceives himself as the audience for lesbian relationships. Both Drake and Lil Baby imply — and rather explicitly say, ending the song with, “Girls want girls where I’m from/But I know you wanna roll with the gang” — that women wanting monogamous romantic relationships with other women is unlikely, and that “lesbians” are instead just women with relationship issues who are still reliant on men to support them. Said lesbians would apparently prefer a “serious” male counterpart upon finding one who’s reliable, and at most they would only want meaningless, occasional sex with another woman and a male partner. Even if one were to excuse these lyrics by claiming that he just got the words mixed up and what he meant was “bisexual,” the assertion that these relationships can’t exist without men at the core of them is not any more uplifting of bisexual women than it is of lesbians. Rather, it contributes to the bi erasure that already permeates both queer and straight communities.
This, unfortunately, is not an uncommon trope, especially in hip-hop, pop and rap cultures. On the 2007 track, “They D*kin,” rapper Lil Boosie — who has repeatedly broken out in fits of homophobic rage when referring to queer men, especially Lil Nas X — dedicated an entire song to encouraging the women he’s involved with to have sex with each other as well, finishing with, “If Boosie was a preacher I’d marry ya’ll/Then sneak up on a 100 more so I can have it all.” Trey Songz’s “Lil Freak” suggests that if the women he’s with are really interested in him, they’ll have sex with each other for his viewing pleasure, further implying — as the title would suggest — that participating in such an act would make her a “little freak.” This has recently become a trope that even women artists have bought into, with rappers like Megan Thee Stallion consistently including lines like “I be texting with a bi-chick, we both freaky just trying shit” in her song “Captain Hook” and “I been a freak I’ll go after a bitch or a n***a” in her song, “Thot Sh*t.” In these songs and several others, she implies that, unlike her sexual endeavors with men, sleeping with women is just an aspect of her freakiness.
Given pop culture artists aren’t equally known for making songs that fetishize queer men, these lyrics are a testament to how living in a patriarchal society, one in which everything a woman does must be to appeal to the male gaze, has contributed to invalidating the existence of both bisexual women in monogamous relationships and lesbian women in general. Even if a woman literally identifies as someone who only likes women, there is still the assumption that it must still benefit, include or be tied to men in some way.
While consensual participation in non-monogamous relationships and sex positivity are great, fetishizing queer people is not. Narratives like this imply that queerness in women only exists in terms of sex and only when it is inclusive of men and/or merely a performance for their benefit. The constant use of queer culture — especially queer sexuality — by straight people in the media isn’t uplifting so much as it is a constant hypersexualized invalidation of a marginalized group.