Kanye West is now irredeemable. This isn’t up for debate anymore. In the scope of just the last few months, Ye (which he legally changed his name to last year) has done the kind of damage that one can’t easily come back from.
His behavior is finally receiving reproach from collaborators, his art is forever tarnished, and his personal life is a graveyard of misdeeds. And while Ye has a history of erratic and harmful behavior, he’s only begun to see meaningful repercussions for it. Even so, he remains far from canceled — whatever that means. (Earlier this week, when he appeared unannounced at ComplexCon in Long Beach, a BuzzFeed event, fans were so excited to see him that there was nearly a stampede.)
According to a recent report from Rolling Stone, Ye’s behavior has allegedly been escalating for a while. And given the history of his public misogyny, that’s not entirely surprising. Last month, he uploaded a 30-minute “documentary” to YouTube, in which he shows Adidas executives porn on his phone during a business meeting. That’s already wildly inappropriate, but according to the Rolling Stone story, Ye also allegedly showed an intimate photo of his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, to a potential employee, and an “explicit video” of her to Yeezy creatives in 2018. Kardashian has yet to make any public statements around these particular allegations. Ye has not publicly commented on the veracity of the allegations either. (BuzzFeed News reached out to Adidas and Ye directly for comment. CAA recently dropped him from their talent roster. )
These alleged acts are a kind of sexual violence in themselves, a potent way of wresting control from Kardashian.
Is it surprising that there are claims about Ye using imagery of his then-wife’s body this way? Not really; without her permission, these alleged acts are a kind of sexual violence in themselves, a potent way of wresting control from Kardashian and turning her into a hypersexualized pawn again. (Not to mention how inappropriate it is to show sexual material to other people without the viewer’s consent.) But it would have been easy for him to do it, largely because the public already looks at Kardashian in an exploitative way. And while it’s perfectly acceptable for her to sexualize herself if she chooses to, it would be a violation if someone else did it without her explicit consent, never mind her awareness.
The recent allegations in Rolling Stone also track given the history of how Ye talks about women, including women he, apparently, gladly slept with and dated. (Or his own admission of having a porn addiction.) In 2015, he said, “It’s very hard for a woman to want to be with someone that’s with Amber Rose — I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim.” (Rose, Ye’s former girlfriend, ended up organizing the 2015 Slut Walk, a kind of public protest around how sexually active women, or just any woman, is treated publicly.)
Some of Ye’s cruelest behavior has targeted Black women. His ongoing support of Donald Trump, his Tucker Carlson interview, his “White Lives Matter” T-shirts during the YZY Season 9 fashion show feel designed to distress Black women in particular. In October, Vogue editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson criticized the White Lives Matter shirts. “There is no excuse, there is no art here,” she said on Instagram. Ye responded by bullying her online, taking particular umbrage at her appearance. Of course he did; it’s the tactic of the weak. At least he still has Candace Owens.
The alleged acts also have connective tissue with his antisemitic remarks. It’s not a huge leap; men who treat women as if they’re disposable usually find other ways to act out with rage. Ye has continuously said hateful things about the Jewish community, like when he ranted about how, actually, Hitler made some good points. His hate speech has activated others to spread antisemitism — after one of his many Twitter screeds, a banner saying “Kanye is right about the Jews” was hung over an LA freeway with people giving the Nazi salute beside it. And now that Ye has been reinstated on Twitter, users worry that he will continue to incite hate and even violence.
And what’s unsettling is the relatively muted public response to this new development in particular. Then again, Kardashian isn’t a very “good” victim. The public has repeatedly deemed her too invested in self-promotion to be fully viewed with empathy when men mistreat her. This isn’t even the first time Ye has publicly humiliated Kardashian or the other female members of his family — while on the campaign trail for his failed 2020 presidential run, he suggested she had wanted to abort their daughter North and accused matriarch Kris Jenner of encouraging Kim and Kylie to appear in “Playboy and sex tapes.”
And above all, the early narrative around their relationship — that Ye was a genius tying his wagon to a shameless fame-whore, whore being the operative word, always — still persists. It’s her fault he’s like this now. Just like the other men in the Kardashian orbit, from Lamar Odom to Tristan Thompson, Ye fell to the Kardashian Kurse. But Tristan Thompson didn’t cheat on Khloé Kardashian because she cursed him; he did it because he’s compulsive and cruel. Ye’s billion-dollar empire didn’t falter because of his divorce; it faltered because of his own behavior.
For years, Kardashian’s sexuality has been a topic up for grabs by just about anyone. The public has felt a sense of ownership since her sex tape was released in 2007. There remains long-standing debate over who is responsible for its release. And while her ex-boyfriend, Ray J, continues to dredge up the tape, as recently as September, he has never had to contend with even half of the backlash that Kardashian has. But arguing yet again that men don’t face the same consequences for sexual acts that women do is practically mundane.
The reality is that no one owns Kardashian’s body but herself — and she should have some reasonable expectation of privacy from someone who was once her husband and is still the father of her children. Ye taking that from her is a bilious kind of humiliation. It seems especially egregious given his very public overture of “rescuing” the remaining footage of her Ray J sex tape as a gift to her, followed by her tearful relief and gratitude. It feels so empty now, doesn’t it?
Kim has the right to privacy regardless of how many sex tapes she might appear in, how many Instagram posts she publishes showing her body in various states of undress, whatever photos of herself she sent to her own husband. But the debate endures: Is she Ray J’s property, Ye’s property, or ours?
The worst kind of men marry women and then convert them into objects to sexualize as they see fit — or weaponize their sexuality against them. The worst kind of husbands view their wives not as partners or equals, but indeed as their rib, ripped out and morphed into a body they can treat however they want. It’s clear that Ye views a lot of the forces and people around him as available to him in his pursuit of pleasure, success, or control. Why would he treat Kim any differently? ●