Although Tiwa Savage has a new project out, the Water & Garri EP which features one of America’s enduring RnB forebearers Brandy, public attention shifted to a rather private matter concerning the singer recently. Going live on New York-based radio station Power 105.1 FM to disclose her plight of being blackmailed with her sex tape, Savage’s privacy was turned inside out again. It seemed like a preemptive action, to lessen the windfall around such news catching everyone unawares. Not new to controversies and tribulations since her career became a bonafide force in the industry and beyond, we as bystanders have come to associate all these with the choppy terrain of celebrity.
What she has grappled with, whether from her own doing or impacted by, leans into wider political framings of being a woman. This is the lens we must view her sex tape blackmail. According to her, the tape involves her current partner, who seemingly has no involvement with the threat. While it’s understandable to some that the story doesn’t add up, inviting a stream of public cynicism given the industry’s affinity for publicity stunts, a sex tape nonetheless brings the political nature of sex and consent to the forefront.
What makes sex political are the meanings we artificially construct and project onto the act, and how it impacts those involved. Because society has made women inferior by design, with both historical and contemporary attempts to suppress and control female sexuality, sex as a political construct continues to entrench women’s inferiority by way of objectification and degradation. The opposite is true for men, where having sex aligns with notions of male supremacy and dominance. As such, men can’t feel shame as a participant. For women, though, it holds the implication of slut-shaming.
Thanks to the intense climate of misogyny, slut-shaming can be weaponised against women in general, whether they have multiple sex partners or not. A woman just has to have the external trappings or aesthetics, such as the clothes she wears or how she behaves herself and she’s seen as one. It’s no coincidence that women routinely have been victims of revenge porn, and navigating through it can be immensely difficult. Revenge porn in this case, beholden to patriarchal sexist relations, is more than the nonconsensual release of explicit images or videos. It also shows male power being flexed, juxtaposed against the political powerlessness of women. Even, also, celebrity women.
This brings us back to Savage. Taking cues from the sexual liberation found in pop music, her sexuality is often always thrown into sharp relief, across songs and videos. Including when she expressed opinions on penis sizes and their pitfalls, to the chagrin of many. The public has created a boogeyman from how she articulates her sexuality, striking into the prohibitions placed on women against expressing sexual desires and feelings as men do. We know it’s a sexual double standard.
Further, her sex tape is a consent issue because it primarily violates her boundaries, not to mention adjoining offences like theft and invasion of privacy. Details remain insufficient at this time, but it gives us ample indication of the harm and duress that’s happening interpersonally. We don’t know the country the sex tape was made, and the views of the law in the area. What we do know is that the failure of institutions towards addressing women-specific issues is the norm we live with.