Why is Bad Bunny’s Kiss with Another Man Making Headlines? On Homophobia in Reggaeton

The images of the Puerto Rican artist caused a huge stir

Archivado en: Anuel AA  •   Bad Bunny  •   Daddy Yankee  •   Don Omar  •   Ozuna  •   Rosalia  •   Tokischa  •   Villano Antillano  •   Young Miko  •  

That two people of any gender kissing, while beautiful, doesn’t seem at first glance like a newsworthy event or something to be surprised about or a reason to write an article. Unless, of course, you’re Bad Bunny, the other person is a man, and the context is a society that still seems to have a lot of progress to make.

Indeed, this past Monday, images of Benito in a bar went viral globally. The singer was in Nashville, where he performed on May 11 as part of his Most Wanted Tour, at a bar where he was recorded in a loving attitude with another man, whom he hugged and appeared to kiss on the cheek.

Following this gesture (which, in fact, is quite ordinary and something any of us could do), the uproar caused on social media and some news outlets has been immense. Headlines and tweets pointed out that Bad Bunny was in a ‘gay bar’ (which, even if true, wouldn’t be newsworthy in itself, but in this case, it seems to be unfounded), along with several mocking comments directed at the Puerto Rican singer.

The man seen with Bad Bunny is, in fact, none other than his brother Bysael, according to Molusco TV. They have a close relationship, and Benito even has a tattoo dedicated to him and his other brother, Bernie. However, the disproportionate (and even violent) reaction to the rumor of the «Callaíta» singer being affectionate with another man is surprising. Was it to be expected? The truth is that social media makes a big impact reproducing social inequalities in the digital world, but in this case, homophobia present in the reggaeton world also plays a significant role.

Homophobia in Reggaeton?

While we’ve previously discussed misogyny in urban music, this gender-based discrimination intersects with multiple identity elements, such as sexual orientation. Reggaeton has its roots in hip-hop and shares a very similar culture, where hypermasculinity is more than present in gender expression and the lyrics of its leading figures, as researcher and musicologist Maria Arias Salvado explains to Ethic.

«Urban culture is associated with the most marginalized classes of society and originated in the US context, where racial dynamics are very significant. Therefore, urban culture is connected with African American culture, where, according to authors like Lamontagne, hypermasculinity and violence are strategies to claim a sense of power while negotiating systemic oppression,» Arias Salgado tells the mentioned outlet.

Understanding this helps clarify the content of countless reggaeton hits, where reaffirming normative and cishetero masculinity is a major issue. Moreover, this isn’t limited to artistic creation, as various behaviors of some artists have confirmed this thesis.

Anuel AA performs onstage during his Legends Never Die World Tour 2023 at American Airlines Center on May 5, 2023 in Dallas, Texas. Omar Vega/Getty Images

There are many examples. On one hand, Anuel AA used the word “maricón” (a derogatory Spanish term for a gay man) and attacked people with HIV in one of his songs, an incident for which he was later sued and publicly apologized. Don Omar, considered one of the genre’s creators, also made this extensive list after making homophobic jokes when a homosexual porn video featuring Ozuna was leaked. This video, incidentally, was child pornography, as Ozuna was underage. Apparently, the Puerto Rican singer had been extorted by the also-gay rapper Kevin Fret, who was murdered at the age of 24.

Daddy Yankee also faced a disproportionate response when images circulated of what seemed to be the reggaeton king kissing another man. «They’ve killed me, they’ve slandered me, and they’ll keep making up a thousand lies about me online, but the reality is only one,» he responded at the time via social media.

However, unlike the mentioned artists and most of those in the urban scene, Bad Bunny has been the first artist of such magnitude to experiment with gender expression, even being accused of queerbaiting (a marketing technique used in entertainment to suggest someone is part of the LGBTQ+ community when they are not).

This isn’t the first time the ‘Monaco’ singer has faced a flood of comments on a similar topic. He also did when he released the music video for ‘Yo Perreo Sola,’ where he can be seen dressed as a woman. “I want to show my support to those who need it. I may not be gay, but I’m a human being who cares,” the artist said.

However, even Benito isn’t immune to internalized homophobia. The artist himself said that kissing his co-star Gael in Cassandro was a kind of «punishment»: «My first kiss for a movie, and it was with a man. That’s the punishment I get for being with so many women in my life,» he told Time magazine.

LGBTQ+ Figures in Urban Music

Fortunately, in recent years, reggaeton has experienced an explosion of female and LGBTQ+ voices. Villano Antillano, a trans woman who starred in one of Bizarrap’s most played sessions to date, has become a genre icon.

Puerto Rican rapper Young Miko performs on the Coachella Stage during the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, on April 12, 2024. VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

We also see this with Young Miko, the first globally recognized reggaeton artist to openly declare herself a lesbian. Other artists like Tokischa, who also dedicates her lyrics to women, and Rosalía, who recently confirmed her relationship with Hunter Schafer, have contributed to this shift. Although among male artists within the genre, it’s quite rare, Alfonso La Cruz stands out as one of the first reggaeton artists to dedicate songs to same-gender attraction, with his music videos significantly highlighting male sexual desire.