The Sexist

A Hierarchy of Date-Rape Jams


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I've been writing a lot about date rape in popular culture lately, particularly in music. Most of my treatment has involved parsing the lyrics of popular songs with rape-scenario undertones: Asher Roth's soft indictment of college date rape; A Tribe Called Quest's anti-date rape, menstruation-joke opus; Slick Rick's anal-themed rape song. But do the songs at least sound good? And does that make them worse?

Yesterday, commenter Jelita Jane made a good point about date-rape songs: some of them are terrible (Britney Spears' "Blur"), some of them are awesome (Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night'—don't deny it)—and the success of the song often has little to do with how positive or negative its message is. Jelita Jane writes:

[The Toadies] have a song called Tyler that fully outlines a stalker/rapist’s nighttime jaunt into his obsession’s home. I don’t remember all the lyrics but I clearly recall, “I stumble in the hallway, outside her bedroom door/ I hear her call out to me, I hear the fear in her voice/ she pulls her covers tighter, I press against her door/ I will be with her tonight” it’s the creepiest song but somehow it’s still pretty awesome too . . .

A Hierarchy of Date Rape Jams:

Sweet, Positive Jams: Ever since Tupac "died," artists with the ability to craft sweet jams with positive messages have been few and far between. The best bet in crafting a song about rape that's good (and good for you!) is to go heavy on the social satire: i.e. babies being fed malt liquor; period jokes. See: Amanda Palmer's "Oasis"; A Tribe Called Quest's "The Infamous Date Rape."

Sweet, Neutral Jams: These songs are heavily date-rapey, but are, at least, mitigated through storytelling devices: i.e., told from the perspective of a creepy rapist/murderer; told through a fucked-up dream about rape and murder. See: Toadies' "Tyler"; Prince Paul's "Beautiful Night"

Meh: Just about anyone can write a middling track with date rape undertones. Pass. See: Sublime's "Date Rape"; Ludacris' "One More Drink"; 50 Cent's "She Wants It"; Asher Roth's "I Love College"

Terrible, Neutral Jams: Britney Spears should never write "message" songs! Like the rest of her songs, they still don't mean anything, and with Brit-Brit, it's about 70-30 that the song also totally sucks. See: Britney Spears' "Blur"

Terrible, Negative Jams: The hottest place in Billboard chart hell should be reserved for really, really, really bad songs that don't just condone—but advocate—rape. One reader suggested that listening to Slick Rick's ode to raping women in the butt is "more like actually getting date raped." Listening to Anal Cunt is, similarly, an unpleasant experience, but at least you can't tell what the fuck they're talking about. See: Anal Cunt's "You Were Too Ugly to Rape"; Slick Rick's "Adults Only"

Sweet, Negative Jams: These songs—which are fucking sweet except for their terrible date-rape themes—are the most dangerous of all. Oftentimes, the jam is so sweet, the hook so catchy, Rod Stewart so awesome, that the underlying rape message gets by without comment. I listened to Jamie Foxx's "Blame It (On the Alcohol)" three times before I realized how noxious it was. And it took CP movie reviewer Tricia Olszewski to reveal that epically sweet jam "Tonight's the Night" is actually about holing a virgin in your house in order to have sex with her. See: Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night"; Jamie Foxx's "Blame It (On the Alcohol); Frank Loesser's "Baby, It's Cold Outside"

Terrible, Positive Jams: Still on the lookout for terrible jams with really positive date-rape messages. While a really sweet jam might cause record labels to overlook the song's date-rapiness, a positive message can never make up for a really bad song. Might Kelly Osborne's "Don't Touch Me While I'm Sleeping" qualify?

Comments

  1. #1

    I am reminded of that scene in Dead Poets Society where Robin Williams mockingly lectures from a book and draws a chart - similar to the one pictured above - to map the "greatness" of poems. But then he orders his students to rip out the pages of the poetry anthology's suffocating introduction and free their minds from the confines of some old dead guy's aesthetics!!!1!1

    You've drawn the chart, Amanda, but where is the dramatic gesture of ripping out the page? Are we forever obliged to honor the so-called "classics" of the date rape canon? WHO WILL LEAD US TO THE NEW FRONTIER OF DATE RAPE JAMS?

