Lily Allen’s Hard Out Here criticism

Lily Allen’s music video for her 2013 single Hard out Here has been received by audiences with mix reactions. The lyrics of the song are about Lily Allen’s reaction to the double standards and sexualization of women in the music industry. The imagery of the video that accompanies the song is hyper-sexual and contradicts some of the lyrics of the song. The juxtaposition of the semiotics of the audio and visuals are intended to structure of the text as a satirical work. The juxtaposition has caused audience members to have dominant, negotiative, and oppositional readings of the music video.

In the music video, meaning is constructed by the combination of images and sound. Hard Out Here constructs codes of femininity, sexuality, and blackness. The semantics of racial and gender representations in the music video are important because of representativeness heuristics. Representativeness heuristic means that “judged entities are compared against a sampling of related ones and that likely hood transference of traits is made from the sample to the individual case” (Su-lin 385). Overall, the lyrics of the song give the connotation that it’s more difficult to be a woman than a man in society because women are seen as inferior and a woman’s value is determined by how well she fits into a stereotype. The lyric “it’s hard out here for a bitch” signifies that it’s difficult for women in society. The word bitch that is usually used as an insult is reclaimed as a word of empowerment in this song. “Rebellious speech is equivalent to a ‘risk taken in response to being put at risk, a repetition in language that forces change’. In order to expose and deconstruct its potential power, hateful language (media representation) has to be repeated and re-contextualized” (Stehle 230). The lyrics code femininity as being thin, beautiful, and sexual available. The lyrics “Don’t you want to have somebody who objectifies you? Have you thought about your butt? Who’s gonna tear it in two?” code female sexual identity as being passive and submissive to a dominant actor that desires to use the female as a sex object. The lyrics “you should probably lose some weight ’cause we can’t see your bones. You should probably fix your face or you’ll end up on your own” codes femininity as being thin and physically beautiful. That lyric also means romantic partnership only happens to physical attractive people because attractive level is how our society determines an individual’s value. The lyric “I won’t be bragging ’bout my cars or talking bout my chains” is coded as a rejection of materialism by the artist. Lily Allen associates a woman’s intelligence with her sexual activity with the lyric, “don’t need to shake my ass for you ’cause I’ve got a brain.” That lyric means that smart woman don’t dance sexually. The following lyric is “if I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut.” This creates confusion because meaning is socially produced and understood in terms of oppositional relationships. The dichotomy of female sexuality is structured as a woman can only be a virgin or a slut. The sexual nature of those lyrics implies pluralism and fluid sexuality identity. It’s the idea that there isn’t one fixed idea of femininity. The visual meaning is more straight forward than the audio meaning.

The opening scene in the video is coded as Lily Allen being too fat after having two children to be a pop star. She is getting liposuction in order to be desirable. This codes femininity with thinness, even after childbirth. The dancing by Lily Allen and her mostly black dancers signifies sexual desires. The image of Lily Allen dancing with the black women is coded with racially structured sexuality. Allen doesn’t dance with skill or enthusiasm as her black dancers. This codes black women as more sexual than white women. She is also in the center of the girls and they are next to her or behind her. This signifies the racial power structure between women. Black women are coded as inferior to white women. The women’s clothing is a signifier of power positions as well. The black women are showing more skin and are more vulnerable than Lily Allen. The white man is the suit is a music executive. It is signified by his clothing and his agency in how the women behave. The music executive showing the girls how to twerk and be sexy is coded as men are active and dominant, while women are passive and lack agency. The product placement of the camera and cigarettes is associated with the women’s sexuality, which makes the products sexy and commodifies the women’s sexualities. The excessive sexually dancing codes femininity as women always being available for sex. The pouring of the champagne on the women’s bodies signifies male ejaculation. A woman licking the champagne bottle signifies oral sex. Both of those signifiers are intertextuality because both are used in pornography. The women are coded as sexual objects that eager to be used for sex. Throwing money at the black dancers while they dance is intertextuality because it is a reference hip hop culture and rap music videos. The visual of Lily Allen dancing in front of the sign “Lily Allen has a baggy pussy” is a the references from Robin Thicke’s music video Blurred lines, where he had a sign that said, “Robin Thicke has a big dick.” Her reference to this in her video is a parody of Thicke’s video. In fact, Lily Allen intended for the entire song and music video to be a parody and satirical video on the music industry. One of the lyrics is “if you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood.”

