In case you missed it: DJ Khaled expects oral sex from his wife but doesn’t reciprocate. There are “different rules for men” in the bedroom, he says, noting that because he provides for his wife financially, she should pony up physically.
“A woman should praise the man — the king” the Grammy-nominated DJ and producer said in a 2015 radio interview that recently resurfaced on social media. “If you holding it down for your woman I feel like the woman should praise. And a man should praise the queen. But you know, my way of praising is called, ha-ha, ‘How was dinner?,’ ‘You like the house you living in? You like all them clothes you getting? I’m taking care of your family, I’m taking care of my family…’ You know, I’m putting in the work.”
The interviewers come off as shocked and disapproving of Khaled’s views on sex. Over the weekend, his comments were called out by wrestler Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, who tweeted that “as a man, I take great pride in mastering all performances”; by “Westworld” actress Evan Rachel Wood, who told Khaled to “grow up”; and by Dictionary.com, which tweeted the definition of double standard with a nod in Khaled’s direction.
This double standard — that women should work hard to please a man but men need not return the favor — has been around for ages. The “different rules” he speaks of do show up in heterosexual relationships. A 2016 study found that it’s more common for men to receive oral sex than it is for women. A man’s willingness to perform cunnilingus is often viewed as a measure of whether or not he’s a feminist, and feminists have long been preaching that women’s pleasure should matter just as much as men’s.
Inequities in the bedroom have repercussions well beyond that. “The way in which any given culture treats the vagina — whether with respect or disrespect, daringly or despairingly — is a metaphor for how women in general in that place and time are treated,” writer Naomi Wolf notes in her 2012 book “Vagina: A New Biography.”
Sure, Khaled’s comments were three years old, but the movement for equality in the bedroom goes back much farther than that. Marriage advice columnists as far back as the 1920s “decried male sexual selfishness,” Wolf notes. She adds that Theodore van de Velde’s 1926 bestseller “Ideal Marriage” likely was popular because of “his championing in detail of cunnilingus, and the attention he gave to the details of how effectively to bestow on wives what he called ‘the genital kiss.’ ” In the 1970s, second-wave feminists made it part of their mission to educate women about their bodies and how to achieve pleasure, on their own or with a partner.
More recently, sex columnist Dan Savage has been preaching sexual reciprocity and the merits of being “game for anything — within reason” for at least a decade. Khaled is placing himself as more prude than the average sexually active American. According to Indiana University’s 2009 National Survey for Sexual Health and Behavior, the majority of men and women ages 18 to 49 reported that they have performed oral sex at least once in the past year.
In pop culture these days, Khaled’s area of influence, female pleasure is finally getting the respect it deserves. Several television shows recently depict women as sexually unsatisfied. It’s a more nuanced look at sexuality than what we saw in “Sex and the City” during the late 1990s to early 2000s. The Netflix adult cartoon series “Big Mouth” takes specific aim at men who try to push women into performing oral sex when they don’t want to, calling out the behavior as coercive. While the human characters discuss the importance of consent, it takes a character portraying the ghost of Prince to suggest that a man first pleasure a woman if that’s what he’s seeking. Yes, even in cartoon form, humans have a hard time talking about sex.
While women have long been told that their vaginas are complicated or gross, as Khaled’s old-fashioned comments imply, evidence of the opposite is finally becoming the norm. On Janelle Monáe’s popular new album, “Dirty Computer,” the song “Pynk” is an ode to the vagina, and to all the different ways to find pleasure within one. In her video for the song, Monáe dances around the desert in velvety pink pants resembling the female anatomy, placing front and center a body part that is usually hidden. Notably, this celebration of female sexuality is one that can apply to queer and heterosexual women, and Monáe’s fans are loving it.