Monday, August 19, 2013

Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines: Rapey or not? It's all about context

Written by: Fenna Vlekke

The last couple of weeks I've read a lot of discussions about Robin Thicke's song Blurred Lines. These seem to be centered around the question if the song promotes the rape culture that's all around us. Different articles and blogs also started to call the song rapey. Not only because of the lyrics, but also because of the (unrated) music video. Although I understand where people are coming from, I think it goes too far to make such a statement. I think people create a context surrounding this song that's just not there.


Rape is such a loaded and difficult subject. While being raped is something truly awful, the weapon used, sex, can also be very enjoyable. Sex can give people the greatest and the most awful experiences in their life depending on the circumstances. It's literally speaking the same act and the context will determine if it's consensual or not, if it's rape or not.

And herein lies the problem. It's all about context. When it's about two adults, simply saying you had intercourse with someone isn't enough information to know if it was consensual or not. Other questions are needed, for example: did you want it to happen? Did you say yes or no? Did you freeze or did you participate freely? All these, and more, questions determine what kind of experience it was.

Now, the same thing can be said about things that are being said during or right before consensual sex or rape. Again it's all about context. Of course I know a lot of survivors had to listen to their rapists saying things like 'be a good girl' or 'I know you want it' and that's very scary and creepy. And it's more than understandable that it triggers us when we listen to lyrics with these words, in a sexual context. But this doesn't automatically make it a song that promotes rape culture. I can totally picture someone saying these things in a consensual sexual encounter (let's call it 'dirty talk').

So, the next question is; what is the context of this song? In what context do they sing these lines? I read the lyrics a couple of times and came to the conclusion that it's too vague to make any statements about that. I can picture a date rapist singing this song while targeting a girl. I can also picture someone talking dirty to a girl in a club, right before they BOTH decide to go somewhere private and have sex. So the thing is, the context that is much needed to determine if something is consensual or rape, isn't there. It's left to the imagination of the listener.

People have also been talking about the music video. In short, you see topless women parading around the fully clothed artists. It has been said that the women are being objectified because of this. And that's true. I agree with that. The whole situation is about objectifying a woman. But when it's about a one night stand, do you think a woman wants to know all the great personality traits of a man? No. She's using him for one thing, just like he's using her for one thing. They're objectifying each other. Would it be nice to be able to hear and see more from a woman's perspective in this respect? Hell yeah! Because right now it seems like we live in a culture where men are the only ones doing the objectifying. This is simply not true. Also there's nothing inherently wrong with objectifying people, and it's certainly not rapey.

I personally don't like the lyrics of this song. It creeps me out and because of my experiences I tend to place this song in a sexual abuse context. But at the same time I realise it's not literally there. It's just a song about sex, without a cut and dry context. I guess, in the end, it's what you (want to) make of it.

Written by: Fenna Vlekke


No comments:

Post a Comment