Does This Mean I Can Like It Guilt-Free? 10 Songs Whose Sexual Politics Are More Troubling Than 'Blurred Lines.'

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Does This Mean I Can Like It Guilt-Free? 10 Songs Whose Sexual Politics Are More Troubling Than 'Blurred Lines.'

By Joanna Robinson | Videos | September 17, 2013 | Comments ()


Debate raged all summer over Robin Thicke’s infectious yet troubling song “Blurred Lines.” Is it a “date rape anthem?” A harmless bit of lyrical fluff? If you love dancing to it, does that make you sexist? But Jimmy Fallon and The Roots like it! Jimmy Fallon and The Roots are cool, progressive dudes! Then, of course, Miley Cyrus rubbed herself all over Thicke and I think we all recoiled a little in horror. Just a little.

So now that the hubbub of summer is over, where do the chips fall? Will Thicke’s song be remembered in a fun, gimmicky way? “The Macarena”/”Mambo #5”/”Thong Song” of 2013? Do the lyrics (I know you want it/I know you want it/But you’re a good girl/The way you grab me/Must wanna get nasty) give you the heebie jeebies? CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT IN THIS DAY AND AGE IT WAS BANNED FROM EDINBURGH UNI? By students. But still, I’m surprised.

The folks at Flavorwire, in their infinite wisdom, put together a list of songs that are worse (sexual politics-wise) than “Blurred Lines.” Hmm, does that make this better? I don’t know; check them out and let me know what you think. They did include the original date rape anthem, which I’m sure most of you end up crooning at least once every Christmas. Say, what the f*ck IS in her drink? Food for thought.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Some of the songs on that list, I chalk up as more douchey that disturbing. However, "Love the Way You Lie" bugs me, and I say that as someone who enjoys the music of Eminem and Rihanna. Maybe it just hits too close to home to hear Chris Brown's former anger-sponge romanticize a violent relationship, but I think it would bother me if anyone sang it. So many people - especially young women and girls, I think - tolerate abuse because they buy into the myth that rage is a natural extension of romantic passion... that their abuser loses control and hurts them because he/she loves them SOOOO much.
    I'm not one for banning, but I wish we did a better job - culturally - of teaching would-be victims that someone hits you because they don't love/respect you ENOUGH (to control themselves): nothing romantic about it, no way(for you) to fix it, not your fault OR your problem - GET OUT.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    I would say that 'Thank Heaven For Little Girls' is a creepy song, but the hard truth of it is that Gigi is a generally creepy story.

    And Guys And Dolls is dull as fuck (this is coming from an opera fan)

    And I've never heard 'Blurred Lines'

    And yes, I was born after 1685, by a metric mile.

  • Salieri2

    Ima jump right in here and say "No, it does not." It's not a race to the bottom; finding worse crap doesn't imply endorsement of this crap. Now I will read the article itself. Carry on.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I hate that the Beastie Boys did Girls. They were so damn good and Paul's Boutique was masterful. Anyways, I hate that they did that song. :/

  • e jerry powell

    They did have to go back and apologize, so it's (slightly) less creepy.

  • Green_Eggs_and_Hamster

    Florence + The Machine "A Kiss With A Fist". I actually really like the song, and love the band, but the lyrics are just so opposite of anything acceptable. Still, great song, if you kinda ignore the words? Can I do that?

  • e jerry powell

    Most of the pop music canon can be problematic if/when one listens to the lyrics, so, yeah, ignore the words. Go with the good beat and dance to it.


  • Catagisreading

    The images are from Elf and that scene cracks me up every time I watch Elf, because I am Irish. This would never in Ireland two lines in to a song and assuming it's reasonably well known and everyone, regardless of singing ability, is singing along. We like a song.

  • Catagisreading

    never happen, HAPPEN, sorry.

  • Camryn

    Its crazy to me that "Blurred Lines" gets interpreted as date rape anthem. Isn't he saying "you do want to be with me but you're a good girl so, even though you want it, you won't do anything".
    That's how I always took it.
    Maybe I'm too naïve. I'll go play with my unicorns and rainbows quietly in the corner now.

  • Lily

    Technically, yes, the song is about blurred lines in a relationship and not knowing if a girl really wants to be with her boyfriend. But any song that includes lines like "I know you want it" and "you must wanna get nasty" straight from the Rapist's Handbook is troublesome.

