Today in Rape Culture

[Trigger warning.]

So. A singer named Kiely Williams, who used to be one of The Cheetah Girls ("Who are The Cheetah Girls? I'm OLD!"—Melissa McEwan), released a single earlier this year called "Spectacular," about which two things are notable: 1. It's terrible. 2. It's about (what is colloquially known as) a date rape.

Except, hey, who cares about being raped if the "sex is spectacular," amirite?

Last night I was drunk / I don't remember much / But what I do constant pictures / That's how gone I was / But he was tall and he was buying / So I gave him a trying / Said he was built like a stallion / And the man wasn't lying / [Refrain] Last I remember / I was face down, ass up, clothes off, broke off, dozed off / Even though I'm not sure of his name / He could get it again if he wanted / 'Cause the sex was spectacular / The sex was spectacular / The sex was spectacular / The sex was spectacular / sing-songy sex noises [End Refrain] / So it was the morning after / I couldn't get home faster / Doing the walk of shame / In the same clothes from yesterday / I think he pulled a track out / When he was blowing my back out / What was I drinking / I can't believe I blacked out / [Refrain] / You can say what you want but / You can call me a slut but / What he did to me last night felt so good / I must have been on drugs / I hope he used a rubber / Or I'mma be in trouble / Promise I don't remember / Except for rolling over / Give it to me, give it to me / Ooh baby what a ride ride / Oh ride ride / So smooth like the beats / I like the heat / Ooh baby what a night night / Right right / [Refrain]
Following the song's release, some fuddy-duddy hysterics pointed out the song was sort of enormously inappropriate with its implicit message that rape is defined by whether "the sex" was hot rather than the presence or absence of consent, and, because I am the Most Humorless Feminist in all of Nofunnington, you know I'm high-fiving them for what is obviously just an attempt to deliberately misconstrue a PERFECTLY NICE SONG in order to ruin the life of its performer because she's not performing family-friendly Disney songs anymore, especially when she's the voice of a generation (of sluts, of which she isn't one).

Kiely isn't going to stand for that nonsense!

So, it has been quite a day. [laughs] You know, um, the "Spectacular" video, I think, has made quite a splash, to say the least. But, since everyone else has given their two cents, I thought it was time for me to share mine.

First, I just want to say: No! This video is not condoning date rape. [gestures and makes an expression like "What the fuck? How could anyone come to THAT conclusion?!"] The song isn't condoning date rape. [shrugs] It's just not. I really just want to say that, you know, sometimes, to me, music can be as simple as, as a story relayed, or imagined, or elaborated on. Not every song has a, a greater message to the world. Not every song is "We Are the World"! [laughs] It's a great song, but sometimes a song can just be "I kissed a girl and I liked it." [shrugs] That's great, too, you know?

I think a lot of the confusion—and maybe it's not confusion; it's more this [pauses; furrows brow]…this kind of outrage—it, I think it stems from my years being a Cheetah Girl. So, let's address that: Yes, I still believe in girl power. Yes, I still believe that young women should follow their dreams and stay true to themselves and their friends. But I also do know a lot of twenty-somethings who go out and get a little bit too drunk and go home with a guy whose name they can't quite remember. [makes "that's the unfortunate truth" face] It's not my idea of a perfect Saturday night, no, but it does happen. A lot. And maybe it's something that we all do need to talk about more.

Look, if you don't like the video, that's fine. You don't have to; it's a free country. But don't shoot the messenger. All right. All love, guys. [blows kiss]
Well, there are also two notable things about this video: 1. Kiely is as terrible an actress as she is a singer. 2. It confirms that the rape culture is alive and well, including all its associated silencing techniques like my all-time favorite, "Art exists in a void."

It would be hilarious, were it not so tragic, that she invokes Katy Perry's loathsome gay-dabbling anthem as evidence of a song without cultural significance, despite the fact that its supporters hold it up as evidence of LGB solidarity and its detractors hold it up as evidence of straight performers who casually appropriate aspects of being gay in a manner that ultimately reinforces the idea that being gay is merely a "lifestyle." There's almost no one who regards the controversial song as having no message, or impact.

And only after mounting the argument that her song is just a song—geez!—she then veers wildly in the other direction, arguing that she's speaking TRUTH about young women's lives, even though she isn't one of those women, hell no, and maybe we should be having an important conversation about the issue she addresses in her song that totally doesn't have a message.


All of these logical contortions to avoid looking reality in the face and admitting: Fuck, my single is a super-heinous song about rape. I'm so sorry.

Because her song isn't, after all, about a "twenty-something who goes out and gets a little bit too drunk and goes home with a guy whose name she can't quite remember." Her song is about a woman who "dozed off" and "blacked out" and "must have been on drugs" because she can't even remember whether the man she was with used a condom. That's not a booze-fueled one-night-stand. That's a rape.

Even if someone is sober enough to consent and gives enthusiastic consent for sexual activity (an issue around which the song skirts), continuing to "have sex" with a sleeping or unconscious person is rape. Consent can be withdrawn at any point during a sexual act, and ergo the ability to withdraw consent is part of a consensual sex act. Consent isn't an on-off switch. Consent is an active entity.

The idea that saying "yes" means saying yes to everything no matter what happens is a narrative of the rape culture.

Partners are present. Once they cease to be present, they are no longer partners, but victims.

This is what is described in "Spectacular." And no one needs to look for a deeper meaning to find that what's described in the song is rape. This isn't about trying to extricate a "greater message" from a "simple" pop song, as Kiely argues her critics are doing. It's right there in the lyrics.

Kiely was right about one thing, though: What happens in the song does happen a lot. To my endless grief and regret.

[Via Videogum.]

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