Media’s Blurred Lines

Everybody get up—and stand for the victims of sexual assault.

It was 2013 when Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams came out with their debut single “Blurred Lines”.

The 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards - Pre-GRAMMY Gala And Salute To Industry Icons Honoring  Lucian Grainge - Show
Pharrell Williams (left) and Robin Thicke (right) performing the single live, Getty Images/Larry Busacca

Considered the song of the summer, it stayed in the number one position on the Billboard Charts for over half of the year. You virtually couldn’t go anywhere without hearing the tune, which briefly resulted in Thicke’s rise to temporary A-List fame.

Now almost a decade old, the song appears to have been forgotten, and Thicke has fallen into the abyss of one-hit-wonder artists. The world has moved on, but what does the song say about our culture and tolerance at the time?

“I know you want it,” Thicke sings, while a topless girl dances next to him. But what exactly did “she” want? Brock Turner, a student at Stanford, charged with sexual assault seemed to think that “she” wanted it all. Back in 2015, Turner’s victim (who remains anonymous) describes consenting to dance with Turner and even agreeing to return to his dorm room. However, the most crucial thing to note about this case is what she did not consent to do, but what Turner did anyway. When she could no longer walk due to intoxication, Brock penetrated his then unconscious victim with a foreign object and attempted to rape her, before two passersby interfered, resulting in him fleeing the scene.

It was quite clear to anyone hearing this story that Turner deserved time in jail for his crime, however, taking the lyrics of Thicke’s hit song “Blurred Lines”, and remembering Turner’s victim consented to dance with him, “The way you grab me, Must wanna get nasty.” Thicke’s song implies that consent to dance results in consent to any sexual act.

Some may argue that Thicke’s song isn’t supposed to be taken literally, and should be taken with more of a lighthearted approach. However, to be quite frank, rape is not a concept that can ever be twisted and portrayed faintly. Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) vice-president of services, Kirsty Haigh, says it perfectly when discussing why EUSA banned the song, “This is about ensuring that everyone is fully aware that you need enthusiastic consent before sex. The song says: ‘You know you want it.’ Well, you can’t know they want it unless they tell you they want it.”

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Slutwalk march in Chicago, Scott Olson/Getty Images

From the lyrics to the sexually explicit video, it almost appears Thicke wanted to aggravate the feminist community with his discourteous tune. But, oversexualizing women, while completely unacceptable, is not new to modern music. What makes Thicke’s song so exceptionally terrible and offensive is its encouragement of implied consent.
This song came out almost five years ago – why is it important to talk about it now? One word:  Evolution.  We are now, more than ever, entering a welcomed period of real dialogue and coming-to-terms with the reality of sexual harassment and assault.  Is our work done?  Absolutely not.  With the growth of the “#MeToo” movement, and the encouragement in media to come forward with stories and potential resolutions, it is important to look at the culture that motivates sexual assault, and how we, as a society, can tailor our artistic expression to promote messages of respect and mutual accede. So that if the lines are “blurred,” they remain uncrossed.

Author: Sasha Quinlan

Sasha Quinlan is Senior and one of the co-editors of The Eye. This is her third year reporting on The Eye. Having attended SAS for the past 15 years, she considers Singapore home. Some of her hobbies include binge watching "Clueless", writing, cheering, and eating sweet potatoes. She can be contacted at quinlan18229@sas.edu.sg.

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