Our Story Begins:
Of Songs and Sexuality
My oldest daughter, Abbi, is a theater major and is acutely aware of pop culture and the entertainment world as a result. She’s also aware of what some women do to seek fame and not talent. So when she pointed to an article by Rashida Jones of the show Parks and Recreation in this month’s Glamour magazine, I was more than a little happy.
Jones’ article is titled “Why is Everyone Getting Naked? The Pornification of Everything.” It’s a good read by a popular figure who lives in the entertainment world. The gist is that it seems more than a bit odd that, in embracing sexuality the women in popular culture – particularly popular music – are selling sexuality. Not selling as in a love scene in a movie is sexy . . . but selling as in porn. In response to her article Jones was ridiculed on Twitter as being either a misogynist or an anti-feminist along with any other number of names that I won’t repeat here.
But at the end of the day her point is a valid one.
I grew up in roughly the same era she references. Madonna danced in a pointy bra and wrote a book entitled “Sex.” Cindy Lauper informed people that, “girls just want to have fun.” But as sexual and erotic as Madonna may have been on-camera she wasn’t using a foam finger in precisely the wrong way.
I don’t pretend to know what women go through when men reduce them only to the point of being simply sexual objects. Still, as a parent of young boys and teenage daughters I want to send the right message: women are not objects. They can be smart, funny, sexy, provocative and do everything men can do. But when Miley Cyrus uses same said toy foam finger on her privates at the MTV awards and says it’s an adult performance it’s hard to shield your youngest from it. The newspapers, the internet and the news organizations plastered Miley with her world-renowned foam finger everywhere. Same with Nicki Minaj wearing only pasties and Rhianna hanging from a pole. When it’s on CNN and Fox and the internet and E! I can’t just change the channel. It becomes a topic you have to address with kids who aren’t necessarily old enough to understand why.
Look, I get that music is filled with sexual imagery. Bonnie Raitt started tongues wagging early in her career when she sang “I’m built for comfort, I ain’t built for speed.” Led Zeppelin was not-so-subtle with “The Lemon Song,” with lines stolen from 1930’s blues musicians like, “squeeze my lemon ’till the juice runs down my leg.” But it was mental imagery and not, well, porn.
I think it also hurts some of today’s amazing performers. Susan Tedeschi is one of the greatest female singers out there today . . . but she’s not doing a striptease onstage. In fact, she’s touring with her husband, a show my daughter Abbi saw this last month. There’s still music that eludes to sex but there’s an emotional connection . . . and she keeps her clothes on. Joss Stone, Grace Potter, Adele, they all have the swagger without the pole. Where music used to be an aural experience now it’s become inexplicably tied only with the visual. Rashida Jones decried “If 1994 was the Year of O.J.’s White Bronco, 2013 was the Year of the Very Visible Vagina.” It’s hard to argue with her. It’s also hard to teach two 10-year-old boys that women are not simply objects when Hannah Montana is humping a wrecking ball while naked.
My daughter posted the article on her Facebook page with a wholehearted agreement of Jones’ opinion. As a young woman she understands that this is more a cry for attention than a cry for equality. Maybe that’s anti-feminist for some, but for me it’s good to know my daughters think you can be sexy without having to be a porn star.
What do you think? Are these women embracing sexuality or selling sex?
Dave Manoucheri is a writer, journalist and musician based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.