Posted by: aediculaantinoi | August 27, 2013

“Must” I? I suppose…

Sometimes, no matter how insulated or indifferent to pop cultural matters one might be, they end up seeping through and demanding one’s attention more than one might wish them to. I’m experiencing more than a little of that phenomenon at the moment, partially due to the fact that I was surrounded by people immersed in pop culture over the weekend (i.e. the rest of my family), and that had some spill-overs into the start of the work week yesterday.

And, I am also on the internet, and I can’t seem to turn to any of my commonly viewed websites without seeing at least something on this matter. In two conversations I had with polytheist friends and colleagues yesterday, this matter came up, and we were all sort of kicking ourselves over the fact that we felt we had to say anything about it at all. So, I am taking this opportunity, hopefully in a kind of cathartic fashion, to talk about the issues raised by these recent “news events,” and what they might signify to us as pagans and polytheists, as signs of the times.

The specific event to which I’m referring is the performance of Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards on this past Sunday night, which featured Robin Thicke, and a whole bunch of sad-looking bears, amongst other things. Everyone seems to be flipping out over it for a variety of reasons, and some of them are relatively cogent. I don’t feel the need to include a link to a YouTube video or anything else, because all you need to do is practically type the letter “M” and it will be suggested on YouTube and various other sites.

One point that has been made is that some of the reaction over this “coming of age” performance involves slut-shaming Ms. Cyrus. The problem I’m finding with that argument is that this was a performance on stage by a young woman that was meant to be suggestive and provocative (and, honestly, I don’t think it was, for reasons I’ll explain below), and not any reflection of her actual experiences, desires, or a realistic description of her activities. Yes, an immense amount of sex-negativity exists in our culture, and has bubbled over in the reactions to the performance she and her colleagues did on Sunday night, which is more than anything a demonstration of how very sex-negative and confused our wider overculture is regarding any number of matters having to do with sexuality. That Ms. Cyrus had to do a performance like this to “transition” from child/teen stardom to a supposedly more “adult” celebrity performer status is something to take into account; but, the fact is, the sexualization of Ms. Cyrus is a ship long sailed, and the apparent sadness that some people are expressing over her “sexual expression” in that performance not fitting their own preconceived fantasies is in itself quite telling.

Adding in Robin Thicke and his song “Blurred Lines” then adds to the confusion, I think. I am not a fan of the song, and ever since I was able to actually make out some of the lyrics a few months ago, I have been an even more avid anti-fan of the song. People far more eloquent than myself have already pointed out how the song is steeped in and perpetuates rape culture. So, just a few quick bullet-point comments on that song before we move on to more important topics:

1) Mr. Thicke, you, nor anyone else, does not “know” when someone “want[s] it,” and the fact that what “it” is can’t even be said adds to the simultaneous taboo-ing of all things sexual, while still yet trying to talk about “it” directly, that leads to all sorts of misunderstandings and double-talk when it comes to sex and that can lead to situations like sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape very easily.

2) If what is really going on is projection of the male’s desire for sexual relations with a female–which, let’s be honest, it is–then it would be better to admit that up-front and be honest about it. Does anyone remember the old song lyrics “I want you to want me”? There’s nothing wrong with that sort of approach, and it’s far more honest, sincere, and lacking in outright harm than the reverse, i.e. assuming that someone else “wants it” because one actually “wants it” but can’t admit it.

Now, a two-parter…

3a) “Must” is an assumption, a conclusion, again based on what has been discussed in points #1 and #2 above–projection and unclear communication. “The way you grab me” has nothing to do with how someone might feel in a given situation, and therefore no conclusions should be drawn based on it.

3b) The full line including the word “Must” is “Must wanna get nasty.” (It’s a poor rhyme/bit of lyricism, to be sure, but we’ll be addressing that general matter further in the next point!) The entire discussion of anything sexual in these terms, e.g. “doing the nasty,” and the reference to genitals as “naughty bits” or “junk” or other such euphemisms is a further symptom of how entrenched the overculture is in anti-body, anti-material, and sex-negative patterns of thought which have been inherited from certain dominant creedal monotheistic religions. Talking about sex, bodies, and genitals in these ways is profoundly devaluing, disrespectful, and counter-productive, and leads to all of the neuroses that our culture experiences around even “perfectly normal” forms of sexuality; and it further leads to the abuses that cause rape victims to be treated as in some ways complicit in their victimization, to slut-shaming, and to any number of other things involving pathologization of any sexual expression whatsoever. The further notion that “But you’re a good girl” from the song also plays into this, and the notion not only of “good girls” not ever engaging in sexual activity, but also the diminution and infantalization of adult women as “girls” being so prevalent in popular culture as to be almost unnoticeable amidst all of this.