Hard Out Here can be seen as parody and can reject the values that are being parodied or it can reinforce the values by being misunderstood as a serious text. When an artist works “with parody, excess, deformation, the text obscures political intention and leaves room for ambiguity” (Stehle 233). The parody factor changes the semiotics of the text. If the viewer notices tone and style of parody, the gender and racial performance can be interrupted as satirical and sarcastic; this calls for a rejection of heteronormativity. The view would conclude that the music video rejects stereotypical gender and racial binaries. If the parody is not interrupted it reinforces stereotypes. It is difficult for women to parody gender performance and female sexuality and have it received as satirical because women are too closely identified with their bodies. “In feminist art, the location of risk and pain is often the female body. Performance artists take risk by using artistic forms like parody, excess, reversal, and exaggeration to force change in representation of female bodies. The reception of such language and imagery simultaneously created platforms for social and political backlash” (Stehle 23). The images of the music video are challenging to watch by the design of Lily Allen, which has caused mixed reaction by feminists and other viewers.

There dominant, negotiative, and oppositional reading of the music video. The majority of the readings were oppositional, but there were a few dominant and negotiative readings. The audience sample were all female Brooklyn College students between the ages 19 and 37. The races of the women sampled were white, black, and bi-racial. All the audience members that gave a dominant reading were white women. Most of those women identified themselves as feminist. One woman said, “I love this. It’s so funny. I love that she calls out how ridiculous pop culture is. When asked about the racial aspect of the video, she replied, “She is making fun of the sexism in the media. The amount of twerking uses comedy to show the exploitation of black women in hip hop.” Another woman commented on how she loves that Lily Allen made a video as commentary on society. She said, “I like when female artists place attention to the double standards and unrealistic expectations of women. I like that she decided to say something about how the industry is all about money and sex, and that it should change. It reminds me of Pink’s Stupid Girls video. Young girls shouldn’t be obsessed with being super thin and trying to get a boyfriend.” These women got dominant reading because they viewed the music video as a comment on Sexism in the music industry. In the music industry, “the descriptions of women as sex objects, prostitutes, and mentally inferior people who have to strip their clothes off and dance naked in order to earn the commercial recognition of big business” is the norm (Khan 265). Another women said, “The video was funny and that I got that it was satirical.” When asked if some people might not get that it’s a parody, she said, “I think because things like Jon Stewart and the Onion are so popular that everyone will get it.” The same girl when asked about the use of race in the video claimed, “the video can’t be seen as racist because Lily Allen is pointing out that using black women as sexual objects, like Miley does, is a racist common trend in the industry. Black women should be happy that she is making a statement about it.” Other women had mix feelings about the video.

All the negotiative responses were based on liking the some feminist meaning, but debating success of the parody and race representation. All the audience members were self-identifying feminists. The majority of women were white and one woman was bi-racial. The women liked the Lily Allen was rejecting the stereotypical ideas of femininity, but thought that the twerking black women were problematic. One white feminist said, “It’s great that she rejects the idea that a women’s value comes from what her body looks like and what she does with her body. That part of the video was parodied well, but all the dancing black women didn’t work. It seems racists that she casted all black women.” A problem will satire is depending on the values of the viewer the intention of sarcasm becomes irrelevant and can reinforce harmful beliefs or offend viewers. “A rebellious statement in response to injury can be turned into a new form of injurious speech. This does not diminish the political relevance of rebellious speech. It helps to uncover the politics of language and imagery and reveals the power of hegemonic discourse” (Stehle 244). Another white woman commented, “If she casted white men as her dancers and objectified them the way women are, it would have worked as a parody. But, using black women is being like the same system you are demonizing.” The issue with artists imitating ideas that they oppose in order to expose them is that in order “to draw attention to their respective agendas, they still in different ways fall victim to these very mechanisms” (Stehle 244).The bi-racial feminist, “I see what she was trying to do, but it doesn’t work. I like that she makes fun of the commercialism and sexism in the industry with the product placement and the music executive showing the girls how to be sexy. But, feminist texts that don’t include black feminism are still offensive. I’m sure she had good intentions. She is white and privileged, so she probably doesn’t know that she is being racist.” Another white woman said, “I don’t know how I feel about it. I like that she used themes of objectification and sexualization. They are difficult to satire because women defined by their bodies and you can’t ignore race because it’s so physical too.” Other women were very offended by the video and didn’t see any of the feminist ideas that Allen intended to communicate.

