Want sex with that?

I was at the gym yesterday (see my earlier post about not blaming my arse), and this Beyonce/Sean Paul clip was on:

Not being a fan of top 40 music, I hadn’t seen it before. And I was surprised at how sexual it is. Not sexual in a good way, but sexual in a writhing-woman-possibly-tied-up-possibly-having-an-orgasm-for-your-visual-pleasure way. Sexual, but not sexy.

Which got me thinking: why is this Beyonce clip is too much, whereas Duran Duran’s Girls on Film is fine? (Sorry, can’t find one with the embed code.)

It’s not just that the Duran Duran one is quaint/retro. It’s even more explicit – check out the woman sliding along a cream-covered pole, followed by nipples, and kissing, and pouring champagne on each other’s breasts. Then the wrestler’s breasts, the nude woman with the hairdryer, the ice cube on the nipple, and more boobs for the mudwrestling. (Although, the woman cleaning her male horse’s g-string-clad arse makes it not all about women’s bodies.) Granted, this is the long uncensored version which wasn’t played on the tv all time, but you can still see it in pubs. At my local in fact, along with Warrant’s Cherry Pie.

So, why is the ruder one ok and the other one not? They both have a narrow definition about what a “hot chick” is. Perhaps I’ve simply justified it in my head because one is the kind of music I’d listen to, while the other is most definitely not.

Perhaps, but I think it’s about who is writhing. It used to be that the only women writhing in video clips were the ones paid to be there in the background. Now, if you’re a female singer, you have to do it. It’s odd that popular culture is highly sexualised, but not sexy. I know this was a big issue a few years ago, but I’m still surprised that we haven’t progressed. If I had this blog three years ago, this is what I’d be writing about. So, is there any way of fixing things? Of putting a few centimetres of clothes back on, once we’ve flashed everything?

9 responses to “Want sex with that?

  1. What do you mean by “too much”? Has this one been the subject of debate? I wouldn’t know, being totally out of touch with pop culture.

    But back at the time of Girls on film (and I was a bit of a casual DD fan; saw them live here in 1982 (?) I think, the standards were just a lot more liberal than they are now, so maybe the standards of the video’s social context tend to follow them?

    Then again, maybe if the person in the video is recognisable, as Beyonce is, then Dude Nation feel less comfortable about dehumanising her. Nameless bodies are just more convenient for promoting the ideal that women are slabs of meat.

    • By “too much” I mean “too sexually over the top”. There hasn’t been debate over this clip. It’s a few years old, but I just saw it for the first time and was pissed off at how a female singer has to simulate sex for male visual pleasure in her own damn video clip. And I agree that it was more liberal in the 80s, in that it was more acceptable to be different. Gay? Who cares? Bi? Aren’t we all? Here, have some coke. Now, it’s a massive deal if you don’t subscribe to strict heterosexual values in popular culture. And part of those values involves (to borrow from Ariel Levy) pretending to be someone whose job it is to pretend to enjoy sex with any old dick. That’s hardly liberal or liberated.

  2. I worked backwards, watched the DD clip because I was like oh yeah DD! Minor brain meltdown ensued…

    To me DD are part of the objectification in the clip (and not just because I think DD are objectification objects). With objectification and the process thereof being the subject of the video clip… and that lessens the too much factor because you actually can engage with the visual content, it’s actually trying to tell you something…

    and then I watched Beyonce… my brain kind of exploded between the two stimuli on two different levels at that point… which are now making me thinking bloggy thoughts when it should be sleepy time! But in that clip there’s no reason for the sexayness beyond… well sex is a marketing device…

    When the the two clips are viewed together like that, the DD clip (which I’d never seen the full version of before) could be viewed as a criticism of the very process that has now produced the Beyonce clip. Which is really ironic in my opinion considering when the DD clip was made.

    I could also be talking out of my bum…

    Oh and I looked at the words for the Beyonce song… there is a whole big pit full of wrong weirdness there…

  3. No I think you might be onto something there Lissy, because of the social contexts. When the DD clip was made it was ok to talk about the objectification of women and women’s and gender issues generally. DD were very feminised when they first hit the scene.

  4. Have been thinking about it some more… been googling, apparently the songs all about exploitation of models… a point that missed in the furor about the clip… according to wikipedia which I can’t work out how to link to without it looking messy…

    When the DD clip was made it was ok to talk about the objectification of women and women’s and gender issues generally. DD were very feminised when they first hit the scene.

    It’s weird how its not okay to talk about that anymore in the same way- there was this clear sense in the 90’s when I was doing my undergrad that the gender wars were over… I was all WTF?

    And DD were very feminised, but wasn’t that part of the whole ‘new wave’ idea? Androgyny was cool…

    • I was also at uni in the 90s and thought the “gender war” had been won, thankyouverymuch. Then I realised we’ve gone backwards, because most people don’t think it’s important any more. Which is why I describe myself as an accidental feminist.

      The other thing that strikes me about the two clips is that in the DD one, the girls and the band are disconnected, whereas in the Beyonce one, the male singer is lying on a bed of writhing female bodies, while Beyonce is herself a writhing female body. In DD, the girls win the battles against the boys, but in the Beyonce one, they’re just faceless objects hoping for Sean Paul to look their way.

      • On my campus there was this sense that because feminist criticism was included in most subjects the war was won- I was like “uhh war isn’t won until there is no longer a need to have feminist criticisms of the subject matter at all”.

        I kind of see the band as being connected to the girls because we do see DD preparing in the tent and making themselves all pretty… and even though they are outside of the cat-walk and ring they are part of the performance, though not the focus.

        And in the DD clip there is a sense of the women as having personality- in the Beyonce clip even Beyonce herself is just a pretty object to look at while she’s waiting for Sean Paul…

  5. Oh, don’t get me started on ‘raunch culture’. I hate the argument that it is a girl power, feminist reclamation. Its not, its exploitation bundled up in women’s choice. They have no choice just some sleazy video director or their skewed cultural norms confirm that this is empowered. It is not empowered.

    Pussy cats dolls grrrrrrrrrrrr – boyfriend stealing/sisterhood wrecking evil grrrrrrrrr. Oh and that Beyonce lyric “if you like it you should have put a ring on it’ really gets my goat. Of course, what woman doesn’t covertly or overtly crave a proposal from every man she shags. Talk about setting the debate back 20 years.

    I secretly still like Duran Duran. I once took a photo of them off the telly and then convinced a girl at school that they had been to my house for dinner.

    Hmm angry Lexy today…. I think the hairy-legged pinko commie femo is coming out to play today.

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