4) “What rhymes with ‘hug me’?” No, Mr. Thicke, “fuck me” doesn’t rhyme with “hug me” unless you’re illiterate, and you’re not–you’re Canadian. However, “butt-plug me” does rhyme with “hug me,” so I suggest you be honest about your Freudian slip in that regard and teach your wife about pegging.

Okay…so much for “Blurred Lines” and the many failures of its intention, message, and actualities.

All of that having been said: I just watched the YouTube videos for the performance on Sunday night, and I have to say, I don’t really see what all the hype is about. There was nothing particularly shocking about the portrayal of “coming-of-age” or “sexuality” in the performance of Ms. Cyrus. Yes, many are not used to seeing her wearing that few clothes, but full or even partial nudity does not necessarily indicate sexuality nor necessitate sexualization. “Dancing provocatively” also doesn’t necessarily mean that sexuality is indicated…and, anyone who thinks that Ms. Cyrus’ dancing on that occasion (outside of her interactions with Mr. Thicke–and even that wasn’t by necessity sexual either…but the fact that people make the interpretive jump directly to sexualization is telling about the people doing the interpretation!) was provocative needs to think about their own projections and over-sexualizing of the objects of their gaze. Let’s not blame those “objects” for your own objectifications, shall we? I didn’t find her dancing provocative at all; if anything, it was a bit awkward, and looked like she was trying too hard…which isn’t sexy at all in most cases when done by anyone.

This highlights a semantic difficulty in all of this discussion; and by “semantic”–I shouldn’t have to say but given the times we live in I must underline–I mean “the actual meaning of words involved,” not “something ultimately meaningless based on hair-splitting interpretations.” The semantic difficulty I’m referring to is the notion that some of the dancing in these performances was “suggestive,” when in reality it wasn’t at all “suggestive” or “implicit” or “connoting” or “allusive,” it was “indicative” and “explicit” and “denoting” and “descriptive.” The intention, I think, was to do any number of things that to the overculture do not “imply” sexuality, but instead directly “point to” it–with a gigantic foam finger, if necessary, as the case was on Sunday night. There was nothing suggestive about the performance at all, as far as the larger culture is concerned. And yet, we are mired in the world of safe and sometimes witty doubles entendres where all expressions of sexuality are concerned, and where such neutral and pedestrian words like “it,” “unit,” “do,” “junk,” “thing,” and any number of other words that are, if anything, nondescriptive and vague, end up being charged with an explicit semantic quality that can make teenagers and twenty-somethings blush in embarrassment and collapse in laughter when used in everyday conversation (and when one uses the actual and more descriptive terms for sexual actions, genitals, and so forth, forget it…!). Of course, this allusiveness-as-explicitness tendency has occurred in our cultures because of the taboos around actually talking about sex directly and descriptively in a mature fashion. As mentioned above, we all know what the source of these taboos happens to be…

Now, don’t get me wrong: allusion is the mainstay of poetry, and of a great deal that can be called erotic. Some of the most erotic things I’ve ever encountered have an allusive and a suggestive quality to them that can be surprising, breathtaking, and supremely pleasurable to behold. Not all allusions are steeped in the sexual taboos of dominant creedal monotheistic religions, by any stretch of the imagination. Allusion can be an ally, a weapon, a tool, and a pleasure all on its own…

But, all too often, the nature of doubles entendres in the wider culture makes them more akin to humor than to seriousness, whether due to the rather immature approach the wider culture has to these matters, or because the people who resort to them are doing so for comedic or self-deprecating purposes. Thus, whatever “suggestive” or “allusive” qualities might have been part of the performance on Sunday night didn’t then land as erotic, they landed as funny and lacking in seriousness. Sure, play and humor are great and wonderful things to engage in around a variety of issues, sex and spirituality and social issues included; and yet, most people would greet someone in a clown nose and wig in a bar asking if someone wanted to “help raise the big top’s pole” not as a seriously seductive pick-up line, but as a joke. And there certainly was a circus-y quality to the Sunday night performances.

It’s hard to conclude reflections like this on anything other than a rather pessimistic note. So, I’ll attempt to refrain from doing that, and instead suggest that this entire matter and the allure it has had for the media and the popular cultural sphere for the last few days is a kind of useful can of worms that has been opened, and has been an opportunity for examination of some of these issues around which the greater social overculture has been deeply conflicted. It is always possible to take good lessons from these situations and find something useful to think with in them; but, getting over all of the emotional reactions to “our little girl growing up” and so forth so that this type of deeper self-reflection can occur is a necessary first step, and one that unfortunately a great deal of the modern American (and other wider Western) cultures and subcultures have not been properly prepared to do in a mature and useful manner.

