Saturday, December 28, 2013

Song Lyric Some Days: Consent and "Blame It" Part II- (Please Don't) Blame It (On the Alcohol)

Trigger warning- song described is about rape, nothing in detail about that rape is mentioned in this post because this post describes more about the idea of blaming behavior on alcohol.

Speaking of blaming the victim, there is still a whole huge issue in this song that we have not covered.

The title of the song is "Blame It (On the Alcohol)," but Mr. Rapist over there is not blaming HIS actions on the alcohol.  No, he claims that the "shawty" in question is blaming HERS.  

"Ay she say she usually don't
But I know that she front
Cause shawty know what she want
But she don't wanna seem like she easy."

So obviously what she is going to do is:

"Blame it on the goose
Got you feeling loose
Blame it on Patron
Got you in the zone
Blame it on the a a a a a alcohol."

This is an actual problem for women in society, I will admit.  Women with sexual agency are seen as loose, easy, sluts, and lots of other bad words that have no equivalent for males who practice the same behavior.  I'll spare you the slut vs. player analysis because we all know I'm preaching to the choir anyway.  

A response to not wanting to be seen as "easy," at least in popular media, is the "I never do this" phenomenon, wherein a woman claims that she never hooks up/has one night stands/whatever while hooking up/having a one night stand/whatever.  While doing this, said lady may "blame it on the alcohol." (However, we all know that that should give their partner pause because as we have established in the previous blog post, sexual acts that happen because of alcohol that would not happen otherwise are rape.)

Because the woman in the song is in the "I never do this" category, she actually, at first, has a measure of agency.  "She say she usually don't" implies that she usually doesn't do this, but is going to make an exception, meaning that she is giving consent.  Of course, later in the song they have to go and ruin all of that, what with her total intoxication, but they got off to a not totally terrible start. 

However, I do want to explore the idea that women who take agency in their own sex lives have to pretend not to have it.

First, a message to the female identified people, I know it is hard because Society and Norms and lots of other capitalized words that you do not have control over, but if you want to change the world a little at a time, you could start by owning your actions.  Next time you are hooking up, instead of saying, "I never do this," say, "Let's do this."  Seriously, what kind of dude is going to mind that you did not deny (or confirm) frequently hooking up with people if you happen to be choosing him on this particular night?  And for the love of pizza and puppies and sunshine and all things good and sacred, please do not make consent any more confusing than it already is.  Do NOT blame it on the alcohol if you actually want to be doing whatever you want to be doing with this person.

HOWEVER (and this is a really big however- literally- see what I did there?), I'm pretty sure it isn't the female-identified people to blame, here.  Not ever having tried to pick up a woman in a club or anywhere may bias me here, but my female friends seem to own their sexual agency plenty and say what they mean.  Jaime Foxx, T Pain, and their awful writing team, in my mind, are perpetuating a myth that goes along with the whole "no means yes" phenomenon.  They PORTRAY women as not saying what they mean, as "blaming the alcohol" for the behavior that they actually deep down want to do anyways.  ("We probably gon do what you been feeling deep inside, don't lie now.")  

This is a huge contributor to rape culture because young men learn from these songs.  They learn to see behavior that women genuinely mean to be disinterest ("I don't want to dance with you."), lack of consent ("I don't want to have sex with you."), or the display of the inability to consent ("I'm soooo drunk.") as "fronts" or simply challenges to be overcome.  While some ladies really do blur the lines for the rest of us by not saying what they mean and not owning their behavior, the vast, vast majority of us aren't blaming the alcohol for actions we'd want to do anyway or saying no when we mean yes.  

In the end, it isn't women, but Jaime Foxx and T Pain who need to stop blaming it on the alcohol.

A personal appeal:  I say what I mean.  I am a deep, complex human with desires and dislikes and a story to tell.  Society teaches people that women are liars, that they don't say what they mean, that they don't know what is best for them, that they are generally second class citizens, and that deep down, all of them, always, want the d***.  When I say something to you, please, try to get past all this noise and listen to ME.  Don't let songs like "Blame It" make me voiceless.

