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"Little Barbies" Sex Trafficking of Young Girls in America

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domenica 10 settembre 2017

"GOOD BOOTY" The Queen of Pop Porno

In her new book GOOD BOOTY: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music (out now from Dey Street Books), the acclaimed NPR critic Ann Powers takes a wide-ranging look at how eroticism and pop music in the U.S. have intersected over the past century. She zeroes in on Beyoncé's landmark Beyoncé — and how the visual album and its boldly sexual tracks established Queen Bey as an adult artist fully in control of her own image — in this excerpt.  

Beyoncé’s use of social media as art hit a peak with the release of her self-titled fifth album in the wee hours of December 13, 2013. 


The world learned of Beyoncé via a simple post reading “Surprise!” on the photo-sharing platform Instagram, and could immediately download its fourteen tracks and accompanying videos via iTunes. Beyoncé was not the first major star to suddenly unleash an album via the Internet, but there had never been one so well orchestrated as an event. Within 24 hours, Beyoncé had produced 1.2 million Twitter responses, more than 25,000 Tumblr posts, 7,000 Instagram photo reactions, and, according to one search engine, 600 GIFs, or animated images, connected to Beyoncé’s name. Most important, it also sold 828,773 copies through the iTunes store in its first week. “In other words, the album has created a social media class of its own, generating a sort of ripple effect that is keeping the album front and center in the Web’s ephemeral consciousness,” wrote the media critic Jenna Wortham in the New York Times.
Beyoncé was uniquely qualified to create this kind of response. It contained the most experimental music Beyoncé had ever made, heavily connected to regional rap styles like the slowed-down screw music of the singer’s native Houston; it also showed the mark of her explorations of cutting-edge electronic music and art rock. Musically, it wasn’t meant for radio, but for more open-minded listeners who got their music searching online. 

While about half of its songs dealt with themes familiar to any Beyoncé fan — female empowerment and camaraderie, emotional vulnerability, the costs and pleasures of fame — the others were bluntly pornographic fantasies and confessions, far raunchier than anything Beyoncé had previously done or what most of what her peers were willing to try. These songs, Beyoncé told interviewers, were inspired by thoughts she indulged during the months after her pregnancy, when actual sex was more difficult for her and Jay Z. Conjuring scenes of a sizzling hot married life, these songs penetrated the nerve of privacy, yet impeccably supported the distanced intimacy at the center of Beyoncé ’s art.

“Partition,” the album’s most successful single, is an account of sex in a limousine whose details — torn party clothes and a chauffeur averting his eyes — fused glamour and tawdriness. “Drunk in Love” became notorious for naming the position Beyoncé prefers for bathtub sex — surfboard — but also details of the couple waking up in the kitchen after a night of debauchery. “Rocket” combines explicit lines such as “let me sit this ass on you” with musings about Beyoncé's and Jay Z’s blended personal and professional lives, culminating in the declaration, “Goddammit I’m comfortable in my skin / and you’re comfortable in my skin.” Throughout Beyoncé, the domestic scene becomes a pornographic one, a sequestered stage for sex.
If, as one critic noted, Beyoncé was “the rudest mainstream album since Madonna’s Erotica,” it was also in some ways diametrically opposed to that work. While Madonna’s songs and the accompanying book Sex branded her as an extroverted explorer, engaging in random encounters, exhibitionism, and group sex, Beyoncé’s established her as the raunchy queen of an inner sanctum whose sensual electricity would serve as inspiration and guidepost to fans, but would ultimately remain Beyoncé’s and Jay Z’s alone. She was solving the problem of the celebrity sex tape, feeding the insatiable demand for public knowledge of famous people’s lives with divulgences that satisfied, but remained in her grasp. Beyond that, for the average listener or viewer, Beyoncé fought back against the assumption that to live online was to surrender any real control over one’s private life. It showed how a person could reveal herself without being violated.
“Only a mama can do that, and only a wife can do that. That’s your strength,” the producer Pharrell declared to the singer in a promotional video for Beyoncé, reminding viewers that in these songs, Beyoncé was not merely performing sexuality but presenting it as a gift for her husband. The “mama” and “wife” behind this material reasserted her social and economic position constantly, in the luxurious settings of the videos and the emotional details of the songs, which contextualized the pornographic lines as uttered between powerful equals for whom love and partnership, not sexual performance, mattered most. “We’re so much more than pointless fixtures, Instagram pictures, consumers,” Beyoncé sang on “Rocket.” “Home is where the heart is.” And in these songs, home remained inviolable. What Beyoncé shared could be enjoyed, even embraced, but not entered by anyone except the confessor herself and her mate.
Beyoncé also pointed toward a new way for an artist to confront the shadow world of pornography that had haunted mainstream entertainment since the nineteenth-century days of burlesque. While the album’s music abounds in juicy details, the videos tend to be more conventional, showing Beyoncé in high-fashion versions of stripper or dominatrix gear dancing or teasingly touching herself in ways anyone who’d ever watched a porn video would recognize. Others show Beyoncé and mostly female friends (and fellow dancers) in nostalgic leisure scenes: roller skating, riding the Cyclone roller coaster on Coney Island, or rehearsing moves before a mirror at home. The songs’ explicit content might contrast with these images, but combined they offer a sense of how erotic thought runs through a woman’s mind even when she is not in the midst of an encounter. Certain songs, like the melodramatic ballad “Pretty Hurts,” also acknowledge that erotic ideals can be confining and even oppressive to women. It all adds up to an exquisitely well- balanced view of sexuality, one that elevates the pornographic through high production values, difficult choreography and the constant reassertion of Beyoncé’s personality. Acting erotically, she actively fights against being reduced to the status of object. The insistence on sexual subjectivity, which generates sexual power, is Beyoncé’s ultimate message.

