Saturday, March 10, 2012

S&M: Degrading or Liberating?

When we were discussing the different types of feminism in class, I found it very interesting that two feminists, for example one Radical Feminist and one Sex Positive Feminist, could have completely opposing views on a topic. The first controversial thing that came to mind was Rihanna's song S&M. In case you didn't know, S&M stands for Sadomasochism, a fetish involving violence and submission. According to Wikipedia, "Sadomasochism broadly refers to the receiving of pleasure—often sexual—from acts involving the infliction or reception of pain or humiliation."
Some lyrics from the song are "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me." Rihanna was quoted here commenting on the song, saying, "I like to take charge, but I love to be submissive," she says. "Being submissive in the bedroom is really fun. You get to be a little lady, to have somebody be macho and in charge. That's sexy to me." Would Radical Feminists like these words? Would Sex Positive Feminists even like this, or is this too degrading even for them?

I feel like while this song may be trying to sexually liberate females, in that they can choose to do whatever they want, Rihanna is truly perpetuating gender stereotypes in this song (and even in the things she says in real life). The fact that she wants to be submissive to a man, wants to have somebody "be macho" and that the idea of all that actually sexually excites her, is so typically female that all feminists would probably shudder in disgust. But then again, it is liberating in a way, for a woman to know what she wants and be able to get it, even if it may seem like a form of degradation

Does this song perpetuate gender stereotypes, or is Rihanna making a feminist statement? What would feminists say about this song, and would different types of feminists have different opinions?


  1. It is hard to guess what other feminist would say, but i don't believe this song is degrading due to the fact that Rihanna is referring to her own sexual preference. She is not saying that women should submit to men or that women are inferior to men, but she is talking about role playing, one of the roles being a submissive woman.

  2. I agree with Tia. Like how you mention that "for a woman to know what she wants and be able to get it" is freeing and taking charge in itself, I wouldn't say that she is allowing herself to be degraded since she is choosing it. Also, it never explicitly says in the lyrics that she is the only one receiving the inflictions. She could very well be the dominatrix in this role-playing situation. She "likes to be bad and is perfectly good at it" may mean that she is real good at being the dominant role in sex. All in all, this song may rub a lot of women the wrong way depending on how they view what Rihanna is saying but, in the end, it is Rihanna who is suggesting that she PREFERS this type of sex and is consenting of her own will to participate. (I know Radical feminists would say otherwise...)

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  4. I agree, although I can definitely see how someone who thinks BDSM is inherently wrong would be against and offended by this song. Similarly, I was offended by this song every time I heard it on the radio! Personally, I don't feel like this is the kind of music I want kids to be listening to, or my little sister to be singing along to. "Sex in the air, I don't care; I love the smell of it." It's just weird. Is it sexist of me to want my sister to grow up and be a lady? Should I NOT want censorship on the radio, TV, etc.? I don't think I'm a radical anything, I just think I have morals. Should I work hard to break out of the biased shell that society has raised me in?

  5. I have mixed feelings about this song. One the one hand, like GossipGirl, I find it a little disturbing. However, I also feel like it is simply portraying what Rihanna finds sexy. Yet, the song isn't that simple. If she had simply been singing this too her sexual partner, then I'd find it completely fine. As a public figure however it gets more complicated. There are little girls out in this world listening to her lyrics. Now granted, it's not like she intended for 5 year olds to be listening to her music, or to understand it, but it still happens. I feel like a little censorship could be applied in situations like these. But then again, how does one shelter every innocent kid from this?


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