Author’s note: In light of all that is going down in Syria right now—massacres of thousands of innocents, dying in droves from poison gas—I wish I knew enough to write about that instead of contributing anything to the Miley-slut-shaming-racism-rape-culture conversation. But I don’t have anything helpful to contribute there aside from prayers, revulsion and hope that our nation can help stop the madness.
I’m making up stories in my head about how I should speak to what moves me in my own culture and that this will make ripples that will, somehow, help heal whatever horrific rift could cause human beings to massacre each other.
I didn’t see the Miley Debacle live, but the day after, after it had already caused a serious kerfuffle on the inter-webs.
I won’t be surprised if it yields at least one college course this coming Spring—it has hit that big a cultural nerve.
I hated it not because of its social, sexual, moral, or Miley-specific implications, but because as a performance, it was an empty, chaotic spectacle built around a performer who seemed conspicuously absent from her own body.
Her impotently flailing tongue, empty eyes, and joyless gyrations/groping of herself and others bothered me a lot more than what one Facebook poster called “ass meat curtains” ( “for f*ck’s sake, get a full-length mirror and turn around!”) or any of the afore-referenced implications.
Initially, I saw it as just plain bad theater.
Most of the conversation I’ve seen has gone from unrelenting harangues about Miley herself to a backlash directed at so-called “slut-shamers” who would dare deny the young lady her right to her own sexual self-expression, to an argument that we should be outraged about the way Miley has appropriated aspects of black culture and objectified her black backup dancers if we’re going to be outraged about any of it.
All valid, all good conversations to have. Thanks for getting us going, Miley!
What I want to respond to here is the post by a “sexologist” on the subject, quoted here in full:
If you think a woman in a tan vinyl bra and underwear, grabbing her crotch and grinding up on a dance partner is raunchy, trashy, and offensive but you don’t think her dance partner is raunchy, trashy, or offensive as he sings a song about “blurred” lines of consent and propagating rape culture, then you may want to reevaluate your acceptance of double standards and your belief in stereotypes about how men vs. women “should” and are “allowed” to behave.
Miley’s performance was just plain bad from an artistic and musical perspective. The whole spectacle was ill-advised and silly. The tongue. The clumsy groping. Those poor gifted black dancers wearing giant bear costumes, that spectacular tall black woman who was used as a pornographic prop.
But I’m not going to relate that at all to the beautiful gift that is actual sexual intimate connection, or the dreamy urges that lead to such connection. They have nothing to do with one another.
I don’t like nomenclature or paradigms that place women in a victim position in sexual contexts: victim of those who would shame her for wanting it (and sometimes saying “no” anyway because that’s how the game goes) or victim of a culture that, supposedly, condones rape when men sing about wanting to follow their biological imperative to hit that when they see a beautiful woman on the dance floor.
I am an empowered woman who can choose who I sleep with and who I don’t. And if a man sees me as “the hottest bitch in this place,” and feels lucky because I want to hug him, and wants to get in my pants, well, hallelujah! I can consent (whee!) or I can refuse.
Before you send me hate mail, just for the record, I have been raped.
I have been in a position where I did not have a choice. It was awful, but I don’t blame a culture for what happened to me. I blame a man and I blame myself for being in a situation where this could happen. I drew the line (not a blurry one) and he crossed it. It sucks, and we both suffered consequences (for him, the consequence was deportation from the United States—not really a demonstration of a culture that condones rape).
I do not consider myself a victim or a survivor, however; those terms feel so much smaller than what I feel myself to be.
Robin Thicke is singing about the charge that happens between a man and a woman and the dance of seduction and the pleasure of wanting and maybe having, but also the pleasure of the longing itself.
In our culture, longing = pursuit = appropriation. But just as there is an infinite universe of numbers between the numbers one and two, there is an infinite space between wanting and having.
That’s where longing lives and it can be delicious. In the “you-can-have-whatever-you-want-now” culture, however, longing is something to throw stuff at. It’s not a place we like to hang out. And we’re cheating ourselves with this knee-jerk reactivity.
Women have the right to feel attraction, to field a man’s attraction, and to contain, to savor both for herself without giving the man what he wants. Men have the right to want women to let them in, to yield, to open up and allow, preferably after making them beg, cajole and plead a little–or a lot.
That urge, that desire, that dance is sacred and beautiful, and totally fun, and a drive that gets a lot of people out of bed in the morning, so could we puh-leeze stop making it wrong and bad?
Historically, things have been very different and they continue to be so in many cultures. The right to consent or refuse is an incredible gift that modern women have fought for tooth and nail—I appreciate that.
But now that we have it, and now that it’s socially acceptable for women to love and enjoy sex in all its aspects and permutations, let’s focus not on how pop artists appropriately or inappropriately express it, but how to experience maximal pleasure, connection and joy while drawing boundaries with intelligence.
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Assist. Ed: Jade Belzberg/Ed: Bryonie Wise