Justifying Rape Culture One Lyric at a Time

I hate these blurred lines. The way you grab me … must wanna get nasty.”

Robin Thicke sings these words repeatedly throughout his song, “Blurred Lines.” To me, Thicke’s lyrics sound similar to a rapist’s defense testimony in court, yet Thicke’s song has more than 193 million views on YouTube and is the fastest selling song in digital music history.

Robin Thicke performing at Yahoo! Music. photo by Mick O., Redfishingboat on Flickr

Robin Thicke performing at Yahoo! Music.
photo by Mick O., Redfishingboat on Flickr

I wonder if people ever bother to listen to the lyrics of what they are dancing to?

The popularity of “Blurred Lines” conceals its slut-shaming lyrics. “Blurred Lines” blames rape victims for rape and highlights our desensitization to songs that condone violence against women.

Throughout “Blurred Lines,” Thicke complains that women dance or dress provocatively but then say “no” to sex. Thicke implies that provocative behaviors “blur” the line between consent and rape. For example, the line, “The way you grab me … must wanna get nasty” insinuates that if a woman “grabs” a man a certain way, the man has a right to “get nasty” with her.

Thicke is so certain that a woman must “want [sex]” that in “Blurred Lines,” he repeats the line, “I know you want it,” 18 times throughout the song, or once every 15 seconds.

While these lyrics might sound harmless to many people, they have a devastating impact on some listeners — including many women, specifically many rape victims.

A friend of mine, who is my inspiration for this article, was raped by an acquaintance at a party when she was drunk. She blames herself for her attack. She was among acquaintances. How could the rape have happened?

In fact, a study conducted by the U.S. Justice Department from 2006-2010 reveals that 73% of rapes are committed by a non-stranger. My friend insists that if she had not gotten drunk, she would not have been raped. The same U.S. Department of Justice study found that 50% of rapes occur while the victim is intoxicated. But no one, drunk or sober, should be raped. What happened to her was wrong.

When she told me what happened, I kept trying to support her and urge her to stop blaming herself. Unfortunately, any comfort our conversation might have had for her was completely erased when my friend discovered “Blurred Lines” on YouTube two months ago.

After hearing “Blurred Lines,” my friend called me. She asked me if the millions who purchased it would agree that she “wanted” to be raped. No amount of reminding her that “Blurred Lines” is just a song could erase the fact that it was nominated for three awards at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards and more than 5 million people have purchased it.

Our reaction to “Blurred Lines” is perhaps more telling than the lyrics themselves. A group of law students called the Law Revue Girls created a parody of “Blurred Lines” titled, “Defined Lines.” In “Defined Lines,” the roles of men and women in the music video for “Blurred Lines” are reversed so the men are sexualized and the women are powerful.

Shortly after “Defined Lines” was uploaded to YouTube, YouTube took it down for “inappropriate content.” However, YouTube — despite receiving numerous complaints about the content of “Blurred Lines” — did not make any attempt to remove that video. This highlights our tolerance for the sexualization of women but our intolerance for the sexualization of men. A woman being portrayed as a sex object is appropriate. A man being portrayed as a sex object is “inappropriate.”

We are hypocrites. 15 out of 16 rapists in the United States never spend a single day in jail. While most say that statistic is disturbing, many of those same people defend “Blurred Lines,” a song that justifies rape. I don’t think you can say rape is unacceptable and then applaud a song that says the opposite.

The fact that the words in “Blurred Lines” are sung does not change their meaning. The fact that the words in “Blurred Lines” are sung does not change how degrading they are to women. Most importantly, the fact that they are sung does not diminish their devastating impact on many rape victims.

I think that it is time to do some serious self-reflection. We cannot end rape if we continue to applaud songs that justify it.

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About Amelia Roskin-Frazee

Amelia Roskin-Frazee is a senior at Lick-Wilmerding High School. She is the co-Managing Editor of the The Paper Tiger. Outside of school, she is the Founder and President of The Make It Safe Project and is on the National Advisory Council for The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. In her remaining free time, Amelia writes novels, plays steel drums, and contemplates how strange it feels to write about herself in the third person.

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