I don’t know…what did you think? What are your thoughts on some of these issues?


Responses

  1. I don’t watch TV (mine is in another state right now), and I have tried to just ignore what is posted about it online. when I saw a post from YOU about it, I was surprised, but I read it since I have always found your posts to be intelligent, and wondered what on earth you would have to say about Miley Cyrus. :-)

    I detest that song by Robin Thicke. I do not believe in censorship, but if I did, it would be at the top of the list. That kind of attitude is what leads to women ending up not reporting date rape because, when she confides to her best friend that a mutual friend raped her, the friend laughs at her, saying she must have misunderstood the situation because he never could have done that and surely she wanted it anyway, and so the woman decides the police could never believe her if her best friend did not even believe her. I never really thought about the difference between sexual expression/taboos in the various dominant monotheistic religions and the polytheistic religion I follow in the light you discussed. Although I was not raised going to church, and began believing (though thinking I might be crazy) in the gods in grade school, I was still raised with the same repression as most good Catholic schoolgirls. My viewpoint there, I am sad to say, has been that I am somehow “wrong” for believing in untraditional things, and that talking about sex is possibly a good thing. Thank you for opening my eyes to a different perspective. Who would have thought it could have come from Miley Cyrus causing an uproar. :-)

    • I try not to watch very much TV, and I did not see this performance; but, it was getting to the point of media saturation with me that I had to do something to try and exorcise the thing from my head…it hasn’t quite worked yet.

      I’ve actually been wanting to say something about that damn song since June, when I was hearing it every time I went in certain places in Canada when I was up there, always playing on the radio. The fact that Thicke has commented, after hearing the various critiques of the song’s support of rape culture, that “we were just having some fun” shows how very clueless he and many others are about the implications of everything they’ve been saying/singing…and the fact that it is so popular and yet largely unexamined in these regards is horrifying in itself.

      • I had nor heard his “just having some fun” comment. Ugh.

        I used to listen to alternative rock and a little heavy metal, switching to pop occasionally as my mood or company demanded. Now, I mostly listen to classic rock, lectures, or instrumentals. They make me much less angry. I suppose some 60s and 70s music must have negative lyrics, but with songs like “Share the Land,” “Proud Mary,” and “Imagine” playing in regular rotation, it’s easier to stay in a good mood. Unfortunately, in my current apartment I can only get one radio station, which is a pop station. I thought the song by Thicke was catchy until I stopped to listen to the lyrics And, if course, they play the song once an hour… I’ve ordered CDs on learning Spanish and Greek, though, so I will be able to avoid pop music for a bit longer.

  2. Oh! But the guy in the clown outfit might be more likely to get at least a first date from me than someone with a sexy pick up line. Granted, I hate clowns, but that line was FUNNY. :-) humor is always a turn on.

    • ;)

      I was somewhat hesitant to post that bit, because I do know several people who are legitimately into “clown sex,” so…

      • Ah, well, there we go. I would not have known there was such a thing as clown sex. I suppose it’s impossible to say anything anymore without potentially offending SOMEone out there…

  3. ““What rhymes with ‘hug me’?” No, Mr. Thicke, “fuck me” doesn’t rhyme with “hug me” unless you’re illiterate”

    Or, perhaps, you prefer assonant rhyming schemes? ;)

    • Well, that’s true…if it were an Irish song, it’d be fine…!

      I was thinking further that the line might just have been an “I’m stupid” line, i.e. an actual question because he rhymed himself into a corner. It’d be like the line was “Let’s eat an orange / What rhymes with ‘orange’?” or something. ;)

  4. Honestly, I’m not sure why this has turned into a big thing. It’s hardly the most shocking thing to be shown on television, let alone an awards show. Puh-lease!

    And about Mr. Thicke, I had never heard of him or his song until a couple of weeks ago when someone posted a parody video of it with the genders switched, which is actually rather delightful. The guys (who are part of a Seattle “boylesque” troupe) are particularly yummy, if I do say so myself. ;)

    I have yet to see the original, and don’t really care to. The song is as problematic as you describe, and it’s just not very good.

    • Yes, exactly…Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” several years back was more “shocking” than this, and that wasn’t even that shocking.

      I heard about the boylesque one, and I’d love to have a look at it…I think I’ll go do that soon!

      But, yes, the “unrated” version of the video is not worth the time either. The women in it, who I would find attractive in other contexts, are utterly lifeless and without any style or personality other than as things–not even people–to be ogled.

      I tells ya: where’s Artemis when you need her, to make an Aktaion out of Mr. Thicke. Now, I’d pay to see that. ;)

      • Oh my gods, Janet Jackson! I STILL can’t believe that was a thing! Raa!

