In Defense of Robin Thicke. ~ Melissa Block

Via Melissa Blockon Aug 28, 2013

robin thicke

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:

“Dear Society,

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.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jill”

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

About Melissa Block

Melissa Lynn Lowenstein Block writes, mothers, dances, practices yoga, and goes outside as much as humanly possible. She wants to read more books.

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15 Responses to “In Defense of Robin Thicke. ~ Melissa Block”

  1. kimberlylowriter says:

    Thank you for writing this.

  2. Kristie says:

    Well-said.

  3. DaveTelf says:

    most intelligent commentary i've seen so far. thank you.

  4. Susan says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for writing what many are feeling, but aren't so good at putting into words.

  5. Marian says:

    Yes, I liked this article too. THEN I watched the video. I've seen Mr. Thicke perform this song solo & just thought it was fun, good for dancing around the house and liked it a lot. In this case it wasn't so much fun (for me). It turned into something else entirely. They are both talented but this wasn't an improvement at all on the song. It was just silly (for me). Who DOES this? People, it's occurred to me, who've been desensitized and no longer see the integration of sex as being a part of other things going on…just some separate unto itself thing. That minimizes and limits sex itself. Kinda makes me think the song isn't so much fun anymore. There's no connection to people's attractions, sweetness or real anything. Just not authenticity fun anymore. For the life of me, why did these two even DO this?

  6. Kim says:

    YES! YES! YES! I've been wondering on the plain hatred for Robin Thicke's #1 song. (As I currently listen, by chance, to the song "My One Night Stand" by female band, Mis-Teeq.) I digested the lyrics as you did. So many other songs are far more provocative, and just plain scary. The one-sidedness of culture wrongly pointing the finger at both men and women, plotting us against one another, is so tiresome. I'm exhausted. We are different. We like each other. Let's get along and stop causing trouble where there is none.

    I also concur with your assessment on Miley's performance.

  7. Robyn says:

    everything I was thinking all at once, and then some. Good read!

  8. aurora says:

    Very naive musings about the extent women and men are harmed by sexual violence which is at epidemic proportions currently. From India to the Congo to Stuebenville to the US Military to College Campuses, society turns a blinds eye to rape culture. I am sorry you were raped. No one should have that happen to them. That you were believed and that your perpetrator was punished puts you in a rare category of rape survivor. Most people are raped twice once by their perpetrator and another by the larger community who usually punishes the victim not the rapist. Watch Invisible War, read about Steubenville, learn about the work of One Billion Rising. Robin Thicke's song is problematic but uninformed people who minimize the epidemic are the bigger problem.

  9. macpanther says:

    When a woman who is a survivor of military sexual trauma (rape, and the official retraumatization that follows) says she thinks "Blurred Lines" is unapologetic rape culture, and that the reaction to Miley Cyrus is slut-shaming, I tend to listen. Moreover, I tend to be persuaded by the "Dr. Jill" post above. White is a race, and male is a gender, but both are made invisible by our culture. I just can't give Thicke a pass.

  10. Catherine says:

    As a former rape crisis counselor, I have to respond to this whole "rape culture" vs "dance of intimacy" whatever. Rape is NOT about sex or the "dance of intimacy." Rape is about anger and control. It is not about the attraction of a female to a male. It is about anger and control. Please do not confuse the natural attraction a man feels for a woman whom he thinks is sexy for a situation where a man wants to take out his anger on women or who uses sex as a means to humiliate and control them. The man who rapes a woman does not respect her as a woman or as a person. Get a clue.

  11. Liza says:

    Very interesting post, and comments; got me thinking. Thank you.

  12. Melissa Lynn Block says:

    Catherine, just saw your comment. I understand that rape is about power and control, but sometimes it's also about desire pushed over a boundary. It's not either-or. My situation was a date rape, where the man wanted it badly enough to ignore my "no." I know he didn't treat me like a human being starting with that moment he chose to disregard my wishes, and I also know it started with a mutual attraction and that dance of intimacy. Then it took a wrong turn. So. What you say is my point exactly. Robin Thicke's song is about the dance of intimacy. That's why I don't think it fosters rape culture. And I'm wondering whether you'd tell me to "get a clue" to my face. Maybe. Seems kinda uncalled for. Would I take the trouble to write this and publish it if I weren't trying to get a clue? Thanks for commenting, anyhow.

  13. Melissa Lynn Block says:

    Catherine, just saw your comment. I understand that rape is about power and control, but sometimes it's also about desire pushed over a boundary. It's not either-or. My situation was a date rape, where the man wanted it badly enough to ignore my "no." I know he didn't treat me like a human being starting with that moment he chose to disregard my wishes, and I also know it started with a mutual attraction and that dance of intimacy. Then it took a wrong turn. So. What you say is my point exactly. Robin Thicke's song is about the dance of intimacy. That's why I don't think it fosters rape culture. And I'm wondering whether you'd tell me to "get a clue" to my face. Maybe. Seems kinda uncalled for. Would I take the trouble to write this and publish it if I weren't trying to get a clue? Thanks for commenting, anyhow.

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