(Editor's Note: trigger warning for this series - rape and violence)
If you listen to the Game On Girl podcast episode on which Sandra was a guest, you heard Regina, Rhonda, and Sandra discussing the implications of Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines.” (If you are unfamiliar with the song, consider yourself lucky and please keep it that way.) The song’s lyrics repeatedly talk about a woman being a “good girl,” saying that he’ll “try to domesticate [her]” but she’s “an animal” and that “it’s in [her] nature,” that she should “do it like it hurt,” and Thicke saying “I know you want it.” There’s also a line about violent sodomy sung by another vocalist featured in the song.
All of those things are said to rape victims by the people who rape them. Click here for a small comparison of the lyrics against photos from Project Unbreakable, a project where rape and assault survivors submit quotes from their assailants, families, friends, and public figures about the fact that the assault was “their” fault; some people will even tell the victims that they (the victims) “loved it.” There are some pretty eerie similarities. It is incredibly troubling that in spite of the controversy surrounding this song, it is still being played on radio stations around the world. Its continued popularity shows that the entertainment industry is more important and powerful than the victims who have heard their rapists say “I know you want it” over and over again in their memories. (On the plus side, several clubs and bars have banned the song from being played, so that’s progress.)
While "Blurred Lines" is one of the most high-profile cases of rape culture demonstrated in music, it is far from being the only song that contributes to the prevalence of non-consensual sex. In all honesty, I don't listen to much music and the artists I listen to don't touch on this kind of subject matter at all, but it's pretty easy to look up songs that depict rape, assault, date rape, etc. All I needed to do was do a Google search for "song lyrics rape" and pages upon pages of results come up. It makes for a disconcerting display of how prevalent the glorification of rape and assault is in our music.
For example, I found a video where a British YouTuber was decoding the lyrics to "Charmaine" by Plan B, and he had never heard the song before. The song mentions a man wanting to 'dose' a girl named Charmaine, and details these characters having sex together. At the very end, the lyrics reveal that Charmaine was fourteen years old. At that point, the song ends, so there is no resolution. The YouTuber understandably gets upset, saying, "That can't just be the end of the song! You've just made me visualize sex with a fourteen-year-old girl! [...] And I just made all of you visualize it as well, and I didn't mean to! Have we all just broken the law? Why would you write a song about that? Why?" At the time the video was posted (spring of 2010), "Charmaine" was in the British music charts.
Rape culture in celebrity interaction, books, films and language will be covered in following posts in this series.