If you’ve turned on the radio at all in the last few months, you would recognize the catchy little pop ditty that is “Blurred Lines,” the latest hit from Robin Thicke. What you may not be aware of is the controversy surrounding the song. In it, Thicke pushes the boundaries of what it means to sell sex, and many critics are accusing him of perpetuating the objectification, degradation, and, most disturbingly, acceptance of sexual violence against women.
Gratuitous nudity and sexually explicit lyrics are nothing unusual in the music and entertainment industries. But what sets “Blurred Lines” apart is its acceptance of rape culture.
According to the Marshall University Women’s Center, rape culture is an environment in which rape and sexual violence are prevalent and in which sexual violence, particularly against women, is normalized, excused, condoned, and even encouraged in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.
The argument against “Blurred Lines” lies in lyrics such as, “but you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your
nature / just let me liberate you.” All humans are sexual beings by nature, but these lyrics equate the subject’s sexuality with that of an animal’s. This act of dehumanization is the first step towards rationalizing any form of violence against another human being. And as far as “liberation” goes, this idea comes with the assumption that all women are “liberated” by all forms of sex, and that it is the singer’s duty to free his subject from her own inhibitions and the “limits” of her sexuality.
Another line that adds to the argument against “Blurred Lines” is “I know you want it.” Project Unbreakable, an online photo-journalism exhibit, features photographs of sexual assault survivors holding signs with the words said by their rapists.
This information may be shocking to readers, but it is much less so for listeners–who consume unfiltered information in its full “artistic” form. This is exactly what can be so dangerous about such music. What may be blown off as just another song about sex is actually permeating the minds of listeners with its subtle normalization of sexual violence. It is essentially allowing something as horrific as rape to masquerade as something edgy, artistic, even beautiful.
While there has been a great deal of backlash surrounding “Blurred Lines,” some critics take an entirely different view. Take Caitlyn Brennan. In her recent article, Brennan makes an argument in defense of the song, claiming that by interpreting the song as only being about non-consensual sex, one is perpetuating an extremely limited view of sexuality and feminism. Brennan poses the question, “Are women to be sexually empowered and self-governing entities, but only when it comes to fending off sexual assault?” Later she says, “Furthermore, when discussing issues of pop culture, focusing rhetoric almost exclusively on assault and its victims (while disregarding the valid opinions of other sexually self-aware women) perpetuates the idea that females, first and foremost, are the passive objects of men.”
Brennan makes an important point. By having the perspective that all hyper-sexualized media is endorsing rape culture, one may also be accepting the idea that a woman’s sexuality is defined by her subordinate position in society.
I see validity in much of Brennan’s argument, but I cannot agree with her claim that “Blurred Lines” does not endorse sexual violence against women. I think Robin Thicke cleared that up for everyone when he said, “What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman, I’ve never gotten to do that before.”
The existence of rape culture in undeniable.
It has so infiltrated our society that a Georgia Tech frat boy recently thought it would be acceptable to send out an email titled “Luring Your Rapebait.” In other disturbing news, a recent Stanford study says that the use of sexy avatars in video games is likely to cause young women to objectify themselves in real life. Not only that, but they are also more likely to accept rape myth–the idea that a woman can be blamed for her own sexual assault.
Looking from my own Christian perspective, I am reminded that true liberation comes not from our own views of ourselves, and certainly not from the views imposed upon us by society. God is the creator of not only our sexuality, but our identity.
By rooting our identities in truth, we can be empowered by God’s perfect grace and perfect love for all humanity.