Panderings: Pan-Sexuality & Hip Hop

A world without labels?
Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean won two Grammy Awards and Chris Brown didn’t stand up. Adele reportedly told Brown off for his behaviour as media, blogs and entertainment television continued to join the poisoned conversation. However, a subject more interesting circles around Ocean’s cult-like following – an allegiance combined of fans, music insiders and hip-hop royalty; a genre that has never been particularly embracing towards same love, which makes Ocean unique considering his online admission regarding his first love being male. Hip hop and homosexuality have not always sat side-by-side however, Ocean’s way with the pen means that he has created a world without labels for himself (and for others)… but there is a label, and it’s called Pansexuality.

Pansexuals, also known to be gender-blind, are not the same as bisexuals who are attracted to both men and women – the former are open to experiences/relationships with all humans, regardless of whether they themselves, identify as a man or woman. This basic premise begins to connote a free-spirited nature and almost harps back to the Woodstock era, which ironically enough is being mimicked (if only through style alone) in the current hipster generation. So then, it’s no surprise that this sexual-sociological trend has crept into the music industry and is being used as currency in the market. Cue Azealia Banks.

Foul-mouthed and full of energy, Banks’ 2012 hit, ‘212’ fireballed into the YouTube stratosphere because the beat was infectious and her language was well, colourful. Banks has not since shied away from injecting sex into her lyrics, her persona and her photoshoots; which have included bananas, hot dogs and many other items from the food pyramid. This in itself is nothing new, the adage “sex sells” has and will be used time and again, however, the problem lies when somebody like Banks (a self-identified bisexual and pansexual), displays behaviour that is incongruous with omni-love. The most recent example was a twitter feud with fellow pansexual rapper, Angel Haze, which escalated into a Twitter feud with celebrity blogger, Perez Hilton. Banks typed a tirade of grotesque insults towards Hilton, including labelling the blogger a “faggot”. There was slight backpedalling from Banks who addressed her critics by explaining that her definition of “faggot” was different from theirs. This was obviously not a substantial apology and it sadly highlighted how labels are often frivolously used – sometimes for marketing and sometimes for targeting.

In the late nineties, there was another sexual-sociological shift, which saw porn (and its lexicon) become mainstream subject matter for discussions; celebrities were being photographed without underwear (and the images were published) and pole dancing as exercise was de rigueur. Ariel Levy examined this raunch culture in her 2005 book, ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’ and discussed the need to make room for a range of sexual options in order to be liberated instead of “mimicking whatever popular culture holds up to us as sexy.” That need is still current and thankfully, we live in a more sexually progressive culture than say, twenty years ago. However, if the music industry is our barometer, then that progression is being threatened. For every eloquent Frank Ocean tumblr post, there is a trend-infused press release presenting a popstar as Pansexual.

Words by Natalie Reiss

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