        And yes, sweet, gentle Artemis, of the lovely disposition and swift arrows of deadly efficiacy, could you please get on that? That would be a sweet show. ;)

      • Beautifully expressed! May it come to pass! ;)

    • And, just to share the love for everyone here: the Mod Carousel “boylesque” video in question, which features MUCH better singers than the original, and is altogether better because it is funny and fun for everyone…there is no suspicion that the nearly-nude performers in this one might have been roofied beforehand, etc.

      • <3 <3 <3

  5. I watched the VMAs just to see what all the fuss was about. Other than the fact that she was scantily clad (though what she was wearing was hardly provocative) I wouldn’t classify it as “slutty.” Like you said, the whole thing just seemed awkward/that she was trying too hard. What’s pathetic is that anyone with half a brain could tell this was a deliberate attempt to get a rise out of America/the world, that this was all for “shock value” (which Marilyn Manson aka the love of my life still takes the cake IMHO) and like the idiotic sheep they are, the masses have obliged. “What a whore!” I doubt Miley Cyrus needs to sell herself for money as she makes a great deal of it otherwise. Please. “She’s such a slut!” How original. Coming from most of the people who use that term for any woman who *gasp* ADMITS to actually liking sex! SAY IT AIN’T SO! Grow up, world.

    As for Robin Thicke and his Beetlejuice suit, unless he’s someone’s Dom, he should can it with that “good girl” malarkey. Which I’m suspecting he would be terrible at doing given his rapey lyrics.

    END RANT

    Anywho, I agree with everything as usual.

    • ;)

      The scantily-cladness of Ms. Cyrus was not even that scant, comparatively speaking. Did you see Lady GaGa’s performance of “Applause”? By the end of it, she wasn’t wearing 1/3 of what Miley was, and yet people said she was boring. (On the contrary–I tried to not like “Applause,” but I simply can’t not like it…she is the Eleventh Muse, after all! And, that song is much better than “Born This Way,” and more honest and forthright about being an attention whore, and self-parodyingly so…in other words, orders of magnitude beyond anything anyone has tried to read into Ms. Cyrus’ performance as a redeeming potential motive.)

      My final comment on Mr. Thicke: I suspect his surname refers to the thickness of his skull, and not the thickness of any other member of his body. :P

      • I loved Applause. I was afraid I wouldn’t but I did. So far reviews for it havent been that great but I guess you take a break from meat dresses and giant egg costumes and the world thinks you’ve gone soft. I’d also like to go on the record as saying her mermaid costume change was fantastic.

        I’m not hating on Miley’s choice of outfits, it’s no more revealing than a ton of others that have been used. I think the excessive showing of tongue and frat-boy-comedy-esque foam finger erotica were what got everyone riled up, that and her grinding on Robin Thick-head. Again, not that scandalous. Remember Britney’s debut of “I’m A Slave 4 U” (still one of my favorites) and how everyone swore Satan was working through her? This is child’s play compared to that.

        What I did not appreciate, however, is Kevin Hart’s spiel about how “Lady Gaga got a ass on her.” Because you know, totally relevant in comparison to her value as an artist.

        SMASH THE PATRIARCHY

        Ok now I’m really done.

  6. Oh, I could rant about how I detest, loathe, and despise the word “junk” when used as a euphemism for male sexual organs, until the cows come home and probably until they head out again. Grrrr.

    There’s a song on heavy rotation at my workplace, “I Make Them Good Girls Go Bad”, that just sets my teeth on edge every time I hear it. The lyrics disturb me on so many levels. No doubt it’s all due to my bourgeois lack of humor.

    • I’m not bourgeois by any stretch of the imagination (despite my educational level making it seem that way), and yet the real difficulty in all of this is not anyone’s lack of sense of humor, it’s that the things in question simply aren’t funny, and those who think they are have the real and dangerous difficulty of trivializing attitudes and language which can lead to very abusive, exploitative, horrible actions and indifference to the harm caused in them.

      Aargh! Feckin’ fecks…

  7. Is it wrong I don’t know who those people are?

    • Nope.

    • THat’s the right-est thing I’ve heard in all of this! ;)

  8. As Jay can attest, I will have it known that I’ve been doing an intense study into the world of twerking and found that Ms. Cyrus’ performance was a bit lacking. She would benefit from better muscle isolation and I would hasten to suggest she try belly dance and perhaps capoeria. In other news.

    • Nice! ;) I hope Andrew Christian also subsidized that video, given how much he showed off their products! ;)

    • It is so, though I’ve only seen the “fruits” of his efforts a single time, something that needs to be remedied posthaste!

      And I agree, she could definitely afford to take some bellydancing lessons. That’s where I learned how to shake my ass, though twerking is still beyond me.


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