That Happened: Blurred Lines and Rape Culture


ColumnRobin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is super fun (if you ignore the lyrics).The summer of 2012 was a sugar-coated squeefest with Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” as the unofficial soundtrack. We were treated to (or tortured by depending on your point of view) the song everywhere we went—not to mention the countless spoofs, including my favorite by Cookie Monster.

2013 is shaping up a little differently. Before I dive in, for the record, I love pop music. I blame spin class for this lapse in taste. There’s no better music in the world for spinning than Ke$ha, Gaga, Robin Thicke and the like. In fact, if I didn’t spin (and hang out with gay men), there’s a good chance I would have missed the “Blurred Lines” radio takeover—I might have missed the “Call Me Maybe”/”Head Like a Hole” mashup, which would have been tragic. But I digress.

Back to Mr. Thicke. First, all of you over-30s will be sad to hear that the kids today have no idea that his dad, Alan Thicke, is the real superstar of the family for surviving years working with Kirk “homophobe” Cameron on the show Growing Pains. Young Robin launched his singing career back in 2000 and people in the U.S. started to care when he opened for Beyonce in 2007.

“Blurred Lines” is my first real introduction to Robin Thicke and, at first, I was all over that shit. What fun! Seriously. However, the song celebrates rape culture in a way that I am not entirely comfortable with. The refrain: “I know you want it but you’re a good girl,” is just a little… off—especially when followed by the line, “tried to domesticate ya.” Then there’s the video, which is banned all over the place. Mostly, it features naked women dancing around fully-clothed men—sometimes the ladies are carrying animals.

The obvious conclusion is that this is a sexist piece of crap. But pop culture is rarely that simple. In a GQ interview, Thicke blew off his critics and explained that the origin of the song is Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” and catcall culture, if you can call it that. He said: “All three of us [Thicke and co-performers T.I. and Pharrell] are happily married with children, we were like, ‘We’re the perfect guys to make fun of this.’ People say, ‘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.’’ Obviously, a joke. You can practically hear the eye-roll directed at the crazy man-haters who take everything all serious-like.

Personally, I have a hard time saying that anything meant solely to entertain—or get me off my ass to workout—needs to be socially responsible. But then I remember that not everyone is actually thinking about lyrics; many are just absorbing the underlying message and missing Thicke’s irony. They don’t know he’s married. They don’t know he respects women. All they hear is this: When everyone is drunk and the lines are blurry, she wants it.

When it comes to “Blurred Lines,” I DO know I want it. It’s a great pop song. I don’t think Thicke and team are advocating rape. I don’t think they are personally anti-woman. But, I do think this is yet another piece of work perpetuating rape culture for those who probably don’t even know the term. With everything going on in the world, including efforts to protect sexual harassment on college campuses (yea, you read that right), this hit sends a dangerous message.

For those of you who can’t stomach this as the song of the summer, fear not. Britney has done it again with the bad-good “Oh La La.” Thank you, Ms. Spears, for the lady jam.

Image: Rapgenius (video still)