Allow me to preface this by saying that I am not an academic. Hell, I dropped out of college ten years ago and haven’t looked back. I’m not much of a political animal anymore either, but I’m certainly not affiliated with any hardline ideologies one way or the other. I don’t have an axe to grind, I guess is what I’m saying. What I am is a student of culture, in particular pop culture. As someone who’s job is cleaning up the messes left by various elements of culture, my interest is more than idle curiosity. I’m fascinated by the way our entertainment and our “diversions” affect the way we interact with the real world. I think people reveal some deep-seated facets of themselves when they think they’re “just having fun”, and I include myself in that. Recently, I became aware of a popular song making the rounds on radio and in clubs all across the world. Popular is perhaps an understatement; it’s been #1 on the Billboard Hip Hop Songs chart and is the second-best selling single of 2013 behind Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”. According to Interscope, the song has reached more than 242 million listeners, making it the song with the largest radio audience of all time. The song is Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, featuring producer Pharrell and rapper T.I. You can listen to it here and read along with the lyrics. Now, the lyrics are blisteringly asinine for the most part, but that’s nothing new in popular music. Anyone who tries to argue that pop music is more stupid today than it was fifty years ago better be able to explain exactly who did put the bop in the bop she-bop she-bop. The sub-High School sophistication of the lyrics is barely interesting. What is interesting is that the song manages to encapsulate modern rape culture in a way that an army of feminist academics couldn’t have dreamed of satirizing. There was a time when I used to chuckle at that phrase and claim that fears of a "rape culture" in modern media were overblown, that surely it was just a bunch of professors reading too much into things. Then Thicke, Pharrell, and T.I. came along and helpfully rocketed a song to #1 that stands for everything those professors were afraid of. Am I being dramatic? You tell me. Ok, now he was close Tried to domesticate you But you're an animal Baby, it's in your nature Just let me liberate you You don't need no papers That man is not your maker And that's why I'm gon' take a Good girl I know you want it I know you want it I know you want it You're a good girl Can't let it get past me You're far from plastic Talk about getting blasted I hate these blurred lines I know you want it I know you want it I know you want it But you're a good girl The way you grab me Must wanna get nasty Go ahead, get at me Oh, is that too ambiguous? The song later goes on to state: Nothin' like your last guy, he too square for you He don't smack that ass and pull your hair for you So I'm just watching and waitin' For you to salute the true big pimpin' Not many women can refuse this pimping I'm a nice guy, but don't get confused, you gettin it Now, just because I turned 30 this year does not mean I’m a square. I’m still “hip”, I’m still “with it”, as the kids say. I enjoy your Daft Punks, your Mumfords and Son, your Mackles More. I think youth anthem pop music has a very important place in the culture and I am in awe of the way all of humanity is deeply touched by music. Music is perhaps one of the few things that binds all humans together regardless of class or color and you’ll find no bigger supporter than I of the artform, pop, indie, or otherwise. However, music’s ability to speak to our core is why this song is so insidious. Because it’s catchy. Because it’s fun. That’s exactly the problem with it! In an industry that relies on marketability and mainstream appeal, a bona fide rape anthem was written, composed, produced, marketed, and now sits proudly atop the Billboard music charts. And make no mistake, the problem is not even that this song was produced, but that it could be produced. The machinery was already in place for it. No one noticed. No one said no. The lyrics that may jump out as problematic are probably “Not many women, can refuse this pimpin’ / I’m a nice guy, but don’t get confused, you gettin’ it.” That’s all fun and games at the club, but I’d like you to imagine a scared college girl hearing a frat guy twice her size hissing that into her ear in a dark dorm room while he pins her down to a bed. You gettin’ it. Perhaps you have a sister or a niece. Is that something you want some sweaty bro at a bar telling her? You gettin’ it. Of course not; it’s disgusting and threatening. But that’s not the problem with the song, or at least, not the main one. The evil of the song lies in these three lines: Talk about getting blasted I hate these blurred lines I know you want it This is the true sickness waiting to metastasize in the culture. Is there any dispute that the “blurred lines” the song is talking about (and titled after!) refer to the lines between consent and non-consent in having sex with an intoxicated person? What the hell else would that be referring to? The speaker is lamenting the fact that after he has gotten a woman nice and inebriated, he has to worry about whether she actually consents to his sexual advances.That’s always been the game, right? The gal gets free drinks, this “loosens her up”, she gives up the sex, everyone’s a winner. And now, all of the sudden these goddamn feminists have the unmitigated temerity to suggest that a woman drunk out of her skull might not be able to consent to the sophomoric pawings happening in the back of a lifted Dodge Ram. Why, it’s un-American! Here’s the reality: under the law, and under human decency, an intoxicated person cannot consent to sex. This is not my opinion, thisisthelawineverystateandinmostfirst-worldnations. In advocating getting a woman drunk and high and then bedding her, the song is advocating real-life rape. Period. What’s so galling about the song is that the writer is aware of the accusations of rape in the first place. This is not a party song happily ignorant of modern cultural issues. This song is all too aware of the criticisms of rape culture and is finding a catchy way to blow them off. “I hate these blurred lines.” Well no shit! I’m sure it’s entirely inconvenient that your arousal is not the sole arbiter as to whether a sex act is lawful and ethical. We all shed a collective tear. In decades past, it was a (weak) defense of problematic music to say “Hey we’re just having fun, writing silly club songs. We’re just trying to have a good time, we weren’t trying to make a social statement.” Well, that argument falls apart with this little ballad. The author is deeply aware of the social outcry against taking advantage of drunk people and is actively seeking to subvert it. Please understand this: the song isn’t accidentally pro-rape; the song is intentionally pro-rape, and actively trying to convince you the listener that the rape is no big deal. The secondary horror of the song is the legion of women defending it on social media. When I went to Youtube to watch the video and read the lyrics, the top comments were always from women saying “I’m a woman and I think this is a great song!”. In fact, one woman said “It’s just a harmless song!”. In the sense that the physical soundwaves do not immediately incinerate the listener, sure, the song is harmless. But in the sense that the song normalizes and in fact celebrates a moral evil like rape, no, it is not harmless. The fact that I mostly see women championing the song is Exhibit A. I don't think that equates to "taking the power back" or anything like that, I think it just lets men who've internalized the song's dangerous values off the hook. "Hey my chick likes it, that means it's okay." I’m no standard-bearer of Feminism broadly. I’m sure I vote differently than most feminists and I know I consume a lot of my culture differently than most feminists. As I said in the beginning, I am neither an academic nor a political pundit. Plenty of both of those have spoken out against the song with far more authority than I have. That's why I think it's worth writing about, because the song stood out to even someone like me as unquestionably pernicious. While I don't think I'm an ideologue, what I do think I am is merely a decent human being interested in maintaining safe places for people important to me. As it happens, my sister is a woman and my mother is a woman as well. My fiancé is also a woman. That makes three people in my life that I love deeply that just so happen to be women. As such, I feel a certain duty to speak out when I see media that directly threatens them. Please, do not misunderstand me. This essay is not about the sexual attire of women in video games. It is not about the Bechdel Test in cinema. It is about the most popular song in the world today, which just happens to be a fun, catchy, and all-too-direct threat of violation to those three women. And it’s asking you to approve.
I completely agree with your comments about this song basically being pro-rape. Women do care about the rape culture in the U.S. and honestly most men feel were are making it up. It is refreshing to here someone just honestly assess the situation, a rape-song is normal in pop-music and it is NOT ok.