In a much-circulated videotaped panel discussion after the album’s release, the venerable feminist writer bell hooks said that “part” of Beyoncé was “a terrorist” because, despite her ostensible frankness, she still upheld a standard of beauty and sexual allure that most women could not achieve. Yet if Beyoncé can be considered as a direct response to the rise of both social media and pornography online, it does seem different than most pop stars’ attempts to exploit their own attractiveness for profit. 

Porn has always been big business on the Internet. In 2009, however, reports began circulating that social media sites had superseded porn to become the number one reason people visited the Web. The next logical question — is the future of porn social? — was quickly answered in the affirmative with the rise of sites like Pinsex and Pornstagram, where amateurs traded explicit images while avoiding the fees commercial porn demands. Beyoncé’s favorite social platform, Tumblr, was a home for porn from the beginning. At the same time, online dating was veering toward one-night-stands or afternoon hookups through mobile apps like Grindr (for gay men) and Tinder (mostly for heterosexuals). In this context, Beyoncé, with its spicy but contained fantasies of monogamous love and female self-possession, stands out as a kind of protest, conservative in some ways, but determinedly centered on female self-respect. For those attempting to locate their own desires within the fast-paced, bafflingly varied, and often near-anonymous realm of online sex, Beyoncé ’s assertion of strength and positive containment suggested that sex could be fully enjoyed, and even shared, online in healthy and even loving ways.

“My first album came out when I was fifteen. I was a child,” Beyoncé said in one of the promotional videos she released in tandem with Beyoncé. “But now I’m in my thirties and those children that grew up listening to me have grown up.” Her self-described “journey” into sexually explicit content was the final step in her becoming fully adult as an artist, and as an embodiment of the soft self, fully inhabiting a mobile online world that complemented and enhanced her physical-world assertions of identity and power. In a time increasingly dominated by virtual experiences, her nimble advances and self-preserving retreats made her the queen of pop (porno).

America is in the middle of a sexual revolution and the rules are constantly changing,” says Vanessa Grigoriadis, who authored the recently released Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus, noting that today’s music stars play a crucial role.  

Because many of these issues begin and play out in college, the award-winning journalist interviewed 120 university students and spoke to an array of activists, school administrators, and parents to craft her guide to the sexual assault debate. In several chapters of Blurred Lines, Grigoriadis highlights the power that pop stars are having on today’s impressionable teens. Billboard caught up with Grigoriadis to discuss the influence of Drake’s lyrics, Miley Cyrus' lewd antics and pop stars who look like porn stars while professing to be feminists.

Billboard: What inspired Blurred Lines?

Vanessa Grigoriadis: In Robin Thicke’s song, “Blurred Lines,” the important line is “I know you want it but you’re a good girl.” That really was one of the earlier indicators that societally we were starting to think about sexual assault in a different way or at least starting to talk about it in a different way. That song, in all of its ridiculousness, was the song of the summer in 2013 but was also widely criticized in no uncertain terms all over the Internet. A song like that, even three years earlier, would never have been talked about as a rape culture song in the mainstream media. My book is about making those lines straight and clear and a fight on college campuses to make that all happen.

You mention pop stars like Miley Cyrus in the book. What role have these musicians played in the current rape culture?

Miley Cyrus wants to do a “Wrecking Ball” video with Terry Richardson. She wants that video to be as provocative as it can be and she knows that Terry is talented. Her sense of activism may not extend to pass on him as a videographer. Taylor Swift is notably making music that attacks other women, particularly Katy Perry. At the same time, both Miley and Taylor are saying they support women’s rights, that they feel that now is the time for women to speak out strongly and show their power and that girls should feel confident and not let boys bring them down or rule their lives. That’s also a strong message. Do we want to congratulate them for some of the message or do we want to denigrate them for the part they are missing? And that’s a hard call.