  • KC

    I thought the blurred lines was the blurred lines of the status of the girl's current boyfriend and that she should ditch him and get together with Robin Thicke. Maybe I'm too naive too. I'll join you.

  • MarTeaNi

    Do the song lyrics count as problematic if the artist intended it to be creepy? "Every Breath You Take" is supposed to be disturbing. I find people's interpretations of it as a love song troubling, but not so much the song itself. I don't feel guilty listening to a song about stalking when it's not painting stalking as romantic.

    I don't find "Creep" terribly problematic either. Neither of the characters in the song are good people, but it's a pretty balanced "I won't leave if you won't" sneaking around song. It doesn't paint either participant as being right, which for me is a bigger deal than the subject matter itself.

  • Agree. I find nothing misogynistic about "Every Breath You Take" - the "protagonist" of the song is definitely not being glorified or romanticized or treated as a stud. I do find it quite funny that people play it at weddings.

  • elirt

    How about the ballad that's really about a dirty old man wanting to seduce and sleep with a 16 year old? Lyrics... they are important!

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Yes, that is definitely a strong contender.

  • e jerry powell

    Oh, GOD, that one. Creeped me the fuck out from early adolescence.

    That song is evil from the first piano chords. SLIMY. SLIIIIIIIIMEEEEEEY. Skinny-gold-chain SLIMY. Even the string players have slime all over them. SLIME ON FREAKING ICE SKATES. Too much slime for even Liberace at the glory holes.

    Now I need one of Walter White's special baths.

  • alwaysanswerb

    As much as I've argued for the right for people to think it's rapey, it never bothered me, personally that much. The lyrics, I mean; the song itself I find actually really repetitive and tune-less in a really grating way. It's like there is something wrong with my ears because I'm absolutely flabbergasted when it's described as catchy and earworm-y.

  • Temmere

    I'm so with you. Everyone keeps saying they don't like the lyrics but the song is still fun to listen to, and it leaves me flabbergasted. I've tried listening to it multiple times and I've never gotten more than halfway through it because it SUCKS.

  • elirt

    It's described as catchy because it is! But only of course because it's a rip off of Marvin Gaye.

  • e jerry powell

    And BY GOD, UMG is going to KEEP everybody ELSE from RIPPING IT OFF TOO.

  • Jifaner

    My 8 year old loathes "Girls". I love the Beastie Boys and would turn it up when it came on the radio until she informed me that it was "really mean to girls" and I realized that she is totally right. We skip that one now.

  • e jerry powell

    At this point, Licensed to Ill is the only Beastie Boys album I don't own. And I never will.

  • anikitty

    I can't even understand the words to the song. It just plays at the gym a lot. (get off my lawn)

  • Mungo Jerry - In the Summertime

    This always bothered me a whollllle lot:

    You got women, you got women on your mind
    Have a drink, have a drive
    Go out and see what you can find

    If her daddy's rich, take her out for a meal
    If her daddy's poor, just do what you feel

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Did this get posted on PLove or anything? It's pretty amazing.
    (no men were harmed in the making of this video)

  • e jerry powell


  • Sara_Tonin00

    Boy howdy did she.

  • BWeaves

    Paul Anka's "Having My Baby" still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

  • RhymesWithSilver

    Meh. Robin Thicke and his people played the media like a well-tuned violin with "Blurred Lines". Because it's damn hard to be considered edgy in today's market, but even a faint whiff of rape will apparently spark all the manufactured controversy you need to sell records!

  • John G.
    44% of victims are under age 18
    80% are under age 30
    Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted
    There is an average of 207,754 victims (age 12 or older) of sexual assault each year
    54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police
    97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail
    Approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim
    38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance

    Rape is a manufactured controversy??

  • And to go with that, here's chilling for you - recent research that made the news here in Oz - as many as 1 in 4 men in parts of Asia admit to rape when questioned - It's a UN study done across a number of countries. I imagine Australia, the US and Europe have equally depressing statistics (and therefore even more depressing, unheard from victims).

    As the father if a girl about to go to the Australian equivalent of junior prom (or as we say, Year 10 Formal), I despair and worry for mine; she's a good kid, but I've been a 16-year-old boy, I know how they think.

