Not So “Spectacular”: Kiely Williams, Black Erotics, and Sexual Responsibility

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

I hang—and I mean hang—out on Twitter, usually hearing from and conversing with the left-leaning, boho-y, news-and-views types.  Through them I get the latest pop-culture stink, like a former Cheetah Girl making a song and video about a drunken one-night stand.

Beyond the usual calls for the singer and her creative team to be banished, I thought Kiely Williams went up to them personally and shat all over their teddy bears and baby blankets, the way some people tsk-tsked about this former child star shaking her behind:

…haven’t seen the video, but the fact that she’s a former Cheetah Girl makes it even worse IMO.

The more generous critiques tsk-tsked that Williams’ people need to come and get her, if they could.

Everyone needs EVERYONE. Balance. [L]ook at Kiely, [T]hat girl could use her daddy, may he rest.

With all this thumbs-downing, I had to experience it for myself.



In the video, you see her looking like she’s sashaying home from a drinking-and-sexing night (the handcuffs attached to her wrist adds a certain ooo-girl thrill to Williams’ morning-after walk).  She (and a trail of other women doing the walk) get catcalled by a couple of Black men, whom she flips off.  A white guy, strolling with his white female partner, turns and starts following Williams with his nose open.  The woman smacks him when he rejoins her.  All the while she’s singing about her, ahem, “wild night”:


Last night I was drunk
I don’t remember much
But what I do constant pictures
Thats how going I was
But he was tall and he was buying
So I gave him a trying
Said he was like a stallion
And the man wasn’t lying

Last I remember I was face down
Ass up, clothes off, broke off, dozed off
Even though I’m not sure of his name
He could get it again if he wanted
Cause the sex was spectacular
The sex was spectacular (yeaaah)
The sex was spectacular
The sex was spectacular

So it was the morning after
I couldn’t get home faster
Doing the walk of shame
In the same clothes from yesterday
I think he pulled a track out
When he was blowing my back out
What was I drinking
I cant believe I blacked out

Last I remember I was face down
Ass up, clothes off, broke off, dozed off
Even though I’m not sure of his name
He could get it again if he wanted
Cause the sex was spectacular
The sex was spectacular (yeaaah)
The sex was spectacular
The sex was spectacular

You can say what you want but
You can call me a slut but
What he did to me last night felt so good
I must have been on drugs
I hope he used a rubber
Or I’mma be in trouble
Promise I don’t remember
Except for
Give it to me, give it to me
Ooh baby what a ride ride
Oh ride ride
So smooth like it beats
I like the heat
Ooh baby what a night night
Right right

Cause the sex was spectacular
The sex was spectacular (yeaaah)
The sex was spectacular
The sex was spectacular

Where some folks go from finger-wagging to full-on outrage is the consensuality: was it there if Williams was already drunk and getting drunker by her one-night partner?  Statistics say that 1) most victims of rape were acquainted with their assailants and 2) alcohol is usually involved in acquaintance sexual assault.  And we’ve heard the stories of—or even know the people, usually cisgender young women–on college campuses attempting to cope with the anguish and shame of date rapes because they felt they shouldn’t have been “passed out, drunk” at a party.  At the same time, I’ve heard from some friends who swear that “drunk sex” is some of the best sex they’ve ever had, even saying that, like Williams, they barely remember the evening but can vividly remember the act(s).  (One friend said of the experience, “I wish I had a video camera.”)  So, at best, Williams is celebrating some spectacularly unsafe fucking; at worst, Williams is salaciously singing about a sexual assault.

The singer must be feeling the public lip-pursing because :

“Williams insists she isn’t condoning casual sex and wants to highlight the problem of girls who fail to use protection during intercourse.

“’I am playing a character in the music video for the song ‘Spectacular,’ as I did in the ‘Cheetah Girl’ movies,” she said.

“Young women across the country get intoxicated and have unprotected sex. That’s a fact. I recorded the song to bring attention to this frighteningly prevalent activity. It is absurd to infer or suggest that I am condoning this behavior.”

“I wrote ‘Spectacular’ and made the video to bring attention to a serious women’s health and safety issue. Please don’t shoot the messenger,” she said.

If she wanted to get across a cautionary tale about the dangers of drinking and unsafe sex, then she could have done something along the lines of what Alanis Morrisette did when she remade The Black-Eyed Peas’ “My Humps”:


Alanis Morissette parodie "My Humps"
Uploaded by ineptique. – See more comedy videos.

If she wanted to get out the ‘lactics-and-lust message, the video director could have shown Mr. Stallion ripping open a condom package and winking at the camera when she sang those lines, letting the viewer know that Williams may not have remembered, but he did.  (And, in a bonus, places the responsibility of safer sex and birth control on the man, which a startling number of guys don’t know about. ) And I think that the video’s creative team could get away with it, considering that YouTube 1) had an age-verification page before you could see the video partly because 2) Mr. Stallion was literally butt-naked in the video.  Considering the adult-section treatment, I think condom use could be shown.

