Leave Cardi Alone

Like, I had to go strip. I had to go, ‘Oh yeah, you want to fuck me? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s go to this hotel,’ and I’d drug ni**as up, and I’d rob them. That’s what I used to do! Nothing was motherfucking handed to me, my ni**a. Nothing.

Full disclosure: I don’t actually care about Cardi B. Nothing that she does or creates is essential to my life and her behavior consistently irritates me. Yes, I’ve bopped along to Bickenhead (a certifiable summertime bop) and her verse on G-Eazy’s No Limit speaks to my shriveled hooker heart, but beyond the music, I don’t care about Cardi B. I didn’t watch her on Love and Hip-Hop (because I don’t acknowledge Mona Scott, unless it’s L&HH: Miami), I didn’t listen to her mixtapes, and I wasn’t actually aware of her existence until Bodak Yellow’s release became a massive cultural event. Since then, I’ve made note of particularly compelling moments in her career as they appear on twitter: past colorist and racist comments, blatant transphobia, defence of her then boyfriend Offset’s homophobia, mockery of a mother with a dead child, constant feuding with Nicki Minaj, etc. Now, I’ve written before about the prevalence of bigotry in the hood and how being “ghetto” is not an excuse for ignorance, so it would be disingenuous of me to defend her past behavior. I won’t do it. So, when I say “leave Cardi B alone”, it’s not about that. It’s about how local jagoffs on the internet took the issue of a sex worker operating on the edges of what’s considered socially acceptable to survive and turned it into a crusade against her which likened her to R.Kelly and Bill Cosby.

On Sunday, March 24, 2019, an old video of the rapper surfaced on twitter, where all discourse goes to die. In the video, Cardi can be heard responding to accusations that she doesn’t deserve her fame or success because she didn’t “work for it.” It’s a filthy lie that sex workers don’t work as hard as or harder than anyone else, and yet that lie lives on because of misogyny, whorephobia, and general stupidity. We don’t get days off. “Down time” is spent in the gym, coding websites, designing ads, engaging in advocacy, and freestyling. We function as surrogate spouses, therapists, and friends. We have to work on our bad days, our bloated days, and our heavy flow days. All we do is work, so kill that lie.

In the video, Cardi starts by saying, “Ni**as must have forgotten the shit that I did to motherfucking survive.” Now, Cardi has a thick accent, clearly influenced by her New York and Latinx roots, so some of the words are difficult to identify with 100% certainty. But it sounds like—and this is the story the internet has decided to run with—she goes on to say that men would approach her at work, ask her to (most likely) break club rules and have sex with them, and go home with her where she would drug them and then rob them. “Like, I had to go strip. I had to go, ‘Oh yeah, you want to fuck me? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s go to this hotel,’ and I’d drug ni**as up, and I’d rob them. That’s what I used to do! Nothing was motherfucking handed to me, my ni**a. Nothing.”

I firmly believe that robbing men is just taking reparations for the unending misogynistic and patriarchal bullshit we’re subjected to on a regular basis. I also believe that sex workers should be compensated for their time at all times if you’re asking them to provide labor of any kind. So I don’t care about her lightening the pockets of these men. If we’re being pedantic and dumb, we can acknowledge that drugging and robbing men, either as separate acts or in concert, is illegal. It’s “objectively” wrong. But I still don’t care. To quote MsGizelleMarie, “There’s no rules to survival sex work.” Encouraging clients to drink a little bit more or do another line, taking an extra $20 for cab fare when a john is in the bathroom, calling the police when a client gets too aggressive—we all do what we have to do to stay safe, pay rent, feed our kids, buy our meds, and take care of our parents. Cardi B became a stripper after the loss of her civilian job forced her to live with an abusive ex and drop out of college. That is survival sex work.

