50 Cent's sex tape scandal and Rihanna's music video have one thing in common: misogyny

The treatment of women as possessions and pawns in professional feuds remains frustratingly common

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The Independent Online

There’s an entire Wikipedia page dedicated solely to 50 Cent’s feuds, many of them too boring for even the most committed rap fan to be interested in.  Mostly, there’s a lot of sparkly chain-stealing and bitchy name-calling before inevitably both sides sulk off to write a diss track about each other.

50 (real name Curtis Jackson) hit the headlines this week for one feud in particular, a long-standing disagreement with fellow rapper Rick Ross. The two spent over a year exchanging insults to drive up their respective website hits and album sales in 2009, before Jackson posted a sex-tape of Ross’s ex and the mother of his child Lastonia Leviston online. He then added a commentary on the video, criticising Leviston’s body and aggressively insulting her.

Rick Ross isn’t in the video. It’s between Leviston and her partner at the time, Maurice Murray. But her previous relationship with Ross was enough for 50 to decide she must pay with her sexuality, her body and her privacy for the crimes of her former partner. Like the other trappings of fame, all the houses and the chains and the piles of cash, Leviston was thought of as something that belonged to Ross. She was a piece of property that was fair game in their attempts to discredit each other. 

Leviston is a living example of the blonde ‘bitch’ in Rihanna’s much talked about ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ video, where a woman is stripped and beaten because she is the girlfriend of an  accountant, who the song accuses of ripping off his client played by Rihanna. In the lyrics, the “accountant” character is supposed to have spent all of RiRi’s money and left her with a bad credit rating (who knew pop stars were so concerned about their credit ratings?), so obviously she has to punish him by murdering his girlfriend.

Both Leviston and the nameless fictitious BBHMM blonde are left naked and humiliated, punished for their partner’s mistakes in much the same way, and as easily, as you might run a key down an enemy’s expensive car. In the eyes of 50 Cent and the characters depicted  in Rihanna’s video, they aren’t people, women with lives and interests, but a possession, an extension of their male partners to be stolen and then destroyed.

The feud between Ross and Jackson was driven by money. Insults were exchanged to drive sales. Apparently it was okay to humiliate Leviston as long as posting the video drove clicks, and in turn the sales of tickets, merchandise and 50 Cent’s own brand of pants. It’s okay to watch a video depicting Rihanna acting out the torture of someone while a pop-up advert reminds us to buy the official perfume, because she’s making money. Never mind the bad taste it leaves.

 

Perhaps another part of the problem is our struggle to see women who’ve ended up in videos they made but never dreamt would turn up online as real victims.

Women who are naked on the Internet, even when the tapes are posted without their possession are a joke, as one Glastonbury-goer took time and a reasonable level of arts and crafts skills to remind Kim Kardashian this year during the festival.  The idea that men can be embarrassed by their partner’s sexual history must be reinforced, even if that means lugging an eight-foot flag of Kardashian giving her ex-boyfriend a blowjob to rural Somerset. All of this was, of course, intended in some way to humiliate her partner Kanye West, who was performing at the time. The concept still implies that stripping down their associated female possessions is the best way of hurting men.

Women have been punished for having sex for a very, very long time.  Sex tapes and photos that have been leaked online without permission are the 2015 version of a practice going back hundreds of years. It’s time for the flag to stop flying.