I thought the Blurred Lines song was about rape. I still want it banned though (part 1)

The song is at least a trigger.

The song is at least a trigger.

I listened to it first a while ago, saw the naked girls and the clothed guys, and heard some pretty awful, rapey stuff:

I know you want it

I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two

but you’re a good girl

That’s the stuff you hear the first time, and it sounds horrible. This is what Robin Thicke (one of the singers) has to say about this:

the video, I totally understand that any time you bring topless girls into the mix you’re going to catch a little flak but the song itself … [does not] engage that type of controversy

Thanks to Pharrel (I’m guessing) the song isn’t too intense but a good song nonetheless, so you feel let down by the lyrics and don’t want to listen anymore. Hell, those lyrics just above are pretty damning though right? I wanted it banned for being about rape, I still do, but I’ll save that for part two of this post.

Well, some people have come to the conclusion that it’s about the singer who wants to steal a woman away from her relationship for some casual sex, let’s ‘analyse’ the rest of the song for context.

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
Hey, hey, hey
You don’t need no papers
Hey, hey, hey
That man is not your maker

So apparently someone wants to ‘domesticate’ this girl, the person singing wants to ‘liberate’ her though. It also highlights a problem where relationships are seen as a male space (relevant article on this “Stop saying ‘I have a boyfriend’ to deflect unwanted attention”). To me ‘that man is not your maker’ is just saying that the girl can make decisions about her sex life by herself.  Still sleazy, but let’s not jump to conclusions either way right now but go on to the next verse.

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

‘Good girl’ is patronising, sure, but I don’t see any mention of rape yet. You can sure guess it’s sexualised, but there are loads of songs with those lyrics which aren’t about rape or disrespecting women.

Talk about getting blasted
I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it

It seems right now it’s pretty key to understand what they mean by ‘blurred lines’, and it’s obvious that they’re “boundaries” which are “blurred”. So why does the singer hate boundaries? Because he respects them, he ‘knows’ the girl wants it, but he can’t do anything.

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

He thinks the girl wants it by the way she’s grabbing at him and he’s hating those boundaries because he’s respecting and acknowledging them, and we also know why she’s a ‘good girl’; she wants to respect those boundaries too because she’s a ‘good girl’ for her partner. Let’s also be clear about why him thinking she wants it because of her body language isn’t rape – it’s because he’s interpreting body language and not actually doing anything about it.

Dancing, provocative outfits, flirty actions, they don’t mean consent, but they didn’t actually have sex in the song.

Did the singer make a move, did the singer fuck her? No. The singer said ‘Go ahead, get at me’ – inviting her to make a move first.

It isn’t about rape, it’s about inviting her to take the initiative. The bit about tearing her ass in two was preceded by ‘So hit me up when you passing through’. There’s more, though:

Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you
He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair like that

So I just watch and wait for you to salute

I don’t know about anyone else, but consensual sex gets rough, and that’s ok. Reading this last line, it seems clear that the singer is waiting for consent – ‘watch and wait for you to salute’ before getting dirty. Not just giving her the first move now, but literally just backing away until she does. This is all in stark contrast to what somebody who I assume hadn’t read through the lyrics (presumably because at first glance not many people want to read any further) decided to write:

The rigid definition of masculinity makes the man unable to accept the idea that sometimes his advances are not welcome. Thus, instead of treating a woman like a human being and respecting her subjectivity, she’s relegated to the role of living sex doll whose existence is naught but for the pleasure of a man.

In some ways, the singer wasn’t able to accept (‘But you didn’t pick, Not many women can refuse this pimpin’), but not in a way that made him justify rape. It’s in fact quite obvious that he didn’t want to do anything without her consent, which is more than I can say for most men dancing in a club. The writer jumps to the conclusion that he doesn’t treat her like  a woman, but a sex doll instead, which is completely wrong. The singer in fact says:

man is not your maker (she’s independent)

You’re far from plastic (not a sex doll)

Lumping the backlash (a bit unfairly) into one ball, one female blogger noted that the reactions to the song:

  1. Implies that women never say yes to sexual advances
  2. Implies that a naked woman is automatically degraded (as in, a woman can’t choose to be naked/scantily clad as a form of sexual liberation, as in, slut-shaming)
  3. Implies that no woman would consensually agree to be spanked/ have her hair pulled
  4. Mimics an act of violent rape on a male as a joke

Why this song?

I guess it’s also because as a society we’ve become more aware of these issues, which is a good thing. When I heard the lyrics and assumed foul, I’m glad that it said more about the mindset I was in, giving it the context of a misogynistic society. Here’s what somebody else had to say about this:

However, what I find particularly interesting is not even whether the song is rape-y or not – it is more towards how much vitriol there is towards a song that is not the worst of its kind. I am not advocating for a ‘there are worse songs out there’ complacency, but rather what we can read between those (blurred) lines. When I have asked the same friends who are vehemently disgusted with this song how they can be so critical of ‘Blurred Lines’ but not, say, Kanye West (whom they love but who also has some questionable lyrics), the only reasoning they are able to give is that “well, this is the first song that has reached #1 that is so rape-y” which I am not really sure I believe

I guess my question would be: why is there so much disgust for this particular song when other songs have received far less heat? I had another friend mention that considering the timing with incidences of rape in the news (Steubenville, for example), people are just more aware. Which is a GREAT thing. I was also thinking there might be a racial element: are we more forgiving of hip hop and some of its rape-y lyrics because we associate elements of rape with black culture? Or is white culture afraid to be critical of hip hop because “it isn’t their place”? I am aware of the backlash that Nelly and Rick Ross have received over ‘rape-y’ songs in the media and I have seen this documentary about a dozen times so I know these conversations are being had – except I haven’t seen these conversations happen so ubiquitously as they have with ‘Blurred Lines’.

In the end, knowing that this song probably isn’t about rape shouldn’t detract from the message that banning it gives, and honestly I hope that this kind of momentum doesn’t go the way of Kony 2012. There are plenty of songs that justify rape, or at least bad sexual practice, and there are TV shows and movies and newspaper journalists and teachers and politicians that do the same. It’s also worth keeping in mind that people listening in bars, clubs, or on the radio, will not analyse the lyrics but will use the bits we heard at the beginning to justify completely unacceptable behaviour, which is something that I’ll be talking about more in part two of this post.

Blog post inspired by reading Reddit threads on the women-only space /r/twoxchromosomes and Robin Thicke’s (the singer) interview on US morning television – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXcvFTa1kEw