When your literal life is on the line, the boundaries between the available options and the acceptable options start to blur. If you have never had to choose between food and paying a bill, this is not the place for you to clutch your pearls. This conversation is not the place for you to make yourself heard at the expense of poor, survival sex workers. If you can leave sex work today and find employment tomorrow without having to explain the gaps in your CV because of your education or connections, this is not the time for you to talk about your anecdotal experiences. You don’t have the range or the right to derail this discussion. If you can call the police when a client gets out of line without worrying about being railroaded by ICE, I don’t care about your opinion. I don’t want to know what you women who can openly talk about your sex work careers without losing jobs, respect, or your lives would do in Cardi’s place. Because you have never been in Cardi’s place.

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What a beautiful work of Art and thank you for quoting me💕 As someone who was and still is privileged amongst a lot of sex workers… being in the industry I understand why some women go to the extremities that they do whether they are looked upon as morally right or wrong… there is no rules on survival sex work PERIOD!! Repost from @brownsugarandsofrito using @RepostRegramApp – | “It’s either you rape these men’s pockets or get raped all around” – @thegizellemarie ~ #BrownSugarAndSofrito | • Predatory men rape, beat, steal, abuse, use, & kill women/girls & sex workers on a daily. This includes rich, wealthy, political, powerful, & celebrity men. Since when are we so sympathetic towards Johns? Where is this outrage currently, for actual victims/survivors? Right, because truthfully speaking not one person I’ve seen being so outraged over what is going on was NOT outraged when women were drugged & raped. You are all so concerned about a man’s pockets over a woman’s life. You guys seem to love patriarchy so much but complain about it…weird! Imagine what it is like for a sex worker? Especially if she is female, underage, poor, & non white. We ignore yet perpetuate classism, sexism & racism. We blame women of color for their unfortunate circumstances. Lack of resources, & poverty is not an individual failure. It’s a system. People are still mocking the act & cracking jokes about the abuse & rape of women/girls. I don’t want to see this comparison of robbery & rape. When you compare robbery to rape, you’re saying that you view the female body as property. I do not want to see this fake dramatic outrage & folks crying over Predatory Men looking for sex especially from teens. I am tired of seeing men being fake concerned about actual male victims for clout, to silence female victims & show off their misogyny. – #SexWorkers #SexWork #SexWorkersRights #IntersectionalFeminism #WoC #Misogyny #Sexism #Classism #Racism #Rape #Abuse #ArtoftheDay #Illustration #FemaleSupremacy

A post shared by Gizelle Marie (@thegizellemarie) on

I’m personally a little iffy on drugging men to rob them, but considering that men frequently rob, assault, rape, and kill sex workers with impunity, it just sounds like an aggressive method of ensuring your safety when someone sees so little humanity in you that they feel it’s acceptable to approach you at work to ask for free sex.

Now I’ve held a lot of jobs in my life. I’ve worked in a theme park, I’ve taught 9th grade Algebra, I’ve been a retail cashier and manager, I’ve worked as a social media coordinator, and as an office assistant in a college dorm, and I’ve been an actual factual hooker. At no point has a man ever approached me at my job and made an unsolicited offer of sex. I’ve heard any number of inappropriate comments and proposals to date, but never a bold and undeniable request for sex without compensation. Even when I was literally having sex with men for money, I was never approached or solicited without invitation, not even when I worked parties specifically for the purpose of picking up tricks. But no one wants to give the boundaries of sex workers the same consideration as those of other people’s. Sex workers across the industry are assumed to be “down”, into the idea of having random, casual sex for free with any man who shows a modicum of interest. Combine this complete lack of respect for professional boundaries with men’s almost innate inability to accept rejection without outrage and I actually start to understand why Cardi felt that drugging men was her best option in a really shitty situation. It gave her an added layer of security.

So. The video started to make the rounds on blogs and social media. The usual terrible, uniformed, whorephobic takes started to pour in and I rolled my eyes and kept scrolling. But then the narrative changed. On twitter, #SurvivingCardiB started to trend. I have to admit that I didn’t make the connection to the Dream Hampton documentary about R.Kelly at first. It just didn’t register in my brain that someone could be so incredibly asinine as to make a comparison between Cardi B taking the money of men—conscious or not—and R. Kelly’s three-decade history of preying on, harassing, sexually assaulting, raping, and imprisoning girls and young women. I thought there couldn’t possibly be that many absolute idiots, even on twitter. But even I’m too optimistic sometimes.

