While I was writing that post about gender bias and whatnot last week, and looking up related things online in a manner which could very loosely be described as “research”, I found something I wanted to talk about but which ended up not really fitting into that particular post. Specifically, this Rihanna video. (It may be NSFW, and is perhaps not something I’d want to watch with any young relatives, but it’s not explicitly porny either.)
I hadn’t seen it when I started writing that post, but I’d heard about it, and I’d followed some of the controversy surrounding the other single and music video she’d done with Eminem. And I sort of wish I’d managed to fit at least a comment on the track into the point I was making at the time.
Earlier today, I heard S&M on the radio for the first time, and although the part about sticks and stones breaking her bones was uncensored, all subsequent mention of the things that “excite” her had been edited right out. I commented on Twitter earlier that enjoying yourself seems to be less socially acceptable than severe physical impairment these days, and suggested some bowdlerised, radio-friendly alternative lyrics in place of her damnably filthy original words.
(“Chains and whips”, if you couldn’t guess and didn’t want to check.)
People these days tend to avoid the cliché of imploring you to “think of the children” in exactly those words, because it’s been so widely mocked that it basically satirises itself now, but the implication is still often made. The corresponding question, though, which is so rarely asked, is: What about the grown-ups? What about people who maybe just want to enjoy some entertainment with a little edge to it that might not be everyone’s cup of tea? Don’t they get to have any fun?
I’m not primarily trying to talk about censorship, though.
The main point I’m aiming for is one that Greta Christina made a while back about Lady Gaga, and the way her music videos nonchalantly and unashamedly use aspects of “sex culture” in creating mainstream art:
What’s more, they seem to be strongly influenced by these cultures, not as an outsider, not as someone who’s manipulating this imagery to titillate/shock the audience, but as an insider, someone who’s intimately familiar with both sex culture and sexual marginalization. Lady Gaga’s music videos (coupled with her interviews about her work) show a thoughtful, informed insight into polymorphous perversity.
I think much the same is true of Rihanna’s latest output. I don’t buy that it’s purely a cynical move, and that she’s sexing things up as controversially as she can get away with solely because she knows it’ll sell. I get the impression that she means it, and that it genuinely means something to her.
And, in case it wasn’t clear, I think this is A Good Thing, on a subject which deserves to be talked about more broadly and openly among people willing to confess to an interest in such things. Men and women both deserve the chance to play at being sexy pieces of meat, after all.
Not sure why this grabbed my attention as much as it did, but there you go.