I don’t know what lines Robin Thicke thought that he was blurring. The tragedy of the song is that his lines are so damn clear-cut. What’s more, this thing is so damn sexist that my jaw dropped to the floor a little when I first saw it. Then it dropped through the floor when I realised that this thing had been at no.1 in the pop charts for a decent length long time. Oh, it’s catchy alright, I’ve been humming it away to myself all day, and let’s face it, it’s another genius piece of marketing. You can imagine the “how can we create a little controversy to promote this song?” conversations. “Ok, tits alone aren’t enough to skyrocket sales, let’s make it really sexist and then say that it isn’t; that’ll grab some attention.”
It would have been helpful if rape hadn’t been brought into this. I fully respect that rape culture needs to be discussed as much as possible, but pinning a criticism on the lyric “I know you want it” as being rape-y is taking the focus away from arguments against the song that I believe to be more powerful. I have no doubt that a lot of rapists use this line, but it’s also a staple of the sexist “I know you wanna fuck me” brigade, which translates as “I’m a douche, pleeeeease fuck me”, not everyone of whom goes on to rape their would-be illustrious conquest.
Thicke’s defense of the song is worth quoting:
“ Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?’ I’m like, ‘Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.’ So we just wanted to turn it over on its head and make people go, ‘Women and their bodies are beautiful. Men are always gonna want to follow them around.”
I’m no sure that anyone would believe for a second that this is either genuine or well argued, but what’s worrying is that it hardly matters, since the catchiness of the song trumps all. That and the fact that there are more than enough guys out there with low IQs who are going to identify with this video and see a popstars credibility as good enough reason to have the attitude that it champions.
So, what is that attitude exactly? The song is hardly saying “Go out and rape a woman,” but it categorically is not a song that liberates women from a repressed sexuality. Some of the songs subtler lyrics
“So, hit me up when you pass through,
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two. “
“What do we need steam for,
You the hottest bitch in this place .“
“The way you grab me, must wanna get nasty,
Go ahead, get at me .“
Did I say subtle? I meant sad and pathetic. Where Thicke would have you believe that there’s something liberating about this song, being about women given the opportunity to unleash their sexy side, notice that it’s the man doing all of the liberating, the man saying what goes and what does not, and most importantly notice that the man is controlling the sexual language and the encounter. “I know you want it.” “You’re a hot bitch” “I’m gonna tear your ass” (seriously?) Where’s the female voice here exactly? Is this the sexual encounter that all women have secretly been dreaming of? There must be some women out there really desperate for Thicke’s big dick, I suppose.
I’m thinking that it’s not down to Thicke’s big Dick to be liberating women in the manner that he chooses, a manner that’s completely controlled by a male’s lyrics and a male’s iconography. What’s doubly insulting is that these blurred lines that are supposed to make women so mysterious and complicated are simply the Madonna/Whore duality that has been used to keep women in their place in art and literature throughout the centuries. Women – as far as men are concerned – are either the meek, virginal, containable domestic goddess (tried to domesticate you, but you’re an animal) or they are the evil, difficult to control, lustful, wild whore. Think Snow white vs her evil Stepmother (and other similar fairytales) or Cordelia vs her Sisters in King Lear.
What this song is actually doing, under the guise of liberation from domestication, is simply showing Thicke taming both sides of what he believes to be the nature of woman. Women, you can be liberated as long as there’s a reputable member of the patriarchy about to make sure that liberated nature doesn’t get under control. We can do better than this now, can’t we?
I couldn’t care less about the tits in the video (I can’t stop thinking that girl totally looks like Anne Hathaway) Does that pass as controversial still? I do care that their presence and actions of the women is thoroughly dependant upon Thicke’s sexual gaze. I do care a lot about Thicke’s obnoxious patriarchal messages. I’m not seeing a lot of feminine empowerment here.