By Mattie Motazedian, Assistant Progam Manger, Demand Abolition
Drake and DJ Khaled’s latest hit, “For Free,” sends a dangerous message. It’s time we stop listening and send them a message, instead.
When I first heard the song, I started bobbing my head. The rhythm is catchy, and as someone who was raised on rap and hip-hop, I tend to stop everything and pay attention when a good beat comes on. But 30 seconds in, something wasn’t sitting right. My inner red flags were raised, and I wasn’t sure why—until I listened more closely. Even through the radio censor, the chorus was clear:
I always wonder if you ask yourself
Is it just me?
Is it just me?
Or is this sex so good I shouldn’t have to f**k for free?
I stopped bobbing along. “Did Drake just say that?” A quick Google search, and, yep, he did just say that. I immediately turned off the radio, opting for the safe harbor of my own iTunes library.
Drake and DJ Khaled are talented, there’s no denying it, but there isn’t a beat or hook good enough for me to be okay with lyrics like that. Sex isn’t a commodity—it’s an experience, an intimate part of people that can’t be bought and sold like goods or services. The idea that sex is a product, which is what Drake and Khaled are pushing, is the exact type of mentality that allows commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking to thrive. I get it—if I made the world’s best pizza, I wouldn’t want to give it away. I could get on board with, “Is it just me? Or is this pizza so good I shouldn’t have to give it away for free.” But what I can’t look the other way on is equating pizza to penetration. (Or any sex for that matter.) Sexual access to people isn’t something that should be bought. People and products are not the same.
As someone who works every day to stop the illegal sex trade, the concept that sex cannot and should not be bought and sold is very clear to me. But I have to wonder, how many people are singing along with the catchy lyrics and unknowingly spreading this harmful rhetoric? I shudder at the thought of young people walking around, bobbing their heads, soaking in the idea that sex should be for sale. (Or, even worse, that it’s their right to buy it.) I doubt Drake is purposely pushing an agenda here, but regardless of intent, he’s sending an alarming message: Sex is a type of currency. It’s a kernel of an idea that can grow into a twisted worldview in which the commodification of people becomes okay, and buying sex is no big deal.
But it is a big deal.
Sex-buying hurts people. The demand for paid sex is what drives sex trafficking. If no one was willing to buy sexual access to others, sex trafficking wouldn’t exist. Without buyers’ money as an incentive, pimps and traffickers have no reason to lure vulnerable women and children into the illegal sex trade.
Drake, you have the luxury of wondering about whether or not sex should have a price tag. With your fame and million-dollar record deals, you have a level of freedom, security, and agency that most people can’t imagine. But the sex-trade survivors I know tell a different story. They were living in total exploitation—voiceless, without support, and violated by the men who bought them. To be frank, they didn’t want to f**k for any amount of money. If they were to do a quick rewrite of your song, the chorus might sound a little different:
“I always wonder if you ask yourself
Is it me?
Is it me?
I shouldn’t be forced to f**k random guys who are potentially dangerous, and reduce me to a dollar amount while destroying my self-worth, just to fund my pimp’s drug habit.”
Maybe not catchy enough for the radio, but at least it’s honest. What do you say, Drake and DJ Khaled? Any interest in a re-mix?