Let me start by saying one thing: I get that the "Blurred Lines" video is nasty. I get that three lecherous old men getting ground-on by ditzy girls wearing little more than some socks and an M&S flesh-coloured slip is sick making. I get that the lyrics about "something big enough to tear (an) ass in two" is graphically sexually violent, and that the notion of blurred lines in a sexual context belies a laissez-faire attitude to a woman’s ultimate choice of engaging in intercourse or not. I guess I can kind of see how that could be "rapey". I get it, I do.
But on the other hand, I am bemused as to why this video, this song, with these lyrics, are being singled out for revilement.
You could say that because of the mainstream popularity of the song, as well as Pharrell's status as a sex symbol, the track holds great weight among the younger generation. I guess people are worried that twelve year-old girls are just champing at the bit for T.I to tear ‘em a new one, normalising anal stretching among the CBeebies of the UK. But how many times have these tykes heard worse? When Rihanna sang "chains and whips excite me
" or Gyptian had a big summer hit
about fucking a woman with a small vagina, did that lead to a rash of articles in Mizz
about BDSM and vaginoplasty?
Of course, it's not actually the twelve year olds that are complaining about Thicke, it's the grown ups, and it’s like some of them have never had sex before. Have you never said something excessively, hyperbolically filthy to a loved one? And if you have, how many times have you thought it was silly or arousing, as opposed to vile and disrespectful? It seems some of the outrage
with this video, to me, perpetuates the incorrect notion that women don’t enjoy dirty sex shit as much as men do.
The selectivity I’ve witnessed surrounding this issue has been unfathomable. I’ve seen people I know personally lay claim to their disgust at this song, the same people who laugh at daggering videos and claim to love dancehall. People who listen to songs by wifebeaters and ephebophiles, former pimps and claimant current pimps. The hypocrisy has been astounding.
It’s also worth mentioning that Robin Thicke is white, not a rapper, and the girls in the video are waif-ish supermodels. It is uncomfortable for detractors to also mention rap videos as they don’t feel it’s their place to criticise a largely black industry, for fear of being branded racist. Where are they when booty club strippers are having money thrown at them by Juicy J? When JAY Z is rapping about being a big pimp in a song that's literally called "Big Pimpin'"?
When things like this come up in pop/rap/RnB I’m always reminded of my youth. I used to listen to a lot of metal music when I was an impressionable teen, some of it soft as a bag of hot Haribo, some of it more caustic than a cobra made of bleach. Among the more extreme types of metal lie some of the most violently misogynistic lyrics I have ever heard. Take Annotations Of An Autopsy’s ditty "Welcome To Sludge City
", for example.
The track opens with chants of "She bled from every fucking hole", and after a hefty dose of pig squeals comes the refrain of "when I’m done with you / you won’t have a cunt left". This is where you go, "Joe, you stupid arsehole, Annotations Of An Autopsy are irrelevant, about five people listen to them!" Well, I say to you, broaden your horizons past your metropolitan media groupthink jamboree. I found out about this band because I, like thousands and thousands of other teenagers, read Kerrang. Kerrang is a bible for youngsters across the land, and their approach to things like AOAA, and the much more popular Cannibal Corpse (purveyors of tracks like "Addicted To Vaginal Skin" and "Stripped, Raped and Strangled"), is not one of concern, it’s one of laughable gaud. These musicians aren’t doing anything other than attempting to shock and disgust, but how does that make the notion any more or less palatable? And why is their (huge) audience any less significant?
Last year, human Hubba Bubba gums Stooshe released "Black Heart", a sad tale of an abusive relationship. Instead of triumphing, though, the protagonist talks about how her lover is "the best I've ever had", despite the fact he "scares her to death" and she calls him a "monster". Five pages deep on Googling this song and I can find no think pieces, no decrying. All I got was a thread on Mumsnet. Women, no less, promoting the ‘bad boy’ as an irresistible force, one with the power to hold you in place and scare you simultaneously? This song charted high, how is it not as bad?
What I’m saying is, I’m aware of the painfully unfair reality that a woman must make a choice to put herself in danger when walking the streets alone at night, cannot enter a club or venue without fear of harassment, cannot speak up without their sexuality being used against them, made to feel powerless, small and objectified. But it’s all those things that make the Robin Thicke video seem relatively small time to me. How many songs about bitches popping pussy and sucking dick and stripping and fucking have you heard? For better or worse, they are countless in number.
Saying Robin Thick is ‘rapey’ is to almost trivialise rape itself, and in my view put an unfair and dangerous label on someone. Likening the notion a woman wants to have sex with you but isn’t admitting it to holding her down and forcing your penis into her is pretty fucking shaky ground if you ask me. Don’t claim to revile rape culture and then be so free and easy with accusations of it.
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