After spending some time abroad, I returned home to find that Robin Thicke’s summer hit Blurred Lines was a widespread phenomenon, gracing the radio waves of top 40 stations across the nation. With a catchy tune, nice beat, and memorable lines, more than once I caught myself singing along without quite considering the words I was saying – until law students from Auckland University remade the song into a feminist anthem (warning: adult content).
Adelaide Dunn, Olivia Lubbock, and Zoe Ellwood tag-team to unveil the damage inflicted by the overtly misogynistic lines normalizing sexual advances despite “blurred lines” of consent, with self-assured men chanting, “I know you want it, but you’re a good girl.”
As reported in the New Zealand Herald article “Law Students Blur the Lines in Online Hit,” Thicke has responded to allegations of misogyny by noting “the song was about breaking taboos.” Yet Dunn, Lubbock, and Ellwood retorted that the “attitude of the whole thing came across as being quite arrogant, especially with the issue of consent.”
Project Unbreakable (from whom we’ve re-printed pictures in this blog post) is an organization founded to help sexual assault survivors in their healing process by photographing themselves with quotes taken from their abusers in order to break the silence and shame surrounding their victimization. Some of these photographs were recently published in conjunction with the University of Minnesota’s The Society Pages in an article titled “From the Mouths of Rapists: The Lyrics of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines.” The parallels to Thicke’s lyrics are unmistakable. Echoing the lyrics, survivors were pictured with phrases such as, “I know you want it,” “Good Girl,” “We both know you don’t really mean it when you say no,” and “Thank you for making me feel like a Man.”
The assertions made by the lyrics of Blurred Lines perpetuate a dangerous rape culture. Both Thicke and sexual assault perpetrators demean women’s ability to consent.
“Maybe” or “no” does not mean “yes.” When Thicke sings, “I know you want it,” and talks about “blurred lines,” he perpetuates the myth that women play ‘hard to get’ or that they don’t actually mean no when they say it. His messages normalize sexual violence and deny the perpetrator’s responsibility. It is never okay to assume that “no” or “maybe” is the same as a strong and informed “yes.”
Consent is the voluntary, informed, mutual, honest, and verbal agreement exchanged amongst individuals. The only way to know if another individual has given consent is if they explicitly say so. Consent cannot be given if coercion, manipulation, threats, intimidation, pressure, or alcohol or drugs have been involved.
Vassar’s Sexual Assault Violence Prevention (SAVP) program notes, “asking for and obtaining consent shows that you have respect for both yourself and your partner.” It can never be implied nor assumed, a faulty conclusion that Robin Thicke’s song perpetuates and dangerously normalizes.
As asserted by The Society Pages, “There are no ‘blurred lines.’ There is only one line: consent.”
Liz Hawryluk is our Social Media Intern. She works on a variety of outreach projects for education and advocacy.