So there’s a guy, a middle-aged guy, who comes out with a super-catchy song. “Everybody get up! Hey hey hey!” What’s not to smile along and dance to, this friendly boppy song playing everywhere, sounding like a big fun inclusive party “hey hey hey hey!”?
And then you listen a little more closely to the lyrics and realize Wait a second: She’s not into it. This isn’t some fun song about two people into each other, no, not at all. He’s into her and is trying to convince her she is into him. But not in a friendly way. More like — and I quote — “I know you want it.”
I know some people don’t understand why the song (yes, “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke) is considered “rapey. ” Elly Brinkley does a nice job explaining this in the Wall Street Journal.
I’m going to let the lyrics speak for themselves for a second here. Bear with me; they’re a little gnarly (or should I say, “I’m sorry my parents might be reading this”) toward the end:
But you’re a good girl
The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty
[not too bad yet, right?] and
You wanna hug me
Hey, hey, hey
What rhymes with hug me?
and — I’m really not a square. I’m sex-positive and enjoy getting “out there” in that department. With consent and respect, it’s all good. But this song isn’t about respect. Here we go:
Let me be the one you back that ass to
…Yeah, I had a bitch, but she ain’t bad as you
So hit me up when you passing through
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two
…Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you
He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair like that
…Not many women can refuse this pimpin’
I’m a nice guy, but don’t get it if you get with me
Do it like it hurt, like it hurt
What you don’t like work?
It’s just a song, right? Come on, it’s fun! He’s not hurting anyone! It’s not like those rap songs where they talk about actually raping women.
No. And that’s why it’s called “blurred lines.” Do you know how hard it is to prosecute date rape? I thought she wanted it. She was really drunk and didn’t say no. Even “regular” rape (and I shudder to write that, but you know damn well in this culture that we view “violent rape” and “date rape” differently, as if the latter is a problem of some confusion, perhaps drunkeness or a wee miscommunication or revenge, right?) can be hard to prosecute, with the victim’s character examined eight ways to Jesus to find some crack in her (or his) morality that somehow makes the rape her (or his) fault.
So when pop culture celebrates a song that basically says, “I know you want it, and this is what I’m going to do to you,” that’s not sexy, and that’s not cool. It just perpetuates the idea that women don’t really know what they want and just need to be taken by force.
Still with me? Good.
So we have that cultural message. Then we also have the message that women are supposed to be sexy bitches. I may be a little fuzzy on the details here, since I’ve never watched much MTV or what have you, but I am pretty sure it wasn’t Brittney’s idea to put her teenage body into a sexy sequined bikini and dance with a snake, shocking fans of the former child star.
Sex sells, and celebrity handlers know it.
Do you remember that infamous Superbowl show with Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson? [If you follow that link, go about 3 minutes in to see the song.] His song was about — surprise! — trying to talk a woman into sex.
Don’t be so quick to walk away
Dance with me
I wanna rock your body
[Is it just me, or does he start the song by admitting she is trying to walk away from him?]
Then we have the line, “You don’t have to admit you wanna play” (compare to Thicke’s song: “You’re a good girl”). Apparently we women cannot bear to admit we’re sexual or that we “want it,” so when we actually don’t want it, the men think they need to tell us that it’s ok, that we’re still “good girls” and don’t need to admit we want sex (though the case is often, in fact, that we do want sex, just not with you, dude!)
I like the way you move
So go ahead, girl, just do
That ass shaking thing you do
Don’t be so quick to walk away
(Come over here baby)
Are you feeling me?
Let’s do something
Let’s make a bet
Cause I, gotta have you naked by the end of this song
I am hoping that one day, someday, someone can finally clear this up for me: Timberlake is singing about how he has to have her “naked by the end of this song.” Then he reaches over to rip her clothes off. Her top actually comes undone, flashing a breast, and — here is the part that has always confused me — she gets blamed.
Apparently if a man rips your clothes off on purpose, it is your fault for having a deliberate “wardrobe malfunction.”
[Please, oh please, if this makes sense to you, can you please explain it to me??]
Let’s cut to Miley Cyrus. Remind me again why we are so focused on a twenty-year-old woman who’s grown up in the spotlight and is figuring out herself, her sexuality, sexual expression in this culture, her own identity, and making the shift from squeaky-clean child star to a more complex adult? Why aren’t we talking about the more mature men who know what they’re doing and are walking away unscathed?
Why are we so focused on a young woman’s understandably confused-looking expression of sexuality when, in this culture, there doesn’t seem to be any clear any healthy models for women’s sexuality, and a fully-dressed man 16 years her senior is quite enjoying her ass onstage, condoned by the VMA management and their celebrity handlers?
Robin Thicke has no respect for women. Nor, sadly, does much of pop culture. Hopefully Miley will step forward from this and continue her career…more importantly, hopefully and girls everywhere will be able to express their sexuality and learn to respect and love their sexual selves.
And maybe one day, one day, pop culture will, too.