After Cardi B posted an apology for the behavior she described in the video in the usual iOS Notes app fashion, an accusation of actual rape surfaced. The origin of the story is debatable, but that part is irrelevant. What matters is that it was a lie. In this shit show of a world, where rape is already underreported—especially when the victim is male—some sentient excrement decided it would be a lark to lie about being raped for…clout? Clicks? Engagement? SoundCloud streams? I don’t know and don’t care what the impetus was—the behavior was appalling and despicable.

These are the same sort of people who shout down victims’ stories and calls for justice with “But men get raped too!”. These are same ashy-kneed nobodies that harassed Terry Crews for months after he went public with his story of assault. As if it’s not enough to lie and discredit actual victims of rape, the same people doubled down and started making comparisons between Cardi and Bill Cosby, another serial predator with a decades-long history of drugging women and raping them without consequences.Because to them, a woman’s life, peace of mind, sense of safety, and bodily autonomy are equivalent in value to a wallet.

In the past, I’ve made stupid, victim-blaming comparisons between rape and robbery to make sense of my own assaults. Thankfully, those tweets don’t exist anymore because I’ve since realized that it is an irrefutable fact that rape and robbery are not equivalent. If they were, these men would react with the same endless amounts of energy and outrage when their favorite rappers and public figures are accused raping and assaulting women.

But that consideration didn’t stop local jackass Justin Richburg from creating a godawful image that paints Cardi B as equivalent to Bill Cosby, the worst kind of unrepentant criminal. The stench that that creates. The ignorance that that exudes. The blind rage that that evokes. Stop doing this shit. Stop turning legitimate conversations about women’s bad behavior into crusades to exonerate men for heinous crimes. Whether or not Cardi B did drug men and rob them—and she says she has—she’s not a rapist. Nothing that she has done is comparable to the unceasing predation of women and girls by career criminals like Cosby and Kelly.

Unfortunately, this particular brand of red herring is nothing new. There is an unfortunate trend of using the bad acts of marginalized people to excuse the harm caused by those in positions of power. When Dream Hampton’s documentary was released on Lifetime, there was an outcry from men asking where Harvey Weinstein’s documentary was. Three have already been made. When Bill Cosby was found guilty (and when he was accused, and indicted, and put on trial) men, and even many women, were livid at the injustice of his legacy being forever tarnished by a white prosecutor speaking on behalf of his white victims. But Bill Cosby has been accused of rape by several black women as well. When an underaged Malia Obama was photographed holding a bottle of wine, she was branded as an alcoholic and a degenerate, and people made unfavorable comparisons between her and the children of other past presidents. Yet the Bush twins have been arrested more than once for underage drinking and public intoxication.

It’s perfectly fine to be outraged by stupid and criminal behavior from women, but that outrage never seems to be consistent. If you don’t care about Bill Cosby’s victims until you’re making a false equivalency between theft and rape, you don’t care about Bill Cosby’s victims. suprihmbe delves deeper into this discussion of manufactured outrage in a piece on Medium. The key takeaway here is the inherent misogyny and misogynoir in only wanting to talk about these crimes when they can be used as a cudgel against a black woman, and to a broader extent, the victimized members of oppressed groups.

There is a sinister aspect of black culture, and hip-hop culture by extension, that allows men to treat women as disposable objects, here for men’s instant gratification, and subject to humiliation and degradation whether they behave as expected or not. Rick Ross took to Snapchat to defend Cardi, claiming that doing morally questionable things to survive is a part of “that life.” Whether “that life” refers to being a sex worker or being a gang member is unclear, but this is an interesting take from Ross given that he only apologized for rapping about drugging and raping women after corporate sponsors began ending their partnerships with him. Kodak Black, on trial for rape, harassed Young M.A., an openly lesbian woman, for weeks, and male commenters just told Young M.A. to lighten up and laugh about it. J. Cole openly supported Kodak Black, known abuser XXXTentacion and abusive pedophile Tekashi69. Nicki Minaj has openly supported Tekashi69 and aggressively defended her rapist boyfriend against fans asking her to consider how her support affects those of them that are victims. Kendrick Lamar came to the defense of R. Kelly and XXXTencion when Spotify removed their music from sponsored playlists.

