Greater and much needed attention has recently been given to the Culture of Rape that is so prevalent in the United States. While the exact statistics vary depending on the source, approximately 16-25% of all Women face rape or attempted rape and 2-3% of all Men face rape or attempted rape at some point.
I suspect many rapes and attempted rapes go unreported and in the case of relationships, unnoticed (a husband has been “unable” to “rape” his wife, not too long ago, for instance, and still some Men and Women do not realize they always maintain the power to say “NO”). At the University of Houston, for example, getting an email about another person having been raped is not a rare occurrence. (Rapes are very common on college and university campuses.) I remember one day this semester being particularly disturbed and shocked when someone in one of the on-campus living facilities was raped while we were having class on Saturday across the campus.
Michael Bublé’s Everything and Enrique Iglesias’s I Like It are just two examples of very popular songs, music that is regularly played on family radio that essentially celebrates the Culture of Rape and the male gaze. I regularly listen to music while I write, and I don’t necessarily listen to the specific lyrics–these are songs that occasionally came up in my music library until I listened closely to the lyrics and deleted them (can I get a refund?!). If they are in your music library, I ask that you delete them. We also need to contract radio stations and demand that these songs and similar ones no longer be played.
Everything‘s most problematic lines are: “And I can’t believe, uh that I’m your man, / And I get to kiss you baby just because I can.” This is the perfect embodiment of what bell hooks calls the Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy. The Man in this song has no conception that his “lover” (presumably a Woman, but the song includes no genderized pronouns or references beyond “I’m your man”) still has an independent existence. This Man condones the Culture of Rape by having the mindset “I get to kiss you” and then further justifying that to himself “because I can.”
Lyrics that specifically speak to the Culture of Rape also manifest with, “Baby don’t pretend that you don’t know it’s true. / ’cause you can see it when I look at you.” Again, this takes away his “baby’s” power, autonomy, and ability to freely say, “NO.”
Other lyrics in the song leave me a bit baffled. I can’t decided if they are potentially problematic or equally problematic in terms of objectifying people. Think about this part of Everything: “You’re a falling star, you’re the get away car. / You’re the line in the sand when I go too far. / You’re the swimming pool, on an August day.” The comparisons to a car, sand, and pool are what make me a bit uncomfortable; although, I cannot exactly put my finger on it.
And I do not even know where to begin when it comes to critiquing the creepy and strange music video for Everything.
I Like It also speaks to the Culture of Rape, the IWSCP, and further, supports lying. The most problematic (and there are a lot of them in this song) lyrics are: “Girl please excuse me if I’m coming too strong / But tonight is the night we can really let it go / My girlfriend is out of town and I’m all alone / Your boyfriend’s on vacation and he doesn’t have to know” and “Girl please excuse me if I’m misbehaving, oh / I’m trying keep my hands off but you’re begging me for more / Round round round give a low low low / Let the time time pass ’cause we’re never getting old.”
Additionally, the Man in the song says, “I like it” 23 times.
This song provides the Woman no voice, no say, and no name. “Girl” (occurs 2 times) and “baby” (occurs 16 times) are demeaning names for Women, especially in the context of the song.
The Man in this song has no sense of loyalty or respect for his girlfriend or other Women, has no self control, and thinks he is desirable and that all Women will lunge at the chance to have a sexual encounter with him and that his desire alone is enough to have his desires fulfilled.
The Woman in I Like It–who we need to specifically remember does not exist, she is a fictional character created by the Male Gaze–is given no personality, no traits, no abilities, no life beyond her “use” as a sexual object.
As with Everything the music video of I like It is problematic, very problematic. It dehumanizes en masse, shows Men who have no respect for Women at all, and is potentially too heteronormative.
Both songs and music videos become even more problematic and even more down right scary when we consider the Men as historical stand-ins, as representations of Men and appropriate masculinity. Is this the legacy we really want to leave?
Rape, again something that is a very serious problem, is not new. In the second US survey, we read and discuss Kay Potter’s excellent yet unusually and sarcastically-titled essay “Rape Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry“ from 1971. The problems have changed so little, it could have been written yesterday. Be sure to also check out this excellent article from Everyday Feminism: “25 Everyday Examples of Rape Culture.”
We need to do everything we can to dismantle the Culture of Rape. Please share additional examples that we might be all too blind to.