Society Magazine

How Popular Music Perpetuates Rape Culture

Posted on the 11 February 2015 by Juliez
How Popular Music Perpetuates Rape Culture

Brooke Axtell, the domestic violence survivor who spoke at the Grammys

Many people have praised the effort made to raise awareness about domestic violence at the Grammys. Yet plenty have also noted the irony of the same organization that nominated Chris Brown acknowledging this issue. The issue of the intersection of popular music and violence against women is hardly one relegated to this event, though. Popular music has been perpetuating rape culture for years.

Think of the average teen girl. Everywhere she goes, she hears Robin Thicke sing “You know you want it”, and Rick Ross say “Put molly all in her champagne/She ain’t even know it/I took her home and I enjoyed that/She ain’t even know it.” Her body, the one thing she possesses in the most intimate form, is collateral damage. These lyrics reduce her to an outlet for physical and sexual aggression for people who can never know her pain. Existing as a woman in a society in which violence against females is actively perpetuated and glorified, especially through popular music, is terrifying.

For women, it is all too common to live under the constant fear of rape in their daily lives. This fear has them checking over their shoulders, startling easily, refusing to leave home alone after dark, how this fear paralyzes them. In her book Full Frontal Feminism, Jessica Valenti describes this perpetual apprehension well:

“When I was in college, a teacher once said that all women live by a ‘rape schedule.’ I was baffled by the term, but as she went on to explain, I got really freaked out. Because I realized that I knew exactly what she was talking about. And you do too. Because of their constant fear of rape (conscious or not), women do things throughout the day to protect themselves. Whether it’s carrying their keys in their hands as they walk home, locking their car doors as soon as we get in, or not walking down certain streets, they take precautions. While taking precautions is certainly not a bad idea, the fact that certain things women do are so ingrained into their daily routines is truly disturbing. It’s essentially like living in a prison – all the time. They can’t assume that they’re safe anywhere: not on the streets, not in their homes. They’re so used to feeling unsafe that they don’t even see that there’s something seriously [messed] up about it.”

 This is a prime example of Rape Culture, which is commonly defined by many universities as “an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. [Rape culture] is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.”

The neglect of women’s rights is so rampant that perpetrators often go unscathed. Ludacris files for full custody of his young daughter, weeks after releasing music brandishing the lyrics “She let down all her defenses and yes I give her the business/?With the quickness she came to her senses, while I’m tappin’ and snappin’ pictures/?Relentless but so persistent now she said it’s just Ludacris”, and no one bats an eye. He is a “good father.” The seemingly innocuous Nickelback belts “And I love your lack of self-respect/ While you passed out on the deck/I love my hands around your neck” and people fawn over them. A woman’s willingness to engage in sexual activity is presumed through statements such as “You know you want it, because of these blurred lines” (of consent), and the song is so successful that Robin Thicke considers a legal name change to Blurred Lines.

Unfortunately, the previous examples are relatively mild. Eminim spits “Sit down beside her like a spider, hi there girl, you mighta? Heard of me before, see whore, you’re the kind of girl that I’d assault? And rape then figure why not try not to make your pussy wider? Fuck you with an umbrella, then open it up while the shit’s inside ya? I’m the kinda guy that’s mild but I might flip and get a little bit wilder”. This disgusting display of sexual violence is just a foot in the door of what young women hear on a daily basis. DMX in “X is Coming” rhymes “Tryin’ to send the bitch back to her maker? And if you got a daughter older then 15, I’mma rape her? Take her on the living room floor, right there in front of you ?Then ask you seriously, whatchu wanna do?”

The effects of hearing these words spewed out like venom are poisonous to women. Not only do they fear for their safety in subliminal ways such as not leaving home after dark, their apprehension is exacerbated to terror when triggered by the fully loaded guns of misogyny and rape culture in music.

The prevalence of violence and hostility against women, not only physically, but also psychosocially, has established rape as such a deeply ingrained staple of American culture. It’s not just found in our music’s lyrics, but also evident in the fact that women buy stylized pepper sprays and call them fashion statements — they’re so accustomed to being preyed upon, that they shrug it off as the natural order of things. Women are taught that they are public property. They learn that their anatomy is sinful, and men are helpless to control their carnal desires to take what was never even theirs. And a twelve year old girl whose squirmed under the gaze of an uncle, or a teacher, rides home later that day only to hear about how worthless she is from the songs on the radio that haunt her the way their hands do. And she shakes.

This is why we need to support truly feminist musicians. We need to demand musicians who espouse empowering lyrics and refuse to support those who don’t. It’s important to push back on sexist musicians, but it’s even more important to create feminist music and support feminist artists.


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