Today: Feb 21, 2024

Please stop the music

A publicity photo for Rihanna’s song, “S&M.”

Christian Carrion, Special To Southern News:
It must be hard to be the parent of a young girl these days. I was sitting on the city bus from West Haven to Southern one afternoon last week, preparing myself for an afternoon of make-up work. Across from me sat a little girl who must have been no more than 8 years old, holding hands with
her mother and listening to a Rihanna song on her pink Barbie-branded CD player. As she sat there, headphones on, feet swinging back and forth, I couldn’t help but overhear the girl singing along with her music: “Because I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it. Sex in the air, I don’t care; I love
the smell of it. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me.”
EXCUSE ME?
Did I hear her correctly? Did anyone else hear her correctly? Did her mother hear her at all? I was shocked and disgusted that this little girl knew these words, and I could only hope for the sake of my own sanity that she didn’t know or understand what they meant.
It would have been easy for me to blame the little girl for listening to music that obviously isn’t meant for her ears. It would have been even easier for me to blame her mother, who should have her ears open wide for the protection of her daughter at all times, especially given the curious nature of children.
But I didn’t. I didn’t blame them because I don’t think either of them has as much control over the girl’s choice of music as it would seem.
The mainstream media pushes these images of musical promiscuity and sexual showmanship in the faces of young people everywhere. With the proliferation of commercials, music videos, billboards, and other forms of promotion that overload the collective senses of the country day after day
comes the exploitation of the natural phenomenon of peer pressure. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in young girls, many of who have proven that they will go to extreme lengths for the simple pleasure of being accepted. How can we expect our children to aspire to reach their full potential in the face of such pressure coming at them from all angles?
The argument could be made that the artists mean for their music to be enjoyed by older teenagers and adults—the club crowd. And that could be true; I have no certain idea what pop musicians think when they write their songs.
However, I refuse to believe that sex symbols like Rihanna and Ke$ha do not know their true audience. Each of them employs dozens of coaches and analysts who show them data—graphs, numbers, statistics. They know what sells and what doesn’t sell.
Like any other American with an occupation, they are working to make money. And they have a very clear depiction of where that money is coming from.
With that in mind, at what point will these artists acknowledge that their actual main demographic is under the age of legal sexual consent? Why do industry executives continue to market artists with singles titled “S&M”, “Take It Off,” and “Take A Dirty Picture For Me” as products to be consumed by children?
When will pop singers stop acting as brainless, moneymaking puppets for Capitol and Atlantic Records?
Why must the music industry contribute to the steady downfall of a world that is already so rough and cold for a young woman to be raised in?
Why? Because there’s money in it.
One of the time-honored rules of advertising is a simple two-word phrase: Sex sells. And it does; there’s no mistaking that. My problem is not the use of sex to sell things—that’s been done for years, it was done before I was born (advertising, that is), and it’ll be done long after I’ve passed away. The issue comes when a child—a child —can walk around a city block with her mother and be bombarded with suggestive music, sexually charged lyrics, and imagery that contributes to the low self-esteem that plagues so many young women today.
The media and the Recording Industry Association of America promote and celebrate these princesses, but at what cost? “Take A Dirty Picture” by Taio Cruz and Ke$ha reaches number 96 on the Billboard Top 100, while 11 percent of American girls aged 13 to 16 say they have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves. “S&M” by Rihanna is, for a time, the number one dance song in America, while the United States is reported by the UN to be the country with the most instances of rape in the world. What amount of money could possibly justify the damage that pop music is helping to create?
Only in America can a former domestic assault victim continue to make millions of dollars and score countless endorsement deals by agreeing to sell sadomasochism and tantric sex to little girls. Truth be told, in a Middle Eastern country, she would be stoned to death, no questions asked. The rest of the world is a lot less tolerant than we are of this kind of thing.
Now, in no way whatsoever am I condoning violence against these artists, or against anyone for that matter. But maybe we need to take a lesson from other parts of the world. Maybe, just once, we need to put our trademark American arrogance aside and make a change in our standards, for the good of those who will inherit this land long after we are gone.
Self-esteem and purity of mind are not privileges—they are rights. Not just of Americans, but also of every man, woman and child on this planet, regardless of what’s coming out of their headphones.
Don’t we deserve better?

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