Aug 122013

A little over a week ago I heard Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” for the first time, and I immediately loved it. The music was catchy and light, the vocals were fun, and the song was vaguely sexual. A good summer song. A friend who was with me at the time was surprised I hadn’t heard it before, and promised to email me with the artist & song name so I could listen to it again. The next day he sent me a link to the Unrated Video, and I immediately loved it even more. Several very hot ladies romping around nearly naked? What was not to like? :) And it fits the mood of the song very well.

Warning – extremely NSFW.

Since then I learned the video is sexist. This kinda surprised me. Me & my fiancée periodically attend a clothing-optional club and so I’m quite used to seeing naked people running around and having a good time. It’s never been sexist then, what’s different now?

It can’t be because the ladies are there on display – that’s always been half the point. Speaking both from personal experience and from talking to others (lest one think I’m presenting only the male opinion here) – people who go to those sorts of clubs are going with the intention of displaying themselves. It’s a lot of work to keep up (often a lot of money as well), people are proud of how they look, and they are showing off so people will look at them. I don’t feel comfortable accepting that people who are comfortable naked and enjoy displaying themselves are being sexist against themselves. That feels only a couple steps removed from demanding people wear burkas and saying it’s a pro-feminist thing to do so.

Yes, it’s objectification, but it’s a song about sex. A lot of sex is objectification. We are all sex objects for each other from time to time. It can be sexy as hell to be treated as a toy by someone else, or for them to let you treat them like one. It’s great fun when it’s consensual and well done – power imbalances are hot. It certainly isn’t sexist for us to be having sex the way we both want to be having it. Obviously this is confined to the bedroom/play-area… but the whole point of civil rights is that everyone is respected as a person, and that includes respecting our decision to bring objectification into our sex play when we want it. If the video had been taking place in an office, or out on the street, or really just about anywhere in day-to-day life it would be incredibly offensive. But it looks very much like it’s taking place in a safe sex-play area (soft pink walls, gentle lighting, semi-private). It’s a place where people go for this sort of fun, in a song about sex. I contrast this to Benny Benassi’s “Satisfaction” video  (also NSFW), which does strike me as sexist. There’s never nudity in that video, but the women are using all sorts of construction tools – something you’d see at work, or walking around town. That is NOT when someone is putting themselves out for objectification! Wrong message!!

As far as I can tell, Robin Thicke is just sharing the more private parts of sex-positive culture, and people are pattern-matching to sexist warning signs without actually taking the time to think if it’s actually sexist. But I’m very cautious that I might just have a blind spot for this video, so I’m leaving myself very open on this topic. I do already have one reservation about the video, and one about the song. And so much opinion is against me that I realize it’s most likely me that is wrong. But really… what am I missing? Does what I said above not apply in this case?

  5 Responses to “Blurred Lines – sexist?”

  1. Your stance on this had me almost falling out of my chair EB. That and the fact anyone could listen to this song on purpose. I do not see how weight of opinion comes into it though. Just let me you liberate you. I know you want it. I feel this video re-enforces negative stereotypes and is not gender neutral or equal. Real musicians who want to show nudity use their own. My checklist is pretty simple though. Are pre-existing negative stereo types re-enforced ? If you cannot with complete confidence give that a no, I do not know how you could even imagine the video getting a pass.(of course there is more on the checklist but this video fails on checkbox 1)
    I am personally disgusted by it.

    • Yeah, I’m worried that I’m wrong about the song, because almost everyone has the same reaction you do.

      I consider the lyrics (mostly) playful. What is the negative stereotype that’s re-enforced though? Because I’m having a hard time coming up with one.

      I just spent a bit of time thinking about this, and came back to pattern-matching again. It turned out to be a very long chain of thought, so I just made a new post about it. As per that post – seeing as we’re probably coming from very different backgrounds on this subject, I don’t expect anyone will change their opinion. But methinks if society came from a more sexually-healthy starting point then my view wouldn’t be considered so appalling.

      • The stereotype is re-enforces is that females are primarily valued for their capacity to sexually arouse males. If our society was more sexually healthy then I think this could perhaps be considered just some silly playful fun. Possibly. Commenting on that is difficult and I do not feel qualified. Also you did mention that people cannot be sexist against themselves. I think it is incredibly possible for someone to do something which reflects badly on any groups they are a part of, and this is something we all deal with. So it is very very possible to be misogynistic and female too. btw the like to not like ratio on the video when I looked was roughly 6:1. You must hang out with good people if they all have a negative reaction to this.

      • The pattern matching part that you may be missing: “blurred lines of consent” and “You know you want it” are pretty common defenses to rape. Not mis-understandings, but the public statements of people who later say they were fully aware that the other person did not consent. And reinforcement of “good girls don’t say yes” (naked woman sexually displaying herself with a tiny stop sign), so women should imply yes, so men should assume yes, because to actually communicate about it would be insulting. (within a m/f dynamic) Which also means that it’s not okay to explicitly ask about what your partner finds enjoyable. Guessing and assuming consent? Not sexy.

        This is coming from someone who spends a fair amount of time in sex-positive spaces. I have to say, I did *not* think the setting of the video looked like a swinger club, and for a fairly nitpicky, but obvious reason. There’s no furniture.

      • Leanan – you make very good points. I think I was adding my own assumptions and coloring to this song, which are not actually anywhere within it.

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