Handcuffs, Anyone? Sexual Submission in Pop Music

Mary Jane Porzenheim Staff Writer My first upper school assembly began with a hit song, like most of Latin US assemblies. I was mainly surprised because it was playing in a school setting but also because it was  “S&M”. I’m not criticizing Latin’s recognition of our maturity. I am, however, trying to point out that “S&M” was pretty popular amongst the crowd of teenagers. What are some other popular songs that have been played at such assemblies? Well, Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” and “Take Over Control” by Afrojack (featuring Eva Simons) seems to be on people’s playlists. What do these songs have in common? For one thing, they all have undertones of women sexually submitting to men. Think about it.  Rihanna sings “give it to me strong… I like it”. We can all understand what she wants to be given- no need to be crass here, but it’s not as if S&M doesn’t stand for submissive and master. What about “Moves Like Jagger”? Well, phrases like “I own you,” sang by Adam Levine and “take control…own me,” sang by Christina Aguilera leave little to argue about whether or not the song has undertones of sexual submission. Similarly the title “Take Over Control” sang by Eva Simons tells a story of its own. Politicians disagree on what people should be able to do behind closed doors, but everyone can agree that sex should be consensual. Is the submission portrayed in these songs consensual? It seems to be, in “Take Over Control” and “S&M”. “Moves Like Jagger” however, (another song played at US assemblies) is in a grey area. Why? Well, largely because of one line sung by Levine: “You wanna steer, but I’m shifting gears, I’ll take it from here”.  Things here have gotten sketchy, though in all fairness Aguilera in the song seems rather eager to do whatever Levine wants to do. Are these songs an issue? Some Latin students say no: one ninth grade boy eloquently argues, “that line in ‘Moves Like Jagger’ could be about a car.” Many others may point out that if something is being depicted in popular music, it won’t necessarily become a popular practice. Some LAW members have reservations, though they are not totally against those songs. Meredith Glass, junior, said of the songs, “I think that, yeah, [those songs] are sexist, but women want to put themselves in that position because they are liked that way.” It may be a problem that women “are liked that way”, though not all people will agree. So, should we play those songs at assemblies? Do they portray women as submissive, perpetuating a stereotype? Or is it silly to worry about this? It’s up to the students at Latin, ultimately, to make that call. What do Forum readers think?]]>