Some days the American common sense deficit seems worse than others, and such was the case when XXL published a video interview with the rapper Too $hort, titled “Fatherly Advice From Too $hort — Lesson Three: The Birds & The Bees.” Which in this case apparently means advice for boys who are starting to be attracted to girls on how to “take it to the hole.” And more importantly, suggesting that groping girls and pushing them up against walls is the quickest route to male sexual gratification. As disgusting as schooling young people in sexual assault is, and as horrifying as the thought is that such advocacy of assault would constitute “fatherly advice”—and XXL has apologized profusely for posting the video, as well they should—Too $hort’s apology may be even more revealing.
“When I got on camera I was in Too $hort mode and had a lapse of judgment. I would never advise a child or young man to do these things, it’s not how I get down,” he said in his apology. “Although I have made my career on dirty raps, I have worked over the years to somewhat balance the content of my music with giving back to the community. Just coming from a man who wants to see young people get ahead in life, I’m gonna do my best to help and not hurt. If you’re a young man or a kid who looks up to me, don’t get caught up in the pimp, player, gangster hip-hop personas. Just be yourself.”
First, there’s the idea that it’s totally fine to advocate molesting young girls as long as you’re in character, because no harm can possibly be done from giving that advice. Even if it’s very, very clear that advice is comedic or performative (something that might be less clear in an interview than in a song), that still suggests that something that actually happens to women and is completely and utterly awful is hilarious to contemplate—even when the “joke” isn’t well-crafted, or crafted at all to reveal the ugliness of such attitudes.
Then, there’s the idea that private conduct is, if not more impactful than the product you sell and the entertainment industry helps you distribute widely, at least balancing it out. I think it’s great if stars want to give back to their communities. But they’re kidding themselves if they think it’s some sort of spiritual tithe for disseminating ideas that at best are demeaning and at best could contribute to someone justifying themselves when they assault someone.