The majority oppositional readings were from black and bi-racial women. Two white women had oppositional readings. A few women identified themselves as feminists, but some didn’t. The majority of the oppositional readings were based on Lily Allen’s cultural appropriation of hip hop culture to appeal to wider audience. Lily Allen does not want a black identity, but wants to be associated with the positive characteristics of blackness to sell her music without taking on the difficulties of the black community. Whites that sell and or consume hip hop culture “position themselves as cool or hip by its association with African Americans, presenting themselves as confident, progressive whites smoothly moving through a cultural milieu of blackness” (Rodriquez 646). One black woman said, “I couldn’t finish watching it. It’s too racist. It’s disgusting that women use other women as props in videos, just like men. But, then you have to cast all black women who do nothing but twerk. It’s disgusting.” The black dancers are coded as sexual objects available for consumption. “Black women’s bodies were available to both white and black men without black women’s consent” (Reid-Brinkley 245). Historically, black women within American society have been sexualized in an excessive manner because sexualization and rape of black women during slavery. “The performance of the good women served as a means of gaining respectability under the surveillance of the white gaze in the hopes of gaining some protection from abuse” (Reid-Brinkley 245). . The idea is that women need to be sexually available to be safe from sexual and physical violence. The history of that sexualization of black women sets the framework for black femininity in modern music videos. Another black woman said, “Images this like worry me. I don’t want people to think all black people are like this. I know a lot of white people probably already do cause these images are very where. It’s really offensive that this woman thinks it’s cool to treat women like whores.” A black feminist claimed, “Shit like this is a serious problem. The purpose of putting black women in this is to make it sexier. The girls don’t do anything, but act slutty. If you are going to put black women in videos do it for a reason and discuss issue facing the community. No one is going to care about a black woman’s problem if they think she is just a sex crazed person.” Racial criticism of texts comes from the fear “that black women’s reality is overshadowed by the spectacle of black women’s representation in popular culture” (Reid-Brinkley 238). Lily Allen’s response to racial criticism was that she didn’t think about race at all during casting, but only thought about the dancers skills. When I told this black feminist about Lily Allen’s response, she said, “I don’t believe that at all she knew what she was doing when she casted them. Color blindness theory is bullshit. She just doesn’t want to come off as racist.” Color blindness is the idea that in our post-racial world that race is now irrelevant. “Color blindness ideology is the assertion of essential sameness between racial and ethnic groups despite unequal social locations and distinctive histories” (Rodriquez 645). Another black feminist stated, “It’s clear that its racist, but it so common for white people to steal our culture to become successful. White people have this idea that they are welcome in hip hop culture and refuse to see that hip hop is about racial issues. They see it as a style they can use to be cool. They don’t care about problems in the black community.” When white artists use “racially coded styles and products and reduce these symbols to commodities or experiences that whites and racial minorities can purchase and share,” which turn the text into a “meaning less imitation of blackness” (Rodriquez 649). One white woman believed that it was hypocritical of Allen to make fun of hip hop culture, while see used it to get a larger audience. She said, “I’m a fan of Lily Allen’s last album and I was shocked that she did this. It is really racist to use black women like that and then make fun of their careers as dancers. I’m sure they have been in many other videos with rappers that do the things she is making fun of.” One of the lyrics in the song is “I won’t be bragging about my cars or talking about my chains.” The woman continues, “How can she use twerking that is popular in hip hop and then attack them for being materialistic without being a hypocrite?” A white queer feminist agreed with the all the racist claims, but also had an issue with some of the lyrics that she believes to be sexist and transphobic. She said, “the line ‘forget your balls and grow a pair of tits’ can be offensive to transgendered people because it relates gender and sexual identity with genitals, not personal identification .Its sexist because the line ‘I don’t have to shake my ass for you cause I got a brain,’ suggests that women can’t be smart and sexy at the same time. I have a problem with people telling other people who they are or how to be. Why can’t be define themselves? We don’t need to categorize everything.”