Song Lyric Some Days: Consent and "Blame It (On the Alcohol)"- Jaime Foxx ft. T Pain

Content warning- rape

My family has a subscription to Rhapsody, a music service, that, among other things, has theme "radio stations."  We were listening to the #1 Hits station today (always hilarious- because the hits are basically from any decade and we can go from the twist to Lady Gaga in one song transition) and "Blame It (On the Alcohol)" came on.

I have only ever heard this song in the context of a school dance (probably quite a bit more appropriate than it should be), meaning that I had never actually been able to hear the words outside of the chorus before.  I heard them today for the first time, and they made me upset and scared.  Lots of songs are misogynist.  Particularly offensive are those that assume a woman wants to have sex with you because she exists or have no regard for what the woman wants at all ("Tonight I'm F***ing You," "In my Head").   However, in my limited experience (I listen to the radio and- gasp- popular music almost exclusively) few songs are explicitly about rape.  "Blame It" is. 

The scariest part about it isn't that a song about rape became a #1 Hit* or won a Grammy**(though lyric AND quality wise, that is pretty disturbing).  No, the scariest part is that probably all of you are sitting there going "That song is about rape?"  So, too, would be Jaime Foxx, T Pain, and the dude who wrote the song.

Let's take a closer look, shall we? In the midst of totally confusing lyrics such as "Feelin' on your butt what?" there are moments of what may be clarity.  These moments illustrate a disturbing picture.

"See what we can be if we press fast forward

Just one more round and you're down I know it"
"Couple more shots you open up like a book
I ain't trippin'? (cause I'ma read ya)
Shawty I ain't trippin? (I just want to please ya)"

And finally:

"Shawty got drunk thought it all was a dream.
So I made her say ahh, ahh ahh."

The University of Minnesota's Aurora Center defines consent this way:

"Consent is informed, freely and actively given, and mutually understood. If physical force, coercion, intimidation, and/or threats are used, there is no consent. If the victim/survivor is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired so that the victim/survivor cannot understand the fact, nature or extent of the sexual situation, and the condition was or would be known to a reasonable person, there is no consent. This includes conditions due to alcohol or drug consumption, or being asleep or unconscious."

They go on to say- "Rape is sexual intercourse without consent."

It is clear to me that this song is about a sexual encounter that took place without consent, and that the singer was in fact, preying upon this woman by encouraging her to drink more, understanding that this would make her receptive to his sexual advances when she otherwise would not have been.  This is rape, without question.  

However, I doubt (I hope not, anyway) this song would be so popular if people truly understood this.  Probably the guy in the song does not know he is a rapist, or he wouldn't be advertising it.  Alcohol and consent is one of the hardest relationships for people to understand.  Alcohol is a part of our culture, and people CAN have consensual sex under its influence (to a point).  Lots of people want to know where the line is.  (An educator at my college says when asking where the line is, people are really asking, "How close can I come to raping someone without actually raping them?")  I don't have the answer to where the line is, only that the man in this song crossed it and then some.  There are lots of signs towards this being the case, such as the predatory nature of him waiting for her to get drunk enough that she'd "be down," when she was not already, and the big red flag, that the woman "thought it was all a dream."  

Friends, I'm not telling you that if your potential partner has had a drink they can never consent.  However, if you are using alcohol to get people to do what they wouldn't otherwise do, or if your partner is so intoxicated they cannot tell what is a dream or what is reality, you are a rapist.  Please, please, please do not be like this guy and be a rapist out of ignorance.  Not knowing what consent is doesn't make you not a rapist.  Consent is something responsible adults practice, and those who do not understand it should not be having ANY sexual interactions.  In the best case scenario, this song's popularity indicates to me that most people do not understand what consent is.  That, to me, is terrifying.  So, terrifying, in fact, that I cannot even begin to contemplate a world in which most people understand the song is about rape and like it anyway.  But I know that we could be living in that world, too.  All you have to do is look at any coverage of a rape where the survivor was brave enough to speak out.  The song our society plays isn't "Blame It (On the Alcohol)" it is "Blame It (On the Victim)."

*On the R&B/Hip-Hop Charts for 14 weeks running, the song peaked at #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100

**Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, 52nd Grammy Awards