Recently, the American hip-hop community was buzzing because a legendary radio DJ and music producer, Mister Cee, was seen on video in the act of soliciting a prostitute – that was not a woman. The situation was such a ‘scandal’ because Cee had been arrested for solicitation before, however he had refused to acknowledge that the prostitute was transgendered, and dismissed any inquiries as to his sexuality. The story eventually died out, as most gossip does, but upon the release of yet another video, Cee felt as though he could no longer keep his sexual preferences private.
Soon after the video went viral, Cee did an 30-minute interview with a close friend and coworker at his radio station, Ebro, and admitted live on air to having certain sexual interactions with men. The revealing exchange falls closely in line with Foucault’s Scientia Sexualis chapter in The History of Sexuality, and his assertions about the confession.
We have since become a singularly confessing society. The confession has spread its effects far and wide…. One confesses one’s crimes, one’s sins, one’s thoughts and desires, one’s illnesses and troubles; one goes about telling, with the greatest precision, whatever is most difficult to tell. Once confesses in public and in private… to those one loves; one admits to oneself, in pleasure and in pain, things it would be impossible to tell to anyone else, the things people write books about. Once confesses – or is forced to confess. When it is not spontaneous or dictated by some internal imperative, the confession is wrung from a person by violence or threat; it is driven from its hiding place in the soul, or extracted from the body.
Foucault, The History of Sexuality, p. 59
Ebro stated, “You’ve been dealing with this privately… but after this video comes out, I don’t really know what to tell the listeners. I take our listeners seriously because without them we wouldn’t have a job. So I kinda feel obligated to share, especially when something like this happens in public, and especially when you’re breaking the law.”
Ebro went on to say that Mister Cee didn’t “owe anybody anything,” which directly contradicted his previous statement. The presumed obligation that Cee has a moral imperative to be forthcoming about any element of his personal life, especially something as intimate as one’s sexual preferences, to anyone other than his immediate family, is arguably quite intrusive and offensive. Mister Cee’s sexuality has no bearing on his ability to produce music, conduct interviews, or perform any other duties associated with his career. Even Ebro’s comments that Cee’s actions were unlawful and that the escapade was caught on a video that ended up going viral, do not constitute an obligation to reveal and discuss personal matters. At the very least he might be compelled to address his legal troubles, but should reasonably be allowed a modicum of privacy to exclude details. This also speaks to another issue of the rights of public figures.
Cee’s reluctance to admit his sexuality was directly tied to his fear of how he would be received in his truth. “My whole dilemma has always been ‘am I still gonna be looked at the same?’” This is an example of what The Trouble With Normal author, Michael Warner, refers to as the politics of shame. According to Warner, Cee is a stigmaphobe, a member of a world in which, “conformity is ensured through fear of stigma” (43).
People are constantly encouraged to believe that heterosexual desire, dating, marriage, reproduction, child rearing, and home life are not only valuable to themselves, but the bedrock on which every other value in the world rests. Heterosexual desire and romance are though to be the very core of humanity… Nonstandard sex has non of this normative richness, this built-in sense of connection to the meaningful life, the community of richness, the future of the world.
Warner, The Trouble With Normal, p. 47
It is never easy to put oneself in a position that is beyond the boundaries of general social acceptance or in any way not aligned with mainstream beliefs, whether it has to do with sexuality or otherwise. Warner explains, “nearly everyone, it seems, wants to be normal. And who can blame them, if the alternative is being abnormal, or deviant, or not being one of the rest of us? Put in those terms, there doesn’t seem to be a choice at all. Especially not in America, where normal probably outranks all other social aspirations” (53).
Further extending the conversation of normality, Mister Cee did not confess, come out, or otherwise admit to being “gay”, despite participating in what is generally categorized as homosexual behavior. “I know I’m gonna get hit with social media when I get ready to say this, but I’m gonna say it anyway. Do I consider myself gay? No, I don’t consider myself gay. I do – I have gotten fellatio from transvestites. And that’s as far as it went…. I’ve never had actual sexual intercourse with another man, and vise versa, that has never been done to me.”
It is completely an individual’s right to define and perform gender and sexuality as one sees fit. If his definition of ‘gay’ in centered on the act of penetration, that is perfectly okay, but it is more likely that Cee’s discomfort with putting himself in the gay box further underscores his stigmaphobic nature and his innate desire to be accepted – or normal. He not only had to face the perceived abnormality and deviance of his sexual preferences in the heterocentric general population, but as well as his perception amongst peers and fans in microclimate of the hip-hop community.
In this hip-hop community of ours, it’s not cool to be gay. It’s not cool to be bisexual. I felt that if I was to actually be honest about myself that nobody would want to deal with me anymore. But the more that I kept lying and the more I kept trying to deceive you and myself – the more I was being more closed in and not being who I really am… I got tired of lying and hiding. But I’m here to tell you today that you don’t have to lie or hide no more about your sexual freedom.
Mister Cee, quoted in his PSA for the Aids Healthcare Foundation
Foucault says, “The obligation to confess is now relayed through so many different points, is so deeply ingrained in us, that we no longer perceive it as the effect of a power that constrains us; on the contrary, it seems to us that truth, lodged in our most secret nature, “demands” only to surface” (60). Cee’s confession, his decision to stop lying and trying to deceive himself and others, was his truth demanding to surface. It was no longer the power of constraint, but the embracing of freedom.