Kesha and Lady Gaga are symbols of young millennial women who are willing to be up front about trauma that they have experienced but are adamant about taking power back from their situations. In Kesha’s case against Dr. Luke, which is not an open-and-shut case, the fact that she was supported so openly by colleagues like Demi Lovato and Fiona Apple, Taylor Swift giving her $250,000 for her legal fees. There was a groundswell of support for somebody who is a victim but may not have the evidence to actually get anywhere in criminal court.

Lena Dunham wrote an essay about Kesha, in which she says it wasn’t so long ago that famous women watched other famous women come out and say that they were victims on TV but didn’t want to support them because they were afraid that somehow that would boomerang and make men not want to hire them for jobs. But those days are over. We can expect to see this go on, whether it’s in the realm of sexual assault or domestic violence or record contracts that are unfair. I think the girl power of Twitter is unstoppable.

How has pop feminism affected the sexual revolution?

The rise of pop feminism coincided with the rise of Obama. And that pop feminism in a lot of ways did work for girls who are in college now. It gave them a sense of purpose in the world, which was very different than what the girls who grew up trying to emulate Britney Spears had. These girls in college now are post-Britney. They were so little when Britney was around and they look at a manufactured star like her with a lot of skepticism. But they are not skeptical of women who are owning their sexuality and who are presenting it as: “I’m Nicki Minaj. I am calling all the shots myself, even the sexual ones.” They want authentic stars. They are part of the rise of Taylor Nation.

On one hand, pop feminism made girls more aware of the rape culture because it makes women feel self-confident and sexually self-confident. And it’s part of why they have decided to call out boys who don’t treat them right, because they feel self-assured enough to do that. On the other hand, there is no ability for anybody to become a pop star if they don’t look and act like a porn star today. You have to sell sex as a package, which you always did but not as overtly. That has been a paradoxical thing; we have this pop feminism at the same moment that every pop star basically looks like a porn star.

How does the recent Taylor Swift groping case play into all of this?

Five years ago, America would say “Taylor what you doing? Why are you making such a big deal out of this? Are you just trying to get attention? Are you just a fame whore, Taylor?” That was not the response here. She’s setting a new standard for what should be labeled sexual assault and what should be considered taboo in our culture. To have the most important pop star in the country do that is a pretty extraordinary moment.

Is the popular music on campus affecting the dialogue?

In my book, I talk a lot about Drake as the guy who thinks, “Why do I need an independent women to feel like she needs me?” as he says. That’s the kind of thought process that a lot of guys are going through. The music college kids are listening to are Chance The Rapper, Childish Gambino, Post Malone. And there is a vulnerability to some of those guys. They are not presenting a bulletproof misogynist; they are saying, “OK I may be in a man’s world but I can see a woman’s perspective.” Male stars are beginning to see that there is a consciousness rising among women and that they need to react to that in their music, that they can play with their own sexuality in a way that they couldn’t before. You can be a gay rap star. You can wear a dress if you really want to, you can wear a kilt.

In what way can entertainers continue to advance this discussion?

I think they can continue to police the issue a little bit. I think they can continue to support each other and call out producers and people that cross the line. I think that they can get deeper with their activism supporting women’s issues. And if they are pro choice they should be talking about being pro choice. If they want to get more sophisticated in the way they look at feminism, I think everybody would benefit from that. I also think that they have to reckon with the fact that they’ve turned themselves into sex objects and as they get older, they have to think about what the path is and how they might model a more deeper femininity. I think we have a lot of stars right now who are aging into that time, like Katy Perry.

What are some of the more shocking things that you heard about while doing Blurred Lines recon on campuses?

I interviewed a woman who used the pseudonym “Blackout Blonde” and she said, “I’m an unrepentant party girl. I don’t even really believe in sexual assault. If something happens one night, you should just blame that on Jose Cuervo.” And then I met activists at radical campuses who told me that anything that was at all murky in terms of sex was rape, and really felt that using the language of rape was powerful, and that boys deserve to have that label on them and they should be kicked out of school. I met a UT Austin student who -- as much as you might make fun of him for saying this -- was really thinking about what consent means. He said, “I read something on a magazine the other day and it was like ‘How to be a real man: Shave with the grain the first time, never point a gun at somebody if you don’t intend to shoot them, always buy tools you don’t need to replace, and never have sex with somebody who doesn’t want to have sex with you.’” And that’s the ultimate message here: No. What’s promoted in songs does not always need to be the case.

Pop Stars or Porn Stars? 'Blurred Lines' Book Examines Music's Role In Sexual Assault on Campus 9/8/2017 Nicole Pajer

Beyond Blurred Lines: Rape Culture in Popular Media 5 NOVEMBRE 2016



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