While on a fervent publicity tour for long-awaited new album, The R.E.D. Album, the California rapper, Game, gave off-the-cuff health advice to the popular hip-hop video site Vlad TV, issuing a public service announcement about what he claims are “many gay rappers in the game.” On the surface, Game expresses his heartfelt concern for the seemingly rise in gay bullying instances, saying that gays should have an easier time in regards to their lifestyle choice. But as fast as he took that noble stance, he took an equally damaging one, blaming men who are bi-sexual or closeted for the spread of HIV, basically, the reason women can’t trust any man, homosexual or not.
Game makes his remark at the 1:21 into the video
Game’s call for gay rappers to come out of the closet in hopes that this revelatory action will help reduce the cases of HIV isn’t just passive homophobia but forces men further into the closet by placing an undeserved burden on their shoulders. Even though Game’s stance is not unpopular, this archaic view — that closeted homosexuals are the exclusive reason why the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to ravage the black community — slowly chips away at any hope that a compassionate, fact-based conversation will arise concerning the myriad of reasons why blacks disproportionally lead the nation in new HIV cases.
The truth is, while homosexual black men account for 63% of all new cases of HIV, the reasons why this number is so high has little do with closeted homosexual behavior, according a Boston Medical Center study.
In this study conducted primarily in Atlanta — the unofficial black gay capital — it concluded the rise in HIV among young black gay men can be attributed the way they view black masculinity as signifier of violence and sexual prowess, causing them discard protection because they’re intimidated and the men “look clean.” Sadly, some young black men have internalized some of the same stereotypical images of black male sexuality that many scholars claim originate within the dominant white culture.
The lead author of the Boston study, Errol L. Fields, MD, PhD, MPH, explained how he and the researchers came to their hypothesis regarding the consistent rise in new HIV cases amongst young black males:
“We found that their beliefs about masculinity may affect their ability to protect themselves against HIV,” Dr. Fields said. “For example, many believed that men who acted more feminine were at greater risk for HIV than men who acted more masculine. These beliefs may have led to greater risk behavior with men who were perceived to be masculine because they believed these men were less likely to have HIV.”
Studies like the aforementioned one should help contextualize and broaden the conversation about how black male rappers and singers — who have more control over their images than video vixens, who receive the most negative criticism — portray themselves in music videos as hyper-sexualized, violent subjects ready to lose everything over a irrational beef or the pursuit of money. These reckless and implicit images, which is merely a updated version of John Wayne’s “cowboy” masculinity, are sneakingly powerful, possibly leading young gay males into conforming to damaging and unhealthy relationships toward their bodies and love in general.
Case in point, the latest video released by Game, “Pot of Gold” — which, to his credit, is a heartfelt ode to the many youths that run into institutionalized traps chasing the American Dream on the illegal side of the game — shows him numerous times shirtless, playing up his “hood” masculinity, complete with scenes of his crew, who are also shirtless, lifting weights in the yard.
Since studies continue to show that, in today’s world, television is the most prevalent source of knowledge — a place where people formulate their ideas about different cultures — it’s not stretch to say that images of rappers, shirtless, in masculine postures, somewhat contributes to the multiple reasons why black men lead the nation in new HIV cases.
Muscular rappers exude virility — which, according to the Boston study, is a health signifier that helps “fem” gay men rationalize non-protective sex with their partners — so many rapper’s silence in regards to their influence on America’s sexual appetite is questionable. But maybe they just don’t realize this or don’t want to admit it. If we open up ourselves to this possibility maybe comments which may offend others won’t be spoken in the first place.
No one is saying that Game, or any other rapper for that matter, should put on a shirt or play down their sexuality, but it is time that self-identified heterosexual men, like Game, admit that, even though it’s not explicitly stated or marketed in such a way, their bare chests on-screen incite more than just females gawkers.
As rappers continue to play their roles as violent, sexual sires, they’re complicit in the reinforcement of black sexual stereotypes, which is fine if that’s what they feel is necessary to feed their families. Can’t knock the hustle! But we can urge our celebrities to think before they reveal their insecurities about subjects that may deviate from cultural norms.
Game recently tweeted that he understands that gay men aren’t the only ones spreading HIV, a week after the his now infamous video interview hit the net. Next time, hopefully, he won’t paint an issue with such a broad stroke.
Well written article. I had no clue about this study and it really does give a different perspective on the truth of what is really going on with sexuality in the black community. As for Game I question the motivations behind his comments. I don’t think he was coming from a place of sweeping generalizations, like many of us who are not in the rap industry. It seems as though he was talking about situations and lifestyles he has observed as a member of the rap industry.
Needless to say he shouldn’t have linked HIV/Aids to behaviors he has observed, that’s prejudice. As far as the masculinity portrayed by these rappers it is really difficult to change, in order to create a safer environment for people to come out of the closet. Closeted gay rappers are going to continue to portray over sexed imaged and straight rappers are going to continue as well. Who makes the first step since everything is so secretive?
@Khaleeqa: Wow … I totally agree with you. I’m not blaming Game but attitudes towards gayness are UNHEALTHY. But, like you said, where do we start?
I never knew about this study and I cant believe that this study is not more widespread. This is a great article and I absolutely love the link the author makes to John Wayne, showing that these rappers belong to a much larger, race-less, classless very masculine culture.
Blacks will never admit the complexities of gayness. There is so much gayness in the church yet no one will admit that. I cant remember the gospel singer that said the choir was the gay sanctuary for most closeted men and women. Music is a great way to express your feelings over stuff that eats away at your soul but there will never be a day when we see straight black men open up on gayness. Thats a dream! Too much machismo and honestly too much to lose for a cause that doesn’t effect them directly
@Brandon: I agree with you. As a believer I think this is because the church doesn’t have honest conversations about sex in general. They pretend like it doesn’t exist and then tell you not to do it. This leads to black families not talking about sex and thus all this secretive unhealthy behavior in straight & gay people. We need some sort of black Dr. Drew to just get people more comfortable addressing sex in a real way and not an illicit raunchy way.
Wow! I never thought about how rappers are portraying their masculinity… Ummmm I didn’t think “gay” as much as “prisoner”…
To answer the question, no, hip hop is NOT contributing to the spread of HIV. There are a lot of things that are responsible for the stigma and ignorance that leads to unprotected sex and the spread of STIs. We can’t just blame hip hop artists because they too are victims of the stereotypes and the internalize unhealthy queues about masculinity that lead to risky sex habits.
I will acknowledge artists have a lot of power to change the CONVERSATION regarding sexual health in general. The fact of the matter is folk cannot wait for the church, rappers or some cosmic force to save their lives. Gay or straight, they have to be responsible for themselves.
P.S. The use of the term “homosexual” is a bit antiquated.
Interesting article on a very controversial issue in the black community (AIDS/HIV & homosexuality.) However, I generally think The Game is an overall straight ally for the gay community. I don’t feel his statement on the issue came out the right way and he wanted to get the message out to be honest about yourself at all times.
Even though homosexual men only contribute to 63% of NEW HIV cases (according to your study), those that are on the DL or in the closet also contribute to the rise of NEW HIV cases in Black women who are the fastest growing demographic of AIDS cases.
The fact that so many of them are sleeping with women unprotected and without acknowledging or sharing their homosexuality with these unsuspecting women is enough, IMO, to validate the Game’s points. I have NOTHING against homosexuals but I DO HAVE SOMETHING AGAINST DISHONESTY!
Be who you are, but don’t act like you are something you are not and then not only don’t get tested for yourself, but go around sleeping with others unprotected and exposing them too.