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You Can’t Come and Get It: An Exploration of the Female Endorsement of Rape Culture in Entertainment

Watch out, Robin. Selena Gomez and Lady Gaga endorse female complicity in the rape culture through their latest hit singles.

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mtv.co.uk / Via mtv.co.uk

When Robin Thicke looks sultrily into the camera and tells a good girl that he knows she wants it, the entire female population guards her loins and emphatically screams no. Since the song “Blurred Lines” was released in March 2013, men and women alike have become outraged that the lyrics seem to condone rape. A group of women even made a feminist response on YouTube entitled “Defined Lines”. Now, Thicke’s catchy tune has been nominated for the Record of the Year Grammy, and the Internet community has voiced its dissent that a song endorsing a culture of rape and misogyny could earn the highest title of the year.

Women are quick to forget, however, that there are two sides to the gender equality coin. Mr. Thicke is not the only popular musical artist that seems to approve of masochism, and the company he keeps may be surprising. Lately, female artists have endorsed the rape culture with which they so vehemently disagree. Instead of telling listeners what they think a sexual partner wants (like in “Blurred Lines”) these artists make it clear that the desires of their partner supersede their own.

For example, every day, thousands of girls sing along with Selena Gomez on the radio as she enthusiastically responds to Robin Thicke’s sexual inquiry with her hit song “Come and Get It." “You ain’t gotta worry,” Selena insists during the first verse, “It’s an open invitation.” Selena tells her audience “When you’re ready, come and get it”, and it’s doubtful she’s talking about dinner.

Lady Gaga’s new song “Do What U Want” echoes Selena Gomez’s message, but this time, it’s not a solo performance. The song is a conversation with controversial singer R. Kelly. In 2009, Kelly was accused of the statutory rape of a seventeen-year-old girl, and in 2013, is featured on the track in which Gaga tells him to “do what you want with my body.” Lady Gaga, who in a previous song stated that she is not a “wandering slave” but a “woman of choice”, now gives all men the freedom to treat a woman however they please. “You can’t have my heart and you won’t use my mind,” she croons. Gaga certainly blurs the lines just as much as Robin Thicke with her lyrics.

Furthermore, the top YouTube comments for the music videos of “Come and Get It” and “Do What U Want” compliment the songs’ pop essence while those of Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” music video debate feminism and masochism. Why are we failing to notice that women can endorse rape culture just as strongly as men? Is it because we automatically perceive women to be the victims of sexual crimes? A study by the women’s center of Marshall University notes one characteristic of rape culture to be “defining ‘womanhood’ as submissive and sexually passive”. Gaga and Gomez certainly exemplify the promotion of this characteristic in modern pop culture.

What message do these artists send to women and men alike about consent? Rape is never the fault of the victim, but women need to stop inviting men to disrespect our bodies and perceive every sexual decision as okay. Perhaps we as women should not point a finger at Robin Thicke for admitting what he wants to do to us, but rather criticize ourselves for giving open-ended consent for his fantasies to become a reality.

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