Saturday, December 28, 2013

Song Lyric Some Days: Consent and "Blame It (On the Alcohol)"- Jaime Foxx ft. T Pain

Content warning- rape

My family has a subscription to Rhapsody, a music service, that, among other things, has theme "radio stations."  We were listening to the #1 Hits station today (always hilarious- because the hits are basically from any decade and we can go from the twist to Lady Gaga in one song transition) and "Blame It (On the Alcohol)" came on.

I have only ever heard this song in the context of a school dance (probably quite a bit more appropriate than it should be), meaning that I had never actually been able to hear the words outside of the chorus before.  I heard them today for the first time, and they made me upset and scared.  Lots of songs are misogynist.  Particularly offensive are those that assume a woman wants to have sex with you because she exists or have no regard for what the woman wants at all ("Tonight I'm F***ing You," "In my Head").   However, in my limited experience (I listen to the radio and- gasp- popular music almost exclusively) few songs are explicitly about rape.  "Blame It" is. 

The scariest part about it isn't that a song about rape became a #1 Hit* or won a Grammy**(though lyric AND quality wise, that is pretty disturbing).  No, the scariest part is that probably all of you are sitting there going "That song is about rape?"  So, too, would be Jaime Foxx, T Pain, and the dude who wrote the song.

Let's take a closer look, shall we? In the midst of totally confusing lyrics such as "Feelin' on your butt what?" there are moments of what may be clarity.  These moments illustrate a disturbing picture.

"See what we can be if we press fast forward

Just one more round and you're down I know it"
"Couple more shots you open up like a book
I ain't trippin'? (cause I'ma read ya)
Shawty I ain't trippin? (I just want to please ya)"

And finally:

"Shawty got drunk thought it all was a dream.
So I made her say ahh, ahh ahh."

The University of Minnesota's Aurora Center defines consent this way:

"Consent is informed, freely and actively given, and mutually understood. If physical force, coercion, intimidation, and/or threats are used, there is no consent. If the victim/survivor is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired so that the victim/survivor cannot understand the fact, nature or extent of the sexual situation, and the condition was or would be known to a reasonable person, there is no consent. This includes conditions due to alcohol or drug consumption, or being asleep or unconscious."

They go on to say- "Rape is sexual intercourse without consent."

It is clear to me that this song is about a sexual encounter that took place without consent, and that the singer was in fact, preying upon this woman by encouraging her to drink more, understanding that this would make her receptive to his sexual advances when she otherwise would not have been.  This is rape, without question.  

However, I doubt (I hope not, anyway) this song would be so popular if people truly understood this.  Probably the guy in the song does not know he is a rapist, or he wouldn't be advertising it.  Alcohol and consent is one of the hardest relationships for people to understand.  Alcohol is a part of our culture, and people CAN have consensual sex under its influence (to a point).  Lots of people want to know where the line is.  (An educator at my college says when asking where the line is, people are really asking, "How close can I come to raping someone without actually raping them?")  I don't have the answer to where the line is, only that the man in this song crossed it and then some.  There are lots of signs towards this being the case, such as the predatory nature of him waiting for her to get drunk enough that she'd "be down," when she was not already, and the big red flag, that the woman "thought it was all a dream."  

Friends, I'm not telling you that if your potential partner has had a drink they can never consent.  However, if you are using alcohol to get people to do what they wouldn't otherwise do, or if your partner is so intoxicated they cannot tell what is a dream or what is reality, you are a rapist.  Please, please, please do not be like this guy and be a rapist out of ignorance.  Not knowing what consent is doesn't make you not a rapist.  Consent is something responsible adults practice, and those who do not understand it should not be having ANY sexual interactions.  In the best case scenario, this song's popularity indicates to me that most people do not understand what consent is.  That, to me, is terrifying.  So, terrifying, in fact, that I cannot even begin to contemplate a world in which most people understand the song is about rape and like it anyway.  But I know that we could be living in that world, too.  All you have to do is look at any coverage of a rape where the survivor was brave enough to speak out.  The song our society plays isn't "Blame It (On the Alcohol)" it is "Blame It (On the Victim)."

*On the R&B/Hip-Hop Charts for 14 weeks running, the song peaked at #2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100

**Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, 52nd Grammy Awards

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