  • Mrs. Julien

    In RhymesWithSilver's defense, I think he/she meant that the song controversy is manufactured not rape controversy.

    Those statistics are chilling.

  • Mrs. Julien

    "More Than Words" by Extreme. The sleaziest,"Baby, if you really love me you'll let me put it in you" come on masquerading as a ballad of all time.

  • I remember that song, and always took it as "actions speak louder than words" - bravo, cheers, what he said. Were they specifically talking about naked actions? Dammit. This is what happens when geometry homework distracts you from paying attention to lyrics.

  • Yes, musically beautiful, creepy as fuck.

  • Jifaner

    That song is total sleaze. Funny how people act like it's this sweeping ballad.

  • kimk

    Yes! I remember when this song came out, thinking: "wait, this is basically saying 'don't bother telling me you love me, just fuck me'. Why are people playing it at their weddings?".

  • Sara_Tonin00

    YES YES YES A kindred spirit FINALLY.

  • e jerry powell

    I wonder how the song would go if she turned it back around and came out swinging with a Feeldoe...

    ...oh, a boy can dream...

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    I grew up watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, considering that film has a jaunty rape tune that's supposed to be cute built into the score (Sobbin Women), nothing surprises me.
    Also, Key and Peele did Baby It's Cold Outside right:

  • Tinkerville

    Came here to post the same thing. The have one of, if not the, funniest show on television right now.

  • NateMan

    I love that bit, and pretty much everything ever done by Key & Peele.

  • NateMan

    There are a lot of songs out there that make you sing along without really listening to the words coming out of your mouth.

    I would, I think, take "Love the Way You Lie" off there - not because its message isn't disturbing, because it surely is - but because, to me, it's less a song about sexual politics than it is the power dynamics in a very messed up relationship. That is, of course, a very subjective viewpoint. But it doesn't fit the list to me.

    I'd replace it with Sarah Mclachlan's "Possession". Creepy song, particularly when considering that she created the lyrics from the letters sent to her by a stalker.

  • Artemis

    So strongly agree about Love the Way You Lie. It's a song about an abusive relationship, and it describes the thought process of the people in it, but it's not advocating for or glamorizing that dynamic. I don't think the abusive cycle it describes is part of the song's "sexual politics" in the same way as, for example, the rapeyness of Baby It's Cold Outside or the "stalking is super romantic" of Every Breath You Take.

  • Mrs. Julien

    And then, as I recall, he SUED HER!

  • NateMan

    He did indeed. But then he killed himself, so all's well that ends well.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I laughed. I feel guilty. But I laughed.

  • e jerry powell


  • Ted Zancha

    I don't know if this has been on this site yet, but someone sent this to me.

    It's a nice twist on Blurred Lines

  • e jerry powell

    This one's better BECAUSE.

  • Gwyn773

    I like this one better:
    It's a fun gender-swapping twist that stays in the spirit of the original, has excellent singing, and isn't quite as bitter. Not that there's anything wrong with righteous anger, this one is just so much fun.

  • PDamian

    LOVE the singing on this one. I'd buy the single if I could find it.

  • JK

    They put it up to download for free:

    Even setting sexual politics aside, it's just so much more fun to listen to.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    ah, that's what I get for having my comments set to "newest" for a change. Ya beat me to it.

  • Ted Zancha

    Well it deserves to be up here twice. I found it quite comical.

  • NateMan

    Ha, hadn't seen that yet!

  • L.O.V.E.

    Baby It's Cold Outside = The Dennis Reynolds D.E.N.N.I.S. system

    Because of the implication.

  • I had to rewrite a cover letter this week after catching myself using the phrase "demonstrate value."
    That said, the Ann-Margret/Al Hirt version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is possibly the sexiest Christmas song ever - and also the most questionable, between the date-rapey lyrics and A-M's breathy-little-girl delivery. (sigh) Dammit. I'll just mail $5 to the Ms. Foundation every time I listen. Lucky Christmas comes but once a year.

  • Becks

    So these girls are in danger?

  • zeke_the_pig

    While I recede into a GTA 5 stupor, you can have all the upvotes

  • Some Guy

    Eat the Pig. Eat the Pig. Ziggy Ziggy Ziggy Zig.

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