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Sexiness fails to raunch in music videos

This is the unedited version of my column that appeared in the Courier Mail, Wednesday 23rd May 20102.

Music mogul, 60-year old Mike Stock, who was part of Stock, Aitken and Waterman, the trio responsible for producing many hits in the 1980s and 90s, and for launching Kylie Minogue’s career, has publicly condemned the risqué and hypersexual performances of contemporary singers.

In the Mail Online, he accused music artists of using sex to sell when their talent fails. Stock describes the “new breed of rap and Lady GaGa types” as “sluttish.”

He worries that “young girls think they are someone worth emulating.”

Stock is not the first to make these kinds of claims. For years, experts from around the world have spoken of the harm the hyper-sexualisation of pop culture causes young girls and boys. The American Psychological Association even linking it to poor mental health and unhealthy sexual development.

Like Stock, and others, I’m so damn tired of all the pornographic, tasteless and trashy videos littering the current music scene. The use of the singular is pertinent here, because there seems to be only one scene with an interchangeable star.

The lyrics are occasionally good, the melody fine; it’s the visual accompaniment that’s so often boring, predictable and trashy.

Ever since Cher straddled that cannon in “Turn Back Time” and the Pussycat Dolls threw down the “hotness” gauntlet, female artists of varying talents have tried to out-pout, kiss, suck, lick, gyrate and dry-hump (cars, poles, men, women) each other in what passes for music video these days.

I say, enough already.

Even 42-year-old Jennifer Lopez’s video, “Dance Again”, doesn’t incite shock so much as it does a yawn. And that’s a pity for while its lyrics celebrate the elation that comes from loving again after heartache, and the beat is joyous, the clip features an orgy of writhing bodies and limbs, close-ups of the singer’s famous derriere and a carefully choreographed “love scene” with her new beau, 24-year-old dancer, Casper Smart.

It’s so constructed and banal that it failed to “raunch” anything but tiresome sighs that such a good artist can be so unoriginal.

Likewise, Madonna, someone who has proven her talent as well as her cultural and social capital over and over, persists on demonstrating, through humdrum and, frankly, laughable moves and costumes, her “sexiness”.

Age has nothing to do with it really, there’s just something so unsexy and derivative about trying so hard. Rhianna, Ke$ha, Miley Cyrus, are the same.

We don’t want or expect singers to come overall Amish, after all, sexiness and music have long gone hand in hand, but the reductive displays, the fact we’ve seen it all before, makes it so dull and uninspiring.

What’s interesting is that while girls are reduced to “sexy” spectacles in music – whether they’re the principal artist or back-up dancers/props, boys like Justin Beiber and One Direction, for example, have other options.

Dannielle Miller, CEO of Enlighten Education writes in an excellent blog that, “In music video world, all too often the message is: when a young guy wants to show he is now a man, he can get a leather jacket and pout; but for a young woman to show she is grown up, she has to get it all off and grind.”

Miller uses Ricki-Lee’s latest video, “Do It Like That” as an example of what’s become the stock-standard aesthetic for female performers – running around in underwear.

Lingerie, faux nudity, impossibly high heels, torn stockings, and/or a corset have also become normalised. While we’re checking the boxes, there’s the young man/men to fawn over, the pole to grind, the car to stroke, as well as her own body. And don’t tell me this is “empowering”, “liberating” or simply the means by which young women express their sexuality.

I’m sick of the language of feminism being exploited and misused to excuse/defend what’s fundamentally a new sexism and women’s complicity in it. I will not be silenced as an out-of-touch wowser.

Women are no longer simply being seen as sex objects, we’re going out of our way to become them and encouraging our daughters to as well.

In her book, Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism, Natasha Walter writes, “When we talked about empowerment in the past, it was not a young woman in a thong gyrating around a pole that would spring to mind…”

I am woman see me whore…

The pornification of pop culture has codified and diminished sexiness, turned it into a parody, a Playboy delusion, and sold it back to us. Too many arestill buying it – copying the images and taking them into the world beyond.

We’ve been short changed.

Sexuality and its healthy expression are normal – stripping it of the possibility of intimacy, connection and emotion and adopting it as a public identity and calling it “liberating” or “empowering”, for either gender, is not.



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