Men in hip-hop are allowed and even encouraged to use women as little more than Real Dolls, but when women behave in the same way or request compensation for their sexual labor, they’re immoral, gold-digging whores (unless they’re white women like Miley Cyrus or YesJulz, but that’s a discussion for a different article). One need only look at the way Megan thee Stallion is treated, despite being undeniably talented at her craft. Megan is aggressively, unapologetically sexual and openly driven by money. Trey Songz is so uncomfortable with his attraction to her that he posted a violently sexual tweet about her he likely felt was a compliment just days after her mother died. This tweeter is so appalled by Megan’s appreciation of other women that he threatens to shoot her. In a deleted tweet, one man is so incensed by her sexuality that he demands she choose between “twerking and hustling.” Because it is impossible for men to reconcile a woman they find attractive with a woman that matches their alleged drive for success. Women can’t be sexually and financially independent or else men become disposable, and that is unacceptable.

According to the lyrics and the apparent mindsets of men in hip-hop, women like Cardi B and Megan thee Stallion should be ideal. They’re attractive, financially solvent, sexually direct, and fully invested in the capitalist system. But their misogyny is just that deep and their attraction to these unobtainable women is just that terrifying that the opposite is the case.

Cardi B in particular represents the archetype of the perfect “hood” woman, with her gang affiliated past and her open affinity for popping off on anyone that steps out of line. (I must admit that a small part of me admires that. I work very hard to temper it, but I love a good scrap.) But Cardi is also the personification of every whorephobic lyric and characterization of sex workers. She’s loud, brash, money-hungry, and so far out of most men’s league as to be on another planet. No wonder they hate her.

But it’s deeper and more vicious than that. In hip-hop, sex workers are the worst kind of woman. Oh sure, they’re fun to gawk at, but you would never take one home. If they’re so lacking in morals as to “sell their bodies”, what’s to stop them from taking your money, drugging you, and raping you? In short, what’s stopping sex workers from treating men the way men have been treating women in general since the beginning of time?

The answer is nothing. Sex workers frighten men because we’re largely divorced from the bounds of the patriarchal and puritanical bullshit that’s kept women in their place for so long. (I say “largely divorced” because internalized misogyny is a bitch to defeat, even at the best of times.) There’s absolutely nothing stopping a sex worker, especially a survival sex worker, from taking a man’s money without a second thought because men are disposable to us—a means to an end. Once you’ve served your purpose, you’re no longer necessary. There’s no need to care about a trick when they’re a dime a dozen.

If there’s one thing that everyone can learn from this story, it’s to stop. Stop harassing sex workers. Stop approaching sex workers and making unsolicited offers for casual, unpaid sex. Stop talking sex workers into going home with you when you have nothing to offer them but mediocre dick and bottom shelf liquor. Stop expecting sex workers to give you their time when you have nothing of value to exchange. Because we will take every bit of what we’re owed. We know exactly what we’re worth, with and without tax, and we have no problem taking it from you.

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  1. Exactly! I love this. For every asshole writing an op-ed/free advertisement about how she’s really more of a therapist than a whore, there’s 100 survival sex workers whose job isn’t to perform authentic eroticism for discerning gentlemen or graciously hold men’s hands while they navel gaze at their invariably misogynistic fetishes. Their job is to survive. We are not obliged to be model citizens in an environment that actively endangers our lives.

  2. This is literally the best article I have ever read in. My. Life. You captured everything. “There are no rules in survival Sex work”. Somebody had to say it.

  3. How do you know that these men wanted to fuck for free? Cardi B is a stripper hoe, they’re not having sex for free. They’re doing extras in the lap dance booth and even more extra by doing after work dates in hotel rooms. Nothing free. That would be way below a stripper hoe. (fo sho)

  4. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas!!! If this article aint the way, the truth and the light I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS!!!