How to Talk With Your Sons About Robin Thicke

Robin Thicke

Eric Clapp reflets on the sexual double standards portrayed in many responses to the Miley Cyrus-Robin Thicke-VMA debacle.

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If you have ears, you’ve heard Robin Thicke’s hit “Blurred Lines.” If you’ve had any amount of spare time in the past few days and have access to the internets, you’ve heard about Thicke’s performance at the VMA’s with Miley Cyrus. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, congratulations! You must have looked past the headlines on CNN’s main page in order to read about “secondary” news like Egypt or Syria. You can find a video of the performance here.

If you’ve been on Facebook or Twitter with any kind of regularity over the past few days, you’ve probably heard countless friends or followers sounding off on any number of objectionable things about the performance. Undoubtedly, 99% of things written about it throw around words like “obscene”, “offensive”, and the like.

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There have been a number of different parenting websites or blog posts who have come up with good ways to talk to your daughter about Miley. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about parents talking to their daughters about sexuality.

But is no one going to hold anyone else on stage or behind the scenes accountable for that performance? Are we really going to have another one-sided conversation where we only talk to the girls about their sexuality while we completely ignore the boys in the room about their standards of behavior too?

There are next to no commentaries, articles, or blog posts that talk about how Robin Thicke was on stage with a woman young enough to be his daughter while thrusting his pelvis and repeating the line “I know you want it” while T.I. non-chalantly raps about much more graphic stuff. As Shelli Latham astutely points out:

Girls’ sexuality is so much the focus of our ire. Women who have sex are dirty. Men who have sex are men. Girls who dress to be ogled are hoes. Men who ogle are just doing what comes naturally. This is the kind of reinforced behavior that makes it perfectly acceptable to legislate a woman’s access to birth control and reproductive health care without engaging in balanced conversations about covering Viagra and vasectomies. Our girls cannot win in this environment, not when they are tots in tiaras, not in their teens or when they are coming into adulthood.

Issues of misogynistic attitudes and acts of violence toward women aren’t going anywhere until us men make some very intentional decisions about our behavior and about the way we act toward women. There are certain things that Robin Thicke and “Blurred Lines” re-inforce in our culture.

For instance: Studies have shown that viewing images of objectified women gives men “greater tolerance for sexual harassment and greater rape myth acceptance,” and helps them view women as “less competent” and “less human“. Certainly singing about “blurred lines” will at the very least reinforce a culture that already trivializes the importance of consent.*

There’s nothing blurry about Robin Thicke’s role in the VMA debacle. Even though he’s come out and defended his song, going so far as to call it a “feminist movement,” it’s pretty plain to see that’s far from the case.

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So what can we do? In order to change the way we view women culturally, we need to change the way we view women individually. We need to call bullshit on attempts to end domestic violence and misogyny towards women by only talking to our daughters. We need to talk to our sons and our brothers about respecting women and respecting themselves.

It starts in homes. It starts in small conversations that treat all people as worthy and equal. It starts with having the courage to speak out against the wide variety of forces in our society that objectify women.

It starts with understanding that as men, our value does not come from how much power we hold over women. Our value comes from being respected and being loved as we respect and love the people who matter to us.

Be brave enough to tell a different story. Be courageous enough to rise above the lies that our culture tells you about how to treat women. In doing so, you’ll help create a better world for your sons. And for your sons’ sons. And that’s something to which we should all aspire.

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Original posting from Ericclapp.org

Photo from Flicker/ Kia Clay

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About Eric Clapp

Eric Clapp is a husband, writer, coffee aficionado, and Lutheran pastor who spends most of his time thinking about the intersection of faith and culture. He graduated from Concordia College (Moorhead, Minnesota) and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He lives along the Mississippi River in Clinton, Iowa. He blogs at ericclapp.org

Comments

  1. You’re right; the sexuality of women should be praised just as much as Robin Thicke’s.
    And I’m willing to celebrate both performers’ exuberant raunchiness equally. Their critics–especially those whining about ‘accountability’ and ‘objectification’–are as pathetic and irrelevant as always.

  2. I like your message overall; it’s very important for boys to learn to respect women. You mention teaching them to respect themselves, but I would give equal time to this development. I think it’s important for boys to know that many women use their sexuality for more than love, and that if they allow themselves to be taken in by it, they can be hurt (note: for heterosexuals only). I think they should be given a sense of the worthiness of their own bodies, and that maybe they should only share it with women who are deserving. Both boys and girls should be taught to be respectful of each other, but also to be aware that there are those who will prove not to deserve their respect.

