On Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines

So. A lot of fellow feminists have been saying the ‘blurred lines’ in this song are those between a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ in terms of sexual consent and the lyrics promote rape culture. And it’s easy to see why when the line ‘I know you want it’ is repeated several times. And when you take certain lyrics out of context and compare them to things rapists have said, the similarities are worrying.

Thing is, though, in context, the ‘I know you want it’ line is actually about the fact that this other man doesn’t know ‘you’ want it because he has a stereotypical view of ‘you’, thinking that as ‘you’re’ a ‘good girl’ ‘you’ don’t want to have sex, which is why he ‘tried to domesticate you’.

Now, I agree with Robin Thicke in that women want to have sex. And I agree that men shouldn’t try to domesticate women (or vice versa, for that matter). If a woman is domesticated by choice/nature that’s great – I’m happy for her that she knows what she wants. But if a man assumes all women want that or that’s how women should be, we have a problem. So, in terms of ‘blurred lines’ of gender roles – yes, I hate them, too.

Thing is, though, I’m not so sure about the need for the ‘good girl’ label. It’s creepy and, worse for me, patronising, especially when he applies it to his wife, as he did when ‘justifying’ the song by talking about her:

“Even very good girls have a little bad side. You just have to know how to pull it out of them.”

That is a worrying statement. This is a statement that promotes rape culture. It’s worse than the lyrics. In fact, if it weren’t for Robin Thicke’s attempts at justifying this song I’d be much more inclined to see it as a misguided attempt at empowering women and overcoming gender stereotypes. Misguided because, yes, a lot of the lyrics are questionable but, more importantly to me, it is patronising.

Before we get on to the patronising nature of this song, let’s take a look at some of the questionable lyrics. We’ve covered ‘I know you want it’ but what about ‘The way you grab me/ Must wanna get nasty’. For me, it’s more of the same. Why? because it’s followed by ‘Go ahead, get at me’ rather than anything about him getting at her. If a guy grabbed me I’d assume he wanted to have sex. Does that mean I’d force him into it? Of course not. Can that not go both ways? Is it possible for a woman to be a tease? Yes. Is this acceptable behaviour? No. It’s not fair to the guy. Does that mean she’s asking for rape, that it’s OK to rape her or that if she were to be raped itwould be in any way her fault? No. But does Robin Thicke suggest he’s going to force her if she doesn’t give consent? I don’t think he does.

What he does suggest is that the ‘good girl’ secretly likes it rough. Which happens. Some women do like it rough. And maybe that’s his point. In which case, it is more of the overcoming gender stereotypes thing. However, while we hear a lot about what he ‘knows’ she wants, we don’t know whether or not he’s right. I guess the rape culture interpretation of this song works on the basis that he’s lying. And, in fact, I’d be inclined to believe that what he says she wants is actually what he wants and therefore wants her to want. Good on him for wanting her to want it, rather than just taking what he wants, but it’s still really about what he wants. I mean, whose fantasies are these? His fantasy of the ‘good girl gone bad’ or hers of the sex she’s always dreamed of but never managed to get?

Either way, I have a problem with this song. You see, what really pisses me off is the fact that all the way through he’s telling her what she wants and that she can get that with him. It’s beyond patronising. At one point, he offers to liberate her. Wow, thank you, Robin Thicke, I’d never be able to liberate myself! I need a man to do that for me!

Honestly, to me this song sounds like one long chat-up con: I want to have rough sex with you so I’m planting that idea in your head with the suggestion that rough sex is empowering because it’s against gender stereotypes while  calling you a ‘good girl’, which serves to both flatter and enforce the empowerment concept by reminding you of how patronising those gender stereotypes really are, and painting myself as your sexual liberator/hero. You’re welcome!

(Or: I see women as girls I can control and it turns me on to turn ‘good’ girls into ‘bad’).

Overall, Blurred Lines is disrespectful because it’s patronising, and the fact that he tries to dress it up as empowering – maybe he even believes it is – makes it even worse because that’s manipulation. And his other claim that it’s pointing out the ridiculous, laughable nature of rape culture? Really? Come on. It’s too blurred a line for that joke to work and you know it. Makes you think it might be deliberate. After all, I’m sure all the controversy hasn’t harmed the sales.

Oh, and one more thing. Nobody wants their ass torn in two – they’d need immediate medical attention. They’d probably bleed to death in excruciating pain, and can you imagine the mess? Can you?? That’s just a terrible idea. Not hot. If you tried the whole con in this song on me, which might have a slight chance at success if I was drunk and single, that line would definitely make me come to my senses.

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