Lily Allen’s Hard Out Here music video has had many different interpretations of meaning. It has led to interesting commentary on issues of race, sexuality, and gender within the media industry and the cultural at large. It also opens a discussion on the use of parody in a modern Meta, but polarized culture. The music video is a good example of how meanings are social constructed and can be subject based on the identity, values, beliefs, and personal experiences of the audience members.

Rape myth

One myth about sex crimes is that a woman is more likely to be raped by stranger than someone she knows. This myth is supported by the false idea that crimes are committed by one type of people, criminals. When in reality there is no group of people that are criminals because every community has crime regardless of class, race, gender, and sexuality. The same is true with rape. According to the FBI’s Uniformed Crime Report 2009 data, “Every two minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.” This fact with the  help  of the media, political policies and  cultural  norms would have  citizens believe that  these attacks are being committed by  strangers on the street corner late at  night and  could have been  avoided, if the  woman  was  safe in her home or  not  dressed sexy.

            One reason the general public believes in the rape myth is because of the idea of the justice and economics.  Our “social perceptions are often tainted by personal need…to view the world as just place in which you get what you deserve” (Hammond 244). This thinking puts blame on the victim and not the attacker. The women must have done something to instigate the assault; otherwise the stranger wouldn’t have attacked her. If  the women that  are assaulted are seen as an innocent  victims,  others would have  to come to terms with the  idea that  they  are vulnerable too. The belief that victims are only assaulted by strangers gives individuals a sense of control. They can be safe, if they avoid being alone with strangers. The fact that victims are innocent, but vulnerable to things out of their control disproves the idea that the world is just and functions economically.  Individuals need to believe in the rape myth because “a myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world” (Ryan 774).

            Another reason individuals believe in the stranger rape myth is because of educational, legal, medical institution support the myth.  Children are taught to not talk to strangers and be afraid of them. At a young age strangers are already seen as a threat. When doctors, cops and lawyers discuss sexual assaults “they will rarely label it as ‘rape’ if it does not approximate the stranger rape stereotype” (Anderson 226).  In court, a rape case has a higher probability of conviction if it follows the stereotypes of the rape myth. 

            “Rape expresses the essence of patriarchal relationships” (Martinez 152).  According to feminist perspectives, men benefit from rape myths. “Rape myths…serve to deny and justify male sexual aggression against women” (Ryan 774). The myth that rape is committed by strangers against women of low moral character benefits the patriarchal and religious structures in our society. “Those who hold more conservative sexual attitudes tend to view women as subservient to men and to be more accepting of rape myths” (Hammond 243). Rape myths that blame victims and ignore the majority of rapists continue to keep women in a lower position and inferior to men. These ideas about women’s inferiority and support of rape myths were present in the 2012 U.S. Senate elections. Republican Representative of Missouri, Todd Akin, believes that if pregnancy is a result of a rape that woman wasn’t really raped. Todd Akin told reporters, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down” (Moore 1). President Obama responded to the comment by  taking a feminist stance by  calling Akin’s comment “an  example of why  politicians  should not make health care decisions for women” (Moore 1). The idea of questioning what is or isn’t legitimate rape reinforces the real rape script that shapes the rape myth. “The real rape script involves a sudden and physically violent attack on an unsuspecting woman, usually by a stranger. The woman is alone at the time of the attack” (Ryan 776). Any other sexual assault that does not fit into that script isn’t seen as legitimate rape and that victim’s   experience is silenced and trivialized.  Men tend to believe in rape myths more than women because of man’s lack of identification with victims. Women are more likely to be raped or know other women who have been raped, which allows them to empathize with victims. Men have apathy because men are not sexualized or associated with their bodies the way women are. “Not only do men agree with rape myths more than women, they also empathize less with the victims than women, blame the victims and hold less tolerant attitudes towards victims” (Anderson 228). The inability for males to identify with rape victims can influence how policies regarding sexual crimes are formed in government agencies, and how sexual crimes are discussed in the media in our patriarchal society.  “The fear of rape keeps women off the streets at night. Keeps women at home” (Martinez 1530.  The fear of stranger rape is used as tool for voluntary consent and conformity to the patriarchy by women passive and out of the public sphere.