  3. Hi Eric

    Thank you. This was a good article.

  4. Has anyone seen the retaliation to Blurred Lines?
    http://www.3news.co.nz/Students-parody-performance-blurs-lines/tabid/418/articleID/311517/Default.aspx

    I’ve got mixed feelings about it, I think it’s a great concept, but watching the video and listening to the lyrics I think it actually reeks of misandry and has done nothing but reinforce the whole notion that men as a collective are obsolete sexual deviants and women are the overlords of dealing out rations of sexuality to supplication men who don’t step out of line. Overall this is little more than a petty payback video providing no real value to gender equality.

    • Yeah it’s not good as the Robin Thicke song is about a single (in number, not relationship) woman whilst that one seems to be about most or all men.

    • Meh, as usual, one man pisses women off, therefore we’re all to blame.

      also castration? Stay classy ladies. Where’s the screaming about joking about sexual assault now?

      • Didn’t you hear? When women say such things about men, even under the banner of feminism, its actually not a problem. You know, because patriarchy or something like that.

        • “Didn’t you hear? When women say such things about men, even under the banner of feminism, its actually not a problem. You know, because patriarchy or something like that.”

          he irony of this statement when actually it was only a problem when the women spoke up.T the female parody was banned from youtube because of complaining men and had to be reinstated.You know, because women giving it back is still a shock to americans, apparently, who are living in 1955.The original suffered no such fate on youtube, where it blended in with the landslide of all the other porny crap that the web offers.

          Truth is mean isn’t it boys.Just plain cold mean to victim fantasies.

          • Nice try at false equivalence, Nat, but the parody was dumb, off-target, and violent. In other words, typical feminist activism.

          • Nope. That feminist parody actually endorsed female against male violence (rather than the implications of the original).

            You’d think that folks who operate under a banner of activism meant to help all people would be able to call the bad behavior of Blurred Lines without going about it like that.

            But let me guess this is when we are supposed to believe that they don’t mean it right?

            What Copyleft said nice try but no cigar.

  5. What exactly did Thicke do to poor innocent Miley? She shoved her ass in his crotch, she hung on him, she made lewd sexual gestures at him.

    He didn’t “thrust” at her- watch the video again, his thighs dont move through that entire ordeal. actually he looked vaguely uncomfortable.

    And guess what? the entire thing was choreographed, and they both consented to it.

    You know what wasn’t choreographed? Jenny McCarthy sexually assaulting Justin Bieber last year. Where was the outrage then?

    Maybe take off your “women are always victims” glasses and take another look at the video.

    • “He didn’t “thrust” at her- watch the video again, his thighs dont move through that entire ordeal. actually he looked vaguely uncomfortable.”

      I’m getting a very bitter homosexual vibe off this comment. You realise there would have been many dress rehearsals where he could have raised an objection to his terrible “ordeal”?

      • In other words, “These glasses are the only ones I own. Men are just awful, and anyone who disagrees with the prevailing feminist dogma is probably gay.”

        Speaking of staying classy….

      • “bitter homosexual” *snort*

        Actually, I -am- bisexual. Is that an issue for you? Honey, you can try that “what are you a fag or something?” bullshit shaming tactic somewhere else, it’s not going to go very far with me.

  6. So very much of what I would expect to read. Did the author actually watch the video, or is he just being an apologist? Oh you bad men, it’s about objectifying women, and pointing to Shelli Latham’s comments just perpetuates that misandric theology. Personally, I would have loved it if Robin had just walked off stage. But, then, it’s just as likely he would have been harpooned for interfering with a female’s expression of her sexuality. Lacking that, let’s blame the male for a female’s behavior because she’s so young. Why not blame her parents? Wait, it’s better to further repressive feminism by passing judgment on all men because “Issues of misogynistic attitudes and acts of violence toward women aren’t going anywhere until us men make some very intentional decisions about our behavior and about the way we act toward women.” Yet, women need to do nothing about how they act, because it’s all about men and how they act. Although it involved older people, where was the outrage for how Kathy Griffin behaved towards Anderson Cooper? This man does not speak for me.

    • Wow, you’re really doing a great job of illustrating how desperate and hateful the misandrists have become, Nat. Keep up the good work!

