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?