And it’s not as if Williams couldn’t speak to us growing and grown Negroes about the joys of safer sex, considering the stats about Black people and HIV and other sexually transmitted infections:

  • One in 30 black women will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime.
  • The rate of new infections among black women in 2006 was 15 times that of white women and four times that of Hispanic women.
  • AIDS was the leading cause of death for Black women ages 25-34 according to most recent data (2004). (Source)
  • Nearly 57% of all HIV+ trans women are African American.  (Source)
  • In 2008, the rate of chlamydia among black men was 12 times higher than that in white men, and was eight times higher in black women than white women.
  • The rate of gonorrhea among African Americans was 20.2 times greater than among whites in 2008.
  • In 2008, the rate of primary and secondary syphilis increased by 25.4% among African Americans.  (Source)

For those who want to drag up the whole “down low” reasoning (again) as to why mostly straight Black women are contracting the virus, the reality is the most common type of partner who may be passing virus on to these women is the straight guy having unprotected sex with several women . The “down-low” phenomenon succeeded in doing three things 1) getting far too many Black folks caught up in the HIV “identity” as a form of a prophylactic (as if you can tell if someone’s is bisexual and/or has HIV by sight) instead of using prophylactics, 2) further entrenched homophobia and biphobia in some Black communities by setting up Black gay and bisexual men as sexual boogeymen using their “outside” sexual identities (“taught” to them by white people) to destroy “The Black Community,” and 3) selling books.

No, Williams’ “don’t shoot the messenger” comment appears disingenuous because she’s trying to hide behind the Disney brand and virtue—which her grown behind left—to cover up the fact that she created a song and a video about expressing the wildest hope quite a few people have when using “liquid courage” to get sex.  If nothing else, she made a PSA for drinking and unsafe sex, not against it.  At worst, she made a song and video condoning alcohol-related sexual assault.

As @inetespionage succinctly tweeted:

…can someone explain to me how Kiely’s video/song DOESN’T glorify sexual irresponsibility?

Tricia Rose’s contemporary Lisa Jones says in Bulletproof Diva: Tales of Race, Sex, and Hair, Black people’s lived erotics rests among verities, from Cassandra Wilson’s blue-light-til-dawn sultriness, of Marvin Gaye’s let’s-get-it-on come-ons, of Sam Cooke’s little tenderness, Janet Jackson’s velvet ropes, Van Hunt’s seconds of pleasure, Jill Scott’s crown royale on ice, and Me’Shell Ndegeocello’s lonely hearts on a subway train, and hip-hop’s Culture of Freaknasty—and even those truths don’t capture Black people’s rich sexual complexities. However, we’re so busy fretting about The Right and Proper Representation of ourselves, especially our sexual selves, to put out in the world (mostly for white people’s eyes to use as measurements of our “collective good character” and to possibly get off our “collective backs” with the racism) that we tend to miss those complexities—the “positive portrayals” and the negatives that seem to permeate the media, regardless of who owns or runs them; the poor, the working-class, the bougie, the boho; the monoracial and interracial; the monogamous and the polyamorous; the inebriated and the sober–in the images that do exist, especially in the Age of YouTube and Netflix.  (And libraries are still good places to find nuggets of Black images, still and in motion.)  As Regina Barnett points out her essay about the erotics in hip-hop:

“It is a sensationalized space that is often molded and shaped to fit the experiences and expectations of its beholder. The erotic space is a struggle between conservative thought (traditionalism?) and open sexual reflection (liberalism?). Sexuality is a fluid form of expression that is only a facet of the black American experience. Once this is accepted as a normative state of gender discourse perhaps we can transcend from viewing sexuality as a stigma of the black body to utilizing it as a tool for conversing about and complicating our understanding of blackness in America.”

I agree that sexuality is one aspect of Black sexuality, but it’s an important one to unravel because it’s in this space where the melded questions of desirability and fuckability and companionship—which, for some people, lends themselves to ideas about a genetic future for The Race—is acted out.  And we’re trying to work this out in a sex-negative culture where, for all of the porn and the songs and the ads, wants to affect a lot of smoke and mirrors about discussions about sex—the hypersexualization of Black people is a part of the trickery.  And in dealing with the trickery we Black folks may be missing much-needed conversations about prophylactic use as well as sexual assault, if the stats mentioned earlier are any indication.

“Spectacular” and its singer/creator mushy message fall right into that sexual morass.  No, she doesn’t owe anyone a positive message on the strength of her being an ex-Disney employee.  When it comes to sex and gender roles, Disney simply isn’t the go-to institution.

So—dare I say it—I think Williams learned her lessons well from her former bosses.  And, as much as we want to use the “uplift the race” reasoning, I’m going to be just craven enough to say that Williams shouldn’t have to shoulder that burden:  we shouldn’t look to her as the latest potential role model for something many of us can and–again, looking at those stats, should–do for ourselves and for each other anyway.  (What may be quelled some of the criticism is if she said that the video isn’t for the Cheetah Girls crowd, but for adults.)  This again places the responsibility of sexual protection and the “proper” sexual message solely on Black women, stemming from notion of only women being the vessels of morality.  However, what I will say is if Williams was going to shake and sing about her questionably drunken night, then she should have missed us with the excuses for it disguised as moral “looking out.”  Some folks may have been upset by that honesty, but some of us may have said, “Ya know what? She’s grown.  May be irresponsible as hell, yes, but that’s her choice.”

Or, like the Jungle Brothers, she could’ve done a paean–and shook her butt– about the joys of condoms.  (Even though the Jungle Brothers video got imagery problems, like the gun-as -phallic symbol as well as the first part of the song talks about cheating on a spouse.)  Some folks may have been upset, but some of us may have said, “Ya know what?  She’s grown.  I’m not sure what booty-shaking has to do with condoms, but that’s her choice.”

Thanks Thea and Latoya for the brainstorm!