  7. There’s two permutations of conversations that still haven’t been discussed; talking with your sons about Miley, and talking to your daughters about Robin. Is it necessary for a man to disrespect a woman to be sexy? Is it necessary for a woman to disrespect herself to be sexy? The fact that the erotic blockbuster for women, “Fifty Shades of Grey”, is about a man who can only express his love through being abusive, but is sexy because of it; the fact that the erotica of Mills and Boon is full of phrases like “he pushed her roughly on to the bed” suggests that there is an unhealthy fixation on the disrespectful male; the respectful male is seen as boring: “what he wanted to know what YOU wanted? What a pussy!” There is no point, in fact it is positively harmful, to tell boys to treat women with respect if they then have to watch all the women get off with jerks all their life. In fact the gentleman/player dichotomy is just as harmful as the virgin/whore dichotomy. The message is still – “this is how a sexy man behaves” and “this is how a good man behaves” but they’re never the same man – sleep with the sexy ones then marry the good ones (but still fantasise about the sexy ones – the virgin-whore dichotomy is the same, but awareness about it has already been raised). Both dichotomies set misery up for ourselves in advance – there are people who are sexy but we shouldn’t commit ourselves to and there are people we should commit ourselves to who aren’t sexy.

    • Hi Joseph

      You said it so well:
      ✺”In fact the gentleman/player dichotomy is just as harmful as the virgin/
      whore dichotomy. The message is still – “this is how a sexy man behaves” and “this is how a
      man behaves” but they’re never the same man – sleep with the sexy ones then marry the good ones (but still fantasise about the sexy ones – the virgin-whore dichotomy is the same, but
      awareness about it has already been raised). Both dichotomies set misery up for ourselves in
      advance – there are people who are sexy but we shouldn’t commit ourselves to and there are
      people we should commit ourselves to who aren’t sexy.”✺

    • Pretty much. The gentlemen are expected to wait until women are done having their fun with the players and are ready to build a life. If they don’t like it they diagnosed as Nice Guys (but of course pointing out the problems of the virgin/whore dichotomy is fine).

  8. Not buying it says:

    One thing the religious right & the feminist camp agree on is that women are to be protected at all cost in every situation to the point of infantilization of adult women for different reasons on both sides afcourse, one side is looking at it from the virgin Mary all innocent dichotomy, the other is men are not responsible for their own actions & behavior due to so called patriarchy crap theory, so both are blaming men for it, talk about hypocrisy & idiocy.

  9. John Anderson says:

    “Are we really going to have another one-sided conversation where we only talk to the girls about their sexuality while we completely ignore the boys in the room about their standards of behavior too?”

    OK, I was avoiding this, but I finally watched the video. I don’t see what Robin Thicke did wrong. She touches him with a foam finger,. Are we blaming people for being molested now? The worst thing he could have done was stand behind Miley at one point, but she’s still standing at this point. She then bends over. She on the other hand simulates grabbing and biting someone’s butt. Are we really going to have a conversation where we blame boys for the actions of girls again as if girls had no agency?

  10. I think that if we only focus on Miley’s performance from a sexual point of view, we are missing a big part of the point. To me, every part of her performance was about rebellion. When “doing what you want” consists of the exact opposite of what everyone tells you, they are still controlling you. Miley was not expressing herself freely, she was just acting out in the immature way lots of young people do. Being raunchy is the best way to get your parents (actual and symbolic in the form of Disney) pissed off.

    It shouldn’t be a surprise that celebrities are trying to get attention. This is really what we need to talk to our kids about – the value of real self expression as opposed to cheap publicity stunts. And that outrage at Miley (or Robin) only feeds the monster. If you really want to stop these kind of behavior, then ignoring it is the most effective tool you have.

  11. Am I missing something completely?We are talking about Miley Cyrus who seems hell bent for leather on crafting a public persona as a sex diva.I fail to see how Robin Thicke had/has anything to do with that.What does his age have to do with anything?Men and women ,straight or not,date, marry and have sex with people younger than themselves. This behavior is nothing new and has been expressed by many cultures throughout human history.Lets be honest,for once.Some women like it rough.Some women are doms.Some women like to be tied up and have hot candlewax dripped on themselves.Some women like to be choked during sex.Geesh!Can we dispense with the all women are chaste and virginal distortions?!Women,especially young women, have sex and use their sexuality for any number of reasons;to pay for college,to get better grades,to exact revenge,for fun,etc. .Sure we should tell our sons to respect women.However,respect is like a kitchen door at a busy restaurant,it swings both ways with great frequency.

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