The outrageousness of Kanye West’s most recent public fight with his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose has caught a lot of attention. In response to harsh words exchanged between Kanye and her ex-boyfriend Wiz Khalifa, Rose tweeted “Awww @kanyewest are u mad I’m not around to play in ur asshole anymore? #FingersInTheBootyAssBitch.” This was a dig obviously meant to undermine Kanye’s masculinity as a straight-identifying man (because anal-play is strictly a homosexual act, right?). Kanye responded, “Exes can be mad but just know I never let them play with my ass…I don’t do that…I stay away from that area all together,” clearly reassuring Rose and the rest of the world of his masculinity and heterosexuality.
In a society that correlates anal sex with homosexuality, the suggestion that Kanye participated in and enjoyed receiving anal pleasure called his sexuality and masculinity into question. As Chong-suk Han points out in “Sexy Like a Girl and Horny Like a Boy,” “The notion of masculinity is socially constructed, with the very definition of what is and is not masculine constantly negotiated and altered” (225). The construction of masculinity is a power play that only maintains its dominance by consistently belittling what it is not: feminine. A large part of being masculine is having sex with women, so men who sleep with men cannot be masculine. Hence, insinuating that Kanye was gay because of his sexual preferences belittled his fragile masculinity and caused him to issue a retaliation assuring everyone that he “stays away from that area all together.”
Common responses to such offensive comments on social media include, “If you don’t like it, then don’t pay attention to it!” or that it is simply entertainment. But, as David Nylund points out in “When in Rome: Heterosexism, Homophobia, and Sports Talk Radio,” media entertainment is “neither innate nor harmless.” The fact of the matter is these views and opinions held by celebrities influence the views of their fans. Similarly, in “Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, and Media Culture,” Douglas Kellner claims, “Learn what to enjoy and what we should avoid. We learn when to laugh and when to cheer. A system of power and privilege thus conditions our pleasures” (232). It is because of this system of power and privilege that the homophobic comments made by Kanye West and Amber Rose cannot be ignored. By insinuating that participating in stereotypically gay sex acts should be taken as an insult, West and Rose perpetuate the notion of homosexuality as inferior to heterosexuality and promote heterosexism.