Tag Archives: pop culture

Why I Like Rihanna

2 Jun

At one point, I’d planned to write a whole post about Rihanna, “S&M” and abuse, but then it seemed like The Cultural Moment had passed, and so I never did. But some of the comments on my little post yesterday got me thinking, so I figured, who cares about the cultural moment? I think this stuff is interesting.

Here’s the thing: I really like Rihanna a lot. Partly, I just like her music. Yes, it’s cheesy pop music, etc., etc. But Rihanna has an amazing voice and works with some great producers. Excellent driving-to-work music.

When S&M came out, I saw three major criticisms:

1. This isn’t what BDSM really looks like!

2. She’s obviously not really into BDSM herself.

3. Clearly, this means that she wanted to get beat up by her boyfriend!

I’m not going to even address #3, because I doubt that anyone who feels that way is actually reading this blog. #1 is a bit trickier, but to that I say, “um, when is any kind of sex in a music video representative of real sex?”  As I said in my post yesterday, the video doesn’t really “speak to me,” and I’m sort of annoyed at the “ooh, whips and chains” cheesiness of it, but I’m generally annoyed at the cheesiness of how sex is portrayed in things like music videos. However, I do find the song catchy and the video fun.

#2 is the one I really want to address. It’s sort of the hipster-kinkster argument: she’s a kinky poser! Except that she’s not, as she told Rolling Stone last month:

“I like to take charge, but I love to be submissive … Being submissive in the bedroom is really fun. You get to be a little lady, to have somebody be macho and in charge of your shit. That’s sexy to me. I work a lot, and I have to make a lot of executive decisions, so when it comes to being intimate, I like to feel like I’m somebody’s girl … I like to be spanked. Being tied up is fun. I like to keep it spontaneous. Sometimes whips and chains can be overly planned – you gotta stop, get the whip from the drawer downstairs. . . . I’d rather have him use his hands.”

And here’s the thing I really like about Rihanna – her public image is of a self-assured, sexually empowered woman who knows what she wants – and what she wants, sexually, is to take a submissive role.

This is something you almost never see in mainstream pop culture. Ever since the third wave of feminism hit, we’re all supposed to be sexually empowered, which is great. But the way that’s talked about most of the time is that you need to “be in charge” and “take what you want.” This was horribly confusing to me for a long time, because “being in charge” was completely unsexy to me, so I wondered if that meant I was just sexually stunted.

And the messages out there that do encourage being sexually submissive are all about Pleasing Your Man (see Pervocracy’s excellent and hilarious monthly mocking of Cosmo for more on this). But honestly, I’m wracking my brain to think of another example of a woman whose image is centered around being sexually empowered and who talks about taking a submissive role and I can’t think of anyone else.

The other great thing about this quote is the reference to gender performance. She talks about getting to be “someone’s girl” with a macho guy taking charge. But she’s not saying “I have to act like a man in the real world, but really, I want to be a little girl because that is my True Essence.” She’s saying “it’s fun to play with gender and act out these scripts that make us both feel sexy.”

It’s damn refreshing – but also damn depressing that she’s the only one I can think of who’s managed to strike this “empowered submissive” balance in mainstream pop culture. Please, tell me I’m wrong about this!

Whips and chains

1 Jun

So, it’s definitely kinda weird to be at a baseball game with all your coworkers and hear the song “S&M” by Rihanna come on (by which I mean, “na na na come on, come on, come on“) over the loudspeaker. I wanted to turn to my work BFF and be all “can you believe they’re playing this?” but of course, to him it’s just another cheesy pop song. And it is a cheesy pop song. But I like it. I don’t necessarily feel like it speaks to me, but I love that the video portrays BDSM as fun and sexy and sort of silly, not mean and scary and dark.

Ah, well, I giggled to myself at least.

Now for something a little less serious …

5 Apr

Today I went to the dentist for a cleaning and filling. Like everyone else in the world, I hate going to the dentist. But I do love my dentist, who is a kind and gentle soul, and who always has NPR playing in the background.

But I couldn’t help thinking about this, possibly my first introduction to BDSM, of a sort:

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