  2. #2

    Amanda saves the dramatic gestures for right before she commits date rape.

  3. #3

    I would love to hold a contest for the best date-rape song chart (mostly because I would like to see mdesus' rankings). Or perhaps an original sweet-and-positive-date-rape-song contest!? And also a contest where somebody shows me how to dramatically rip a blog post off the Internet.

  4. #4

    I can't believe you put sublime in the "meh" category. "Date Rape" is an awesome song!

  5. #5

    Meh!

  6. #6

    I have to defend young Mr. Roth here. The evidence that his song is about date rape--a Village Voice commenter, and a girl on a couch--can't stand up to the fact that he explicitly condemns having sex with a girl who is too drunk. If anything, it is an anti-date rape, pro-consensual sex anthem.

    But his advice on condoms. Terrible, terrible. There will be at least 2 kids this year who owe their existence to Roth, I expect.

  7. #7

    Will, I decided to give Roth a 5---neutral---because even though he condemns date rape in his chorus, the warning is pretty much the least you can do when you're pushing drunk girls off couches and getting girls drunk and naked. (He explicitly says he "had this one girl completely naked," insinuating that he's the one who got her that way). I'm not sure he deserves any award for this song. But it's definitely not pro-date rape. And you're right about the condoms---dear god, don't use two. Don't ever use two.

  8. #8

    where does the justin timberlake sing "rock your body" fall? while a sweet jam, there is a whole lot of "don't try and walk away and pretend you don't want it" explicitly stated in the lyrics.

  9. #9

    and good call on "baby it's cold outside." notable: there's a version with Nancy LaMott and Michael Feinstein where the roles are switched, with Michael Feinstein saying "hey what's in this drink."

  10. #10

    I don't think that particular Sublime song is really in the appropriate category. Thinking the song is "meh" musically is obviously objective, but to link it with the other three songs is unfair as it has entirely different lyrics, theme, and meaning.

    Also, there aren't date rape undertones to the Sublime song, it's clearly about a guy that rapes a girl and when she fights back legally he goes to prison. Other than the song then apologizing for male on male prison rape in the end, it's a pretty positive song about a woman speaking out and getting her abuser jailed, which I think is awesome. The other three are different in that they are from the singers perspective and insinuate that they will have sex when they want, and in their songs girls are just accessories or trophies, their rights being totally disrespected.

    Sublime has some questionable lines in some other songs, "Wrong Way" and "Caress Me Down" as examples, but "Date Rape" is much more positive than most of the songs on this chart and in my mind lyrically better than a Tribe Called Quest since it manages to not stereotype women in the process.

    Additionally, Sublime was huge while I was in high school, and I remember this song opening up lots of discussions between males and females in a progressive way that many other mainstream artists have yet to accomplish. If you don't like Sublime, I'd at least argue for "Meh, Positive Jams," and "Meh, Negative Jams" categories. This way the song and late frontman of Sublime could at least be given more credit than 50 Cent or Asher Roth.

  11. #11

    ever heard homer & jethro w/ june carter (before she married that cash boy) doing 'baby, it's cold outside?' - quite a howler (homer & jethro were doing the 'weird al' thing long before al was ever conceived).

  12. #12

    What about Tequilla Makes Her Clothes Fall Off? That's got date rape right in the title, and then proceeds to be even more offensive by pretending to be about losing scarves and boots and shit. We all know what you're alluding to in the chorus, rapey country guy.

  13. #13

    oh man, Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off is an epic example. They JUST FALL OFF, those clothes! Funny how that happens!

  14. #14

    Great post, a real eye-opener - I'm listening to "Baby It's Cold Outside" with a different perception now - damn, it's so creepy!

    Check out "Stranded in your love" by Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, a duet with Lee Fields. It isn't too different to "Baby It's Cold Outside" in theme, but it doesn't cross the line into creepiness, particularly due to Jones' strong personality. And it's an utterly brilliant song.

  15. #15

    How about "Shots" by LMFAO or "Stand Up" by Ludacris. Always upsetting to me when good songs are inappropriate. As a DJ I have to decide...make them dance or lose my integrity??? Hmmmm.. ph.

  16. #16

    A song not about date rape specifically, but control and stalking is The Police's "Every Breath You Take." Creepy.

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