Ever since my sister introduced the Robin Thick song “Blurred Lines” to me all of four days ago, I’ve been listening to it on repeat for embarrassingly long stretches of my days. It’s catchy, fun, and sexy, and I can already envision my drunken self squealing in excitement when I hear it blasted in some yuppie bar this Friday night. I probably should have picked up the hint that it was somewhat controversial when halfway through watching the music video together, my sister hesitantly said, “Yeah, the lyrics aren’t the best…”
But it wasn’t until I read articles on Buzzfeed and The Daily Beast that I (kind of) grasped the (stretch of a) controversy. I totally understand how practically naked women dancing around clothed men isn’t the most feminist music video in the world. Visually, I get the debate. But critics were even going so far as to say that the lyrics, “I know you want it” were, well, rapey. Really?
Lisa Huyne blogged in Feminist in L.A.:
“Basically, the majority of the song (creepily named ‘Blurred Lines’) has the R&B singer murmuring ‘I know you want it’ over and over into a girl’s ear. Call me a cynic, but that phrase does not exactly encompass the notion of consent in sexual activity … Seriously, this song is disgusting—though admittedly very catchy.”
For the sake of scholarly research, I’ve been listening to the song on repeat since I started writing this piece: to me it’s a song about sexual tension, not sexual assault. Sure, it’s presumptuous and arrogant and maybe uncouth …but, rapey?
Here’s the chorus:
And that’s why I’m gon’ take a good girl
I know you want it x3
You’re a good girl
Can’t let it get past me
You’re far from plastic
Talk about getting blasted
I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it x3
But you’re a good girl
The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty
Go ahead, get at me
The lyrics show the woman in the song has agency in this potential hookup: “The way you grab me / must wanna get nasty” and, later on, “I just watch and wait for you to salute.” There are other songs that are far more clear that a woman is being preyed upon, like those rap lyrics by Rick Ross in which he sings about drugging a woman by slipping something in her drink and raping her.
To be fair, there are drugs and alcohol in this song.Which brings up the other contention of the phrase “blurred lines”; some think that concept paints a scenario of Robin Thicke snatching up some boozed-out model, taking her back to his place, and having his way with her. Also, they’re smoking pot together: “Baby, can you breathe / I got this in Jamaica.” As we know, drugs are present in many a sexual assault. But to me, the drugs and alcohol are a conduit for cheating, not assault. “Blurred lines” clearly refers to a horny guy and girl who want to go at it, but the “good girl” is “domesticated” by some lad we can only assume is her boyfriend. The moral lines of them pursuing each other are fuzzy, or shall we say … blurred.
Essentially, the debate over this song comes down to context. Yes, if some creep came up to me out of the shadows of a street corner and said, “I know you want it,” to me, I would be a sketched out. But these are lyrics in an upbeat pop song that’s meant to be played in clubs while people are boozed up and flirting — not in a didactic manifesto of how to coerce a woman to have sex with you or a long-form essay in The New Yorker.
Because I know this will come up in the comments: yes, the music video does open up a whole other can of worms (which we’ve already covered). So please just listen, dance a little, and just enjoy this irresistibly catchy summer anthem. I know you want to.
[Image via Getty Images]