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?


GLBTQ Jamaica Linkup Mod said...

what took you so long? welcome back to the blogging world


richard said...

thanks for the welcome back H! it has been a long rass time

TheGreatDancerAH said...


2nd - I was thinking about that -I just hope younger people consider that love if a man force a woman to lay down- what the hack is that.

TheGreatDancerAH said...


2nd - I was thinking about that -I just hope younger people consider that love if a man force a woman to lay down- what the hack is that.

richard said...

Thank you TGDAH!! Appreciated :) And agreed, these are not positive messages that equate rape with love. wth indeed.

Lis said...

We, as adults, assume children know so much. They don't know what they haven't been taught. How can we expect teens and just people to KNOW that this song's lyrics go deeper than flesh? We are a society of surface and face value. We rarely wish to dig deeper than the depth of make-up on skin. Children (in honesty-ALL) are literal thinkers. That's a must have in cognitive growth. We must first think literally, then expand to critical, then move on to hypothetical considerations. To expect a child to KNOW that the words of this song do NOT mean what they say.....Seriously! Children think in black and white. It either is or it isn't. And considering that we've molded an already superficial template for character judgment into ourselves and our youth (by the presentation of ourselves- cool cycle isn't it?)we can not possibly expect them to critically think in depth, beyond the words, beyond the tingly feelings, beyond the feel good moment. In watching the children play in my neighborhood, girls giggling and squealing as the boys attempt to have their way with them, I realise that their teaching has not gone beyond the playground (boys teasing girls). These are not toddlers and pre-teens pulling ponytails and throwing dirt. These are teenagers snatching hair and grabbing breasts, pulling down panties and forcing girls down on the ground (this scene occured in a playground, in an okay area, with adults, children, teens laughing and joking all around)ALL in jovial FUN!?? People learn what is practiced and the mastery of women (stated as such to include all forms of negative attention towards females)is and has been taught, whether loudly or subliminally, and learned with full honors. I've listened to the song, not just the beat. I understand what it's saying, but I am an adult with a real mind. It's the role play, concentual light s&m, hot, very adult, very grown. BUT that's looking beyond the words and adding my own experiences, fantasy and opinions to it's meaning. Just as I think it's these things because of my personal understanding, some child will create their own meaning based on what little understanding they have of anything. It says "I want you and I'm going to have you. My wants trump what you want." It may not be exactly what the lyrics state, but that's exactly what is deciphered from the words. Soooo, where's the responsibility? On us. If we don't agree with it, don't buy it, dont' play it, don't sit passively by as our children soak in every word. Be mindful of what our children do, seriously. Know what they are listening to (after all, you bought it). Explain to them what they are hearing, at all times. My 10 year old knows what this songs lyrics are and her FIRST thought was exactly what we are discussing. "Mom, he's making that girl do something she doesn't want to do. He doesn't care about her. He doesn't love her." This was her interpretation from her experience of years of my harping on self-worth and societal understanding. She, herself, knew that the lyrics were not positive, but her interpreation was black and white. The assumption of scenario. Oh, and I had't even started on this song, yet. We were actually discussing why her parents giggle and sing (so loudly)Rhianna's S&M song. She thinks it's the most disgusting, overly sexual tune that she's heard and she's mortified that her mother loves it. And even though we love it, she's right. So, guess what? No more S&M song for mommy and daddy, not in earshot. There are so many song lyrics that say so much. Loud and clear. Music does sooth the savage beats, but it also excites it to madness. If it didn't matter, we wouldn't pay these entertainers the amounts that we do, for the distraction they provide.

richard said...

woooo..... youbrought it Lis. Thank you! and yes, yes, yes, yes. You ain't neva lied in alla that. God bless your wise 10-year old daughter! Love to hear that, gives me hope. Blessings!

Happy1 said...

I agree with your post in every way! I grew up listening to some pretty explicit things alongside my Sunday morning worship, and never realized the consequences of hearing that crap until recently. I mentioned the worship music to inform of my Christian upbringing, but as I have come into my own faith and embarked on my own walk with Christ, I have come to terms with dropping the "sex" music. Now, with a new perspective on life, I am beginning to see how this music has definitely affected friends of mine. This kind of music such as Usher's song here promotes all kinds of graphically wrong ideals of sex and encourages people with the "thrill" of it. The beat is awesome and his voice is smooth which allows any unknowing person to get wrapped up in his lyrics. Forbes magazine had, I believe, Mrs. Obama as number 2 most influential woman in the world...but let's be honest, has anyone have any of her speeches memorized? Now think about Usher's songs. Every word is memorized by a teen and young adult as they bob their heads to the beat. It implants this almost unintentional sexual aggression/appetite.
This is definitely scary, thinking that boys can be swayed by this to believing in the thrill of aggressive sex such as Usher's implications. Rape is serious. Rape is terrifying. It is incredibly upsetting to hear more and more songs being produced such as this by big name, popular, and very talented artists such as Usher.