Danny Brown and his crew are simply calling it “the thing”. The time when a female fan forced her way on stage undressed Brown and performed an act which would make Jim Morrison blush. The blowback (ahem) was swift and intense, different sides of the political and social spectrum weighing in and labelling Brown a filthy, perverted misogynist or lauding it as the height of masculine virility something like a hiphop version of the forty virgins waiting in heaven for the suicide bomber. But as Kitty Pryde – one of Brown’s tour compatriots and probably more importantly his close friend – recently alluded to how would such a scene have been interpreted if the genders had been reversed? If a pretty young woman had been trying to perform in public and a man had undone her fly and sexually assaulted her? I can’t speak for the hip hop community but at any rock n roll night, he’d be lucky to get out of the venue alive. And yet why has this incident been treated so differently? Why has there been no interrogation of the repercussions of such an act on Brown? Two reasons; race and gender.
Kitty Pryde has extensively criticised the intense pressure on artists such as Brown to live up to hip hop’s hyper-masculine expectations. While Brown’s response to “the thing” brought harsh criticism from many feminists, the backlash from those male fans of Brown’s would have been equally unforgiving; faggot, pussy, coward just some of the monikers which spring to mind. Now, doing something that is wrong because some baseball-cap-wearing-fucker bullies you into it is still wrong, that’s certain, however, in what sense was Brown ever able to give his informed consent with regards to this particular issue? Surely that should be the standard by which we hold any sexual interaction to account? Was he supposed to, in the heat of the moment, stop the show, cut the lights and consider whether this was something that he really wanted to do? Fuck that. We all know that would not be possible. Or as Kitty suggests was he meant to kick the woman away, and enjoy the ensuing shitstorm about being more Chris Brown than Danny. And so, the inevitable occurred and he went along with it, of course he’ll come out now saying how great it was etc. but on no possible level can this be considered an acceptable level of consent and without a doubt if the genders were reversed, we’d all be screaming rape.
The other nasty side of this whole thing has been the impact of Brown’s race. The hyper-sexual black man has long been a common trope in Hollywood and once (perhaps still) provided the ostensible motivation for the lynching and extrajudicial killing of African Americans in the South. Some pointed to the role this stereotype in the extensive condemnation of Chris Brown for his cowardly assault on girlfriend Rihanna. Especially when compared to the white-silence which blanketed the airwaves when Sean Penn beat Madonna half-to-death with a baseball bat. The black man can’t control himself, his evil testosterone-fuelled blood apparently pumps in one direction and we are all at risk. Once more this bullshit latent sexual racism comes to the fore as Danny Brown is crucified for being publicly violated.
It’s always going to be hard to defend someone like Brown (as i’m sure it was and is to prosecute a rapist when the defence starts revealing the survivor’s sexually history to a conservative jury), a man who exists within the already sexist, piggish culture of contemporary hip hop, where incidents like this are not cause for concern but celebration. That’s the nature of our expectations not just within hip hop but in society in general. While women are given an unrealistic standard to which they are expected to conform in almost every field; sexually, socially and physically men are pressured to live up to a similar sexual stereotype, that, while certainly universal is far worse for African Americans and other people of colour. What is clear from this “thing” is that no reasonable person could expect someone to give their informed consent to a sexual act when they are in the middle of a performance with hundreds of people watching them. So lets call this what it was, rape, or at best a gross violation of Brown’s personal and private space. If he were Annie Brown we certainly would.