            Some feminist critics blame the media for supporting rape myths and rape culture. “The media shapes public opinion about sexual violence and its perpetrators” (O’Hara 248).  Film and television programs express the idea that “sex defines masculinity, heterosexual men objectify women and heterosexual men are sexually preoccupied” (Ryan 779). These gender norms define men as individuals that use women as sexual objects and women as submissive sexual objects. These ideas of gender are most present in pornography. “Pornography is correlated with sexual coercion and…Rape myth acceptance” (Ryan 779). Hardcore pornography uses plots of rape fantasies of submissive women happily waiting to be raped and men performing aggressive and violent sexual acts with force and coercion. Media images influence how public discourse of rape and sexual assault are shaped in our society.  “Misleading representations of sexual violence may cause the public, police, and members of the court to revert to these understandings when establishing definitions of rape” (O’Hara 257). The majority of the news coverage of rape and other sex crimes tend to focus on the criminal and the shocking nature of the crime in order to get more viewers. When the victim is mentioned, the media “does not address the harm done to the victim” (O’Hara 252).  The victim is disregarded in most news coverage, or at least depersonalized. The victim becomes just an object that this monstrous thing attacked, making it seem like a random senseless act. The media use the monstrous rapist motif to sell their stories. This reinforces the idea that rapists are “sick emotional disturbed men” (O’Hara 250). The news media helps silence the threat of rape because it “regularly described (rapists) as “beasts” or “perverts” and distanced from “ordinary” men” (O’Hara 248). The news media only  focuses on  the  most  sensational  cases  to attract  the  most  viewers and  make high advertisement revenue.  “When rape is sensationalized by the press, the perpetrator is transformed into an ‘other’,” which makes women more vulnerable to more common forms of rape (O’Hara 251). The sensationalism  stranger,  gang rapes,  and serial rapists news coverage cause  the  public’s knowledge and  interests in  more common types of rape committed by  people the  victim knows.   “The  news media gives disproportionate  coverage to certain types of rape, which  can  cause the  public to have an overly narrow understanding of rape that excludes the  most  common type of rape, acquaintance rape” ( O’Hara 250). 

            Believing in the rape myth puts more women at risk of rape and sexual assault because it ignores the reality of sex crimes and the majority of sex criminals.  Women  are focused on  avoiding  stranger rape to  the  point that  they  ignore their vulnerability of  being assaulted by  someone  they know. “Fear of rape is assessed as fear of real rape (stranger rape), not fear of acquaintance rape” (Ryan 777). Acquaintance rape is often interrupted as only a miscommunication issue and not real rape. On college campuses, “many administrators and officials think sexual assault is less a violent crime than it is a misunderstanding about consent between two students. That fuzzy area, often referred to as gray rape” (Jones 3).  The situation is describe by victims and victimizers as the  male  receiving  mixed signals and  going too far,  while the women negotiates what  she  is willing to do sexually to avoid force.  This is interrupted as compromise based on gender roles. “Men believe in  a yes/ no form of consent,  whereas women may  see consent as negotiated through an ongoing  process that  involves  a series  of gates, in  which they  are willing to  do some  things but not  others” (Ryan 777). There is common belief that these strangers committing rape are “obviously different from other men” (Ryan 779). This implies that  you  couldn’t  be  raped  by  a friend or  family member because they  are  not seen as abnormal or threatening.  The rapist is usually described as a “brutish male aggressor…sex crazed, deviant sociopath…who had no previous acquaintance with the victim” (O’Hara 151). Acquaintance rapist may be able to gain access of “potential victims because he does not resemble the myth” (Ryan 779).

 “The rape of a woman is a violent and alarming common crime often committed by men the victims know and trust” (Hammond 243). The majority of rapes are committing against women, but men are also victims. According to the FBI’s Uniformed Crime Report 2009 data, “1 out of 6 women and 1 out of 33 men have been raped or experience attempted rape.” The report also states that only 31 percent of rapists were strangers and 2 out of 3 victims knew the rapist. 23 percent of attackers were previously intimate with the victim, 3 percent were relatives and 36 percent were friends or acquaintances. The myth of being attacked by a stranger walking alone at night can be disproven because only 43 percent of all rapes (not only outdoors) happen between 6pm and midnight. Another study found that “43 percent of rapes happen in the victim’s home” (Anderson 228). A study focusing on college rape found that when American college women were asked to describe their experiences they  “described a date/ acquaintance rape more frequently than rape perpetrated by a stranger” (Anderson 227). The reality of rape is actually the opposite of the myth of the dangerous violent stranger. Some believe that if the victim didn’t struggle enough, it was not legitimate rape. That simple isn’t true either.  In fact, “84 percent of rapes involved a man known to the female victim and involve little aggression, no weapon, and little injury to the victim” (Anderson 226).

One government policy, which deals with the reality of sexual crimes, is the federal Violence against Women act of Title IX, the federal gender equality law. The Title IX law makes colleges and  universities  “adopt and  publish grievance  procedures and  develop  education and  training programs to help students and employees to  recognize and  respond  to sexual harassment and  violence” (Jones 2). In 2011, the Obama administration expanded this to include the requirement of colleges to “respond if a sexual assault is reported, even if law enforcement officials decline to pursue charges” (Jones 2). The  law  is a step in  the  right  direction of  recognizing  that  women can be rape by  professors and classmates, but  the lack  of  enforcement is a new problem.  The lack of enforcement shows that society still does not take non-stranger sex crimes seriously.  “Few students found responsible for sexual assaults face punishment at their universities, and the cases are seldom turned over for criminal prosecution” (Jones 2). 

The destruction of the stranger rape myth makes men and women accountable for their violent actions, sexual relationships and sex crimes. It starts to address real issues of date rape, sexual assault on college campuses and incest rapes. The true nature of sexual crimes should open debate on the social meaning of consent, masculinity and femininity, socioeconomic inequalities, and hyper sexualized American culture, instead of blaming victims and defending victimizers. Honest dialogue about rape is the first step of to dismantle the rape myth. Kristen Lombardi, a journalist for Center of Public Integrity, writes a series on sexual assaults on college campuses.  Lombardi believes that education and awareness about sexual assault with help destroy rape myths and make attackers accountable for their actions.  “The level of awareness (about sexual assault on college campuses) has been raised   immensely… a lot of schools review policies, knowing that the OCR (U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights) is serious about these kinds of issues” (Jones 4).

One  way  of looking  at rape as a social  problem is to  place it  into  the macro  content of social  norms associated  with sex and gender.  Sexual  assault  is  only  one injustice within  a patriarchal  society,  where inequality, domination, subordination, and exploitation (based on gender) are common” and  “inequality among men and women have social  causes and consequences” ( Martinez 149).  Sexual crimes committed by men will continue to happen as long as men are socialized to believe that “violence (is) a masculine characteristic” (Martinez 149).  Binary gender constructions mean that women are what men are not.  If its masculine to commit violence, then it means being feminine includes  being a  victim  of  violence.  Rape  and sexual  assault  are  separated from  other  forms of assault, but  they  do  fit  into the history of  violence  against  women.  “The use of stereotypes hinders the discussions about real causes of sexual violence. If the perpetrator is a devious monster, rape becomes a random act of violence rather than a society problem” (O’Hara 256).  Rape and sexual assault needs to be viewed as a crime that is committed by all different types of people and that all members of society are vulnerable.  Sexual crimes can’t only be seen as random uncommon occurrences, but a real problem that is social constructed. 

Marilyn Manson’s sexuality

Marilyn Manson celebrates the performance of sexual deviance, which rejects dominant ideals of heteronormativity and gender binaries, and is accepted and demonized by critics.  Rock critics that lean more liberal and accept the rock star life style, such as Rolling Stone Magazine, are fans of Manson. But, more conservative critics, such as fox news and religious groups, fear that he has a negative effect on society.  Controversial aspects of Marilyn Manson’s public image include satanic worship, BDSM, bisexuality, dressing