Straight Outta Compton: How Hip Hop, Misogynoir, and HIV Affect Black Men

The movie was well done. It privileged the lives of young, Black male protagonists from poor neighborhoods who built an entertainment legacy that continues to shape our media. In a delicate, yet powerful way, Straight Outta Compton wove a sexual health theme that tied misogynoir, hip hop and HIV together for Black people. We watch Eazy-E die of AIDS. We all know it is coming, and each time we hear him say how he is going to get some pussy, we wonder when it was contracted. We find it almost absurd, if we didn’t know the history of AIDS, that he would yell, “I’m not a faggot though” totally missing how his sexual relationships with women, their nature and scope, were problematic enough to position him.

He was one of the first Black public figures to die from AIDS that I remember. Watching the film, I can’t help but think about how hip hop industry culture correlates with the sexual risk practices that led to his death. Misogynoir, the term coined by Moya Baily to capture the specific type of racialized misogyny that Black women face, features prominently as a correlate as well.

Not every Black man who acts or thinks in ways that align with misogynoir will die of AIDS. In fact, some of them will become billionaires. And as long as masculinity is built on a foundation of sexually conquering women, and as long as Black men reach for that one of few aspects of hegemonic masculinity available to them, objectification will likely continue. However, Straight Outta Compton highlights that misogynoir and its related impacts on sexual health have consequences. It might be easy for some people to place the blame on the woman (or man) from whom Eazy-E acquired the infection, but responsibility for his sexual health was his, albeit complicated in a web of hip hop, gender, race, and socioeconomic status. We watch several hypermasculine Black men cry as they see their friend in the hospital bed, a shadow of himself, but we don’t get to hear or see how this moment impacts them thereafter. That is where the work of sexual health scholars must pick up.

How do we channel the inspiring aspects of their stories, the grit and determination it took to turn talent into success, into sexual health programming and practices? How do we use their example to critically examine Black masculinity and sexual health, including the way Black men relate to Black women in public and private spaces? I have more questions than I have answers right now, which is a good place to be as a sex researcher.

, by : Dr. Candice Nicole

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