"Blurred Lines" and Rape Culture
Tags: bodies, gender, media, sex/sexuality, violence, music video, rape culture, sexual violence, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: [Trigger Warning for sexual assault] As defined in Transforming a Rape Culture, "A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women." Robin Thicke's huge summer hit, Blurred Lines (it reached #1 in 14 countries), has been widely discussed as an example of rape culture. In fact, it has been so controversial that at least 5 universities in the UK have banned the song. They argued the song objectifies women, and "is a man suggesting that there are ‘blurred lines’ when it comes to sexual consent" ; the ban is meant to “end rape culture ... on campus.” While Thicke states he wrote the song about his wife (who nonetheless can be raped by their husbands), and that the lyrics have been misconstrued, the lyrics are strikingly similar to the words rapists have often told their victims. This argument was made in an excellent blog post by Sezin Koehler at SocImages, where Koehler linked the song lyrics to testimonies from Project Unbreakable, an online photo exhibit of "sexual assault survivors where they are photographed holding a poster with a quote from their attacker." For example, the main lyrics (repeated 18 times) of "I know you want it" is a line given to many victims, and implies that women really want sex when they say they do not. As he sings "Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you. He don’t smack your ass and pull your hair like that," Thicke's misogynistic fantasy conveys that "a woman doesn’t want a 'square' who’ll treat her like a human being and with respect" (Koehler). Even if viewers give Thicke the benefit of the doubt concerning the intention of his lyrics, one still has to consider the effects of the video's message on its audience. As this video excerpt from Dreamworlds 3 illustrates, music videos (like other forms of popular culture) socialize us into prescribed gender roles regarding sexuality. And in a video where the women are all scantily clad (or nude in the unedited version of the video), and never speak, they reproduce a view of women as passive objects meant to fulfill men's fantasies. Meanwhile, men are trained to think of themselves as dominating figures meant to aggressively pursue what they desire, and to disregard women's stated sexual preferences. Viewers may also be interested in the many parodies of the video, including the Law Revue Girls' "Defined Lines" where they respond “Yeah we don’t want it/ It’s chauvinistic/ You’re such a bigot ... You can't just grab me/ That's a sex crime.”
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