The ‘blurred lines’ between popular music and sexual exploitation

Music videos and pornography: same difference?


After a recent deluge of highly sexualised music videos and in the wake of the Miley Cyrus-Sinead O’Connor feud, Annie Lennox came out last week and argued that many of today’s music videos are “soft porn”. There seems to be a general consensus across most age groups that some of the music videos released by international pop stars have indeed crossed into the realm of porn.

Two videos that have, quite frankly, disturbed me, are the recent ‘Pour It Up’ video by Rihanna, and last month’s Iggy Azalea video ‘Change Your Life’ featuring T.I. Both videos are reminiscent of soft porn, consisting of scantily dressed women dry humping different pieces of furniture.

If that’s not degrading enough, money is a focus in both. Rihanna tosses dollars from her crotch and sings “Money makes the world go round, bands make your girl go down” (bands being a slang term for $1000). In Azalea’s video, meanwhile, T.I. slaps some notes down and the scene cuts to them getting rather frisky on top of a flashy car.

Where’s the originality, you may ask? There isn’t any. As a friend of mine pointed out, over-sexualised videos are not a new aspect of the pop industry. Male pop stars have had half-naked women prancing around in similar settings for years.

So why is it that there has been such a major backlash against female pop stars deciding to bare all? Is it that the world still cannot accept free sexuality in relation to women?

I thought long and hard about why my reaction to these videos was so intense and I realized that was not the case. We all know that sex sells, so when female pop stars submit to this, it sends a message. They think it’s okay to be seen as a sexual object. The videos glamourise the lives of strippers, porn stars, and even prostitutes, when in reality these women are often the most vulnerable.

What Lennox seems to be most concerned about is the exposure of these videos to children. She has called for pop videos to be rated in the same way as films for age-restricted content.

We no longer live in an era where young boys have to sneak a porn mag out of newsagent’s. There is no limit to the number of ways to access a music video, and the ways of controlling this are limited. The ‘EXPLICIT’ that sits next to videos online only shouts to children ‘HEY, COME AND WATCH ME’. Not to mention the pathetic box that pops up before streaming TV, which takes a simple tick to confirm that you’re over 18.

It is not just the videos that are inappropriate, but also many of the lyrics too. Rihanna, one of the many culprits, continuously produces repetitive songs that children can learn faster than their homework. A prime example is her number one song, with the lyrics “Come on rude boy (boy) can you get it up…” (I know you know the rest)!

So how can we protect children without stepping into the dangerous territory of censorship? Awareness seems to be the key. Parents need to realize that these types of videos exist, and a dialogue needs to begin to ensure that artists and the industry as a whole, realise the damage videos like this can cause. Perhaps videos of that nature don’t really belong on YouTube alongside cute animals and funny babies.