Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Usher's New Song "Lay You Down": New Date Rape Anthem?

hello everyone, its been a looooong time. Been going through many changes. Will be stepping back up more with blog duties. Apologies for the hiatus, though apparently i needed to step back and grow some more before writing more.

This new Usher song was brought to my attention, so i YouTubed it, and was slapped in the face by these lyrics:

"i'll show you what love is if you let me lay you down... you ain't goin nowhere, nowhere, nowhere girl, not until you let me lay you down"

"i'll make your body come to me, pull you back when you try to run baby"


I am furious, saddened, and frustrated with all the patriarchal elements that come together and make it permissible to put this kind of message out there. Whether Usher's intentions are consciously aligned with the danger of this message, no one can say, but for sure... this is a song about a man disregarding a woman's clear message of non-consent, and forcing her into a sexual situation against her will, under the guise of "love". This is a song about a man who has decided that because his "love" is so sublime, he has made the decision for both people involved around what has to go down. This is a song about rape.

I have already seen a man react defensively to this notion, minimizing the impact of the content of this song. I am hoping that some men will be able to speak to this non-defensively as well. This is a seductive song, done by a talented and loved man to a catchy beat. That makes this song very powerful. It glamorizes this behavior. Our young boys take this in, want to be cool, and if they are straight, want to be loved by girls.

As a young boy, i was one of the "sensitive" ones who had crushes that often never materialized into anything more than jokes and longing looks. My female friends assured me that i was special, and that someone would be lucky to have me. I imagined that i had so much love to give. I imagine some other young boy going through a similar situation, body wracked by hormones, longing for connection with one of his crushes... a boy who may be inspired to step up his "game" when he sees how a respected "pro" does it. And of course I fear the impact this may have on our girls too, as this glamorizes them being targets for unwanted attention and straight up sexual violence. Not only girls, but women, as it isn't just pubescent boys and girls influenced by this song. And for that matter, women are perps against other women too- but lets not get it twisted, cuz as serious as woman-to-woman abuse is, the stats of man-to-woman abuse is just waaaaay more off the charts.

Some may still dispute, saying that its ridiculous to say that "this song will make people go out and rape". In a rape culture (a culture that portrays sexual violence as sexy, permissible, and sometimes even funny) we are bombarded with messages that glamorize rape, and turn girls and women into objects for male gratification. It is more accurate to say that I fear the impact this song will have as another contribution to an already huge, toxic stockpile of images and messages that either subtly, or outrightly condone rape.

I am sure that any man who has a daughter (or wants to) would get chills at the idea of some young man taking her out on a date, then putting the powerlock on the car doors while crooning "you ain't going nowhere, nowhere..."

Our boys need messages around healthy dating and healthy loving. About respecting the autonomy and humanity of others. Girls do too. And boys especially need messages that manhood does not rest on ones ability to use aggressive physical force. Being a good nurturing father, creatively expressive, in touch with ones feelings and unashamed to express them, and having courage to speak up when something not wrong is going down (especially if all the other boys are going in on something not cool) are just some positive examples of expressing manhood.

I don't have a solution around the whole issue of this song being out there. I am not convinced boycotting is the answer, seeing how that hasn't been so effective with dancehall artists around homophobia. I am wondering what could really cause lasting change. At this point, my fantasy is that Usher would have a televised forum where we talk about this is in a workshop around masculinity, responsibility, gendered violence and sexism, and that after a transformative event, Usher changes the words to something like "we can go anywhere, anywhere, anywhere as long as you want to" or something. What ideas do you have?