This post is cross-posted at JWA
I was a little surprised to see how much frank talk about sex was featured in The Sisterhood this week. As a teenager, I am used to people around me talking about sex a lot–in real life, in movies, in songs, in basically every medium except in Jewish blogs. But that is no longer!
It was interesting for me to read about how many women have been affected by the lack of frank discussion of sex and sexuality in Judaism, and how many women go through their lives without really talking about sex or their sexual needs. On one hand, I find that foreign, because people around me talk about sex all the time. On the other hand, when I thought about it, so much of the portrayal of sex in the media is skewed–there is a lot of woman-bashing, perpetuation of sexual stereotypes, and very little emphasis on what women actually want. Sounds kind of similar to the complaints Jewish women have about their own lack of sexual literacy.
So I thought that I’d share this music video by Rihanna, an internationally known pop artist, as an example of some of the contradictions in the portrayal of sex in the media today and what they mean for the way women see their sexuality.
On one hand, the video is clearly very sexual, to the point that it is somewhat uncomfortable to watch. Rihanna wears very little clothing, and the entire video could be seen as demeaning to Rihanna in the way that she uses her body to get people to watch her video and listen to her music. However, if you listen to the lyrics, the discussion gets somewhat more complicated when she says things like “Boy, I want, want, want whatchu want, want, want,” “Relax, let me do it how I wanna” and “Babe, if I don’t feel it I ain’t faking, no, no.” She declares that she has sexual needs just like any man and makes it clear that she expects to be satisfied. The picture she paints is nowhere near perfect, clearly–Rude Boy doesn’t teach any kind of actual safe sex education. However, it still paints the picture of a strong woman who will not settle for a man who will not please her.
Personally, I think that it is important that songs like this exist. Its not my favorite song, to say the least, but I find it somewhat empowering to know that a woman can write a song about her sexual demands just like so many men write songs about what they want from women. And while it is easy to write Rude Boy off as an overly sexual pop video (which I believe it is, to an extent), it also serves as a counterpoint to too many overly sexual pop videos that portray women as having no sexual needs. Girls today, used to hearing songs like Right Round and Gimme Head (this is not a joke), have gotten used to only thinking about sex in terms of men’s needs. Is Rude Boy perfect? No. But is it a step in the right direction? I believe that it is.
Read the rest here