Let Them Talk (bluetooth16) wrote in ontd_political,
Let Them Talk

How Pop Became Porn

Stole this away from the stans and incompetent dolts over on the Mothership.:

The woman is naked - or looks like she is. Only a flesh-coloured leotard covers her body. Her long blonde hair tumbles down her back. She's in a cage, sliding her fingers provocatively in and out of her mouth.

A scene from a cliched pornographic film? Sadly not. The woman in question is Shakira, a pop superstar and the fourth richest singer in the world.

The images can be seen in the video for her single, She Wolf, which will be watched obsessively, again and again, by thousands of young men and women, many of whom will form the opinion that writhing in a cage is precisely the way 'sexy' women should behave.

Meanwhile, in the video for her single, Rude Boy, Rihanna, an American pop star most famous for having been beaten up by her boyfriend, is dressed in leather bondage gear. She writhes on the floor. She sits astride a zebra.

Even the wholesome-in-real-life, meek and mild Leona Lewis is transformed in her music videos into passive victim, usually portrayed sliding around on the floor (can the male directors of these short films really not come up with anything else?).

Common themes? Girls in cages (in a mainstream Girls Aloud video, Lindsay Lohan is trapped in a bird cage). Girls dressed as animals. Girls caressing themselves. Girls lying prone, and who look as though they have been or are about to be raped.

Women filmed in dark, wet alleyways, inevitably dressed as prostitutes (the hugely famous female artists who have been portrayed in this scenario are far too numerous to mention).

I have just spent 24 hours watching MTV's various, numerous channels. My eyes hurt. My brain has lapsed into a confused coma. I felt nauseated one moment, bored out of my skull the next.

Yesterday, psychologist Linda Papadopoulos delivered a 100-page report to the Home Office into violence against women, and called for sexual or provocative pop videos to be banned before the watershed of 9pm.

'Children and young people today are not only exposed to increasing amounts of hypersexualised images,' she wrote in the report. 'They are also sold the idea that they have to look "sexy" and "hot".'

This report follows on the heels of recent promises by both Labour and Conservative MPs to do more to combat the early sexualisation of young girls: the sale of padded bras for children, sparkly pink T-shirts daubed with the slogan 'When I grow up I want to be a WAG', and the like.

On Woman's Hour a week ago, David Cameron spoke about how he wanted to stop his very young daughter listening to Lily Allen's music because of the provocative lyrics, but that he had failed miserably.

This is because parents are powerless to police all these images and their dangerous messages. MTV - which pumps this stuff out all day long - and You Tube are just too powerful.

As well as a moratorium on sexually explicit videos on television, stricter measures need to be introduced as to what can be viewed by children on the internet, because the safeguards are laughable.

Pop stars themselves are never going to change, fearing they will seem out-of-touch, past it, or simply tame in a cultural climate which has seen soft porn merging with mainstream music videos.

When I have challenged female pop stars about why they allow themselves to be portrayed in this way, particularly when they know how young their fans are, they always spout the same nonsense.

When I asked Shakira, the Latin American superstar, how she can square being sexy, wearing skimpy clothes, with her charitable work championing children in the developing world, she replied indignantly: 'Of course I can square it! I think my image is one of being powerful, in control.'

Why, then, appear as a tawdry pinup on the cover of FHM magazine?

'I am totally pro-women,' she said. 'I know it's critical to invest in girls' education.'

A non-sequitur if I ever I heard one. When I told Kimberley Walsh that I've always felt the scantily dressed, over-made-up uniform of her group, Girls Aloud, makes young women appear weak and relentlessly girly, she shook her head, a mass of Forties- style curls, liberally enhanced with the requisite extensions.

'We dress up in videos because we're in a band, and it's part of the performance to be glamorous,' she responded. 'But just because we look the way we do doesn't make us weak.

'I know young girls copy us, but that doesn't mean we don't think that having a personality isn't more important than being beautiful. I never look like this when I'm at home.'

Is that true, I wonder. Can young girls tell the difference between dressing up for a video, a performance, and real life?

Can young boys, particularly, differentiate between girls in a group and those who live in their street, or will they grow up with a warped view of how women should look and behave?

Spend a Friday night watching women parade in town centres the length and breadth of Britain and you will be able to see for yourself that they take the drag queen make-up and hooker uniform they see on screen literally.

recently talked to a group of teenage girls at a school in Hackney. They were all dressed as though they were extras in one of these music videos: exposed thighs (despite the snow!), hooped earrings and false eyelashes.

Which female role models do they most look up to? 'Beyonce!' they chorused.

One 17-year-old said: 'We want her clothes and her lifestyle.' (Note, not one young woman said: 'But we realise how hard we would have to work to get that.')

Some people may argue that I'm being prudish; that music videos have always been controversial, packed with sex and violence. Isn't the point of pop music to enrage parents?

MTV, which showed its first video in August 1981, was criticised from the start for its fast-moving images, and for limiting the attention span of its viewers.

When Duran Duran's video for Girls On Film aired, depicting naked women wrestling in oil, parents bombarded the station with complaints.

In the U.S., the National Coalition On TV Violence condemned MTV as early as 1985, while the loudest critics were cable TV mogul Ted Turner and Al Gore's wife, Tipper, who took exception at the sexual content of many hip-hop videos.

MTV actually took some of this criticism on board, cutting back on the more violent heavy metal videos, and even banning Madonna's Justify My Love video in 1990 for its explicit, sadomasochistic content.

But the channel's acknowledgment that it needs to exercise restraint seems to have been forgotten.

These days, Madonna's early videos seem positively quaint. Even the Spice Girls were preferable to what we have on offer today: at least they sang about power.

They might have dressed skimpily, but there was an innocence, a freshness to their look. They put each other before boys.

A study of the MTV network's content by the Parents' Television Council in America found 1,548 sexual scenes containing 3,056 depictions of sex or nudity in just 71 hours; that is a sexual scene every 6.6 minutes.

Even the female artists who started their careers espousing the virtues of being independent, of not relying on a man to pay the bills (two of Beyonce's early songs were called Independent Woman and Bills), have become more and more sexual.

On these music channels, as well as the music videos featuring women who are never old, never not liberally oiled, never not near naked, never not writhing at the feet of some dreadful man, there are liberal dollops of 'documentaries' and game shows.

Would you like some examples of what is actually being broadcast, at all times of day and night, on the most recognised network among young adults aged 12 to 34, a network that is watched by 73 per cent of all boys and 78 per cent of girls, and which is pumped into more than 10million homes in the UK and Ireland?

There is a reality TV programme featuring a 'bisexual hottie' and her quest for a partner.

The young women taking part in this programme are all hysterical, tanned, fake-breasted imbeciles with names like Brittany. The young men have bandanas and six packs, and nurse pent-up balls of aggression they occasionally unleash by headbutting each other.

Another show, which is preceded by the words 'Warning: Stupid show ahead', features a fat teenager who proceeds to harass members of the public.

There is hip-hop's answer to Whose Line Is It Anyway?, in which a half-naked girl is leered at by sportswear-clad men who have nothing witty whatsoever to say to her. It is merely lewd.

Another show, The Hills, is about high-maintenance, whining girls who all aspire to work on Teen Vogue if only they could lift their heads out of a puddle of drool.

In between all this rubbish is the occasional music video for songs - and I use that word loosely - with lyrics including 'How u like it, daddy, the way she do it from the back?' and another song about the joys of 'wearing my Rolex'.

As one despairing father wrote in a blog, having just watched, with his teenage children, a 'human sundae eating competition', where a girl eats cream off a dude's chest: 'It's the content, the imagery, I can't stand.

'Sex as combat, the crotch as fetish. The stupid, blatant monotonous sexism. The tight shots of body parts. I don't see much difference between MTV and pornography.'

While there are a few female artists who have not accepted that debasing themselves in this way is inevitable, there really is a dearth of female singers who have intelligent lyrics, and who manage to keep their clothes on.

Where are the Carole Kings, the Tracy Chapmans, even the Bjorks of today?

While there is a wave of new young singers who have come to the fore on the back of High School Musical and Glee, these seem to appeal only to the very young: all the teenagers I've spoken to dismiss these stars as hopelessly square, the Osmonds of our time.

While I agree that we do need tighter controls on what is shown on both TV and the internet, particularly given the fact that so many very young children have both TV sets and laptops in their bedrooms, absolutely nothing will change until a new wave of singers emerge who are intelligent, who write their own songs and control their own careers and, most importantly, manage to keep their clothes on.

What I saw on MTV, and have glanced at several times on the internet, was an entire sub-culture of mainstream music videos in which sex is the only currency: in which girls wear bikinis, and boys take their pick.

It's depressing. It's demeaning. And it's corrupting a generation who simply don't have the moral guidance that would lead them to turn it off.

Whatever legit points were in this editorial were sadly obscured by needless pearl clutching. What do you guys think?

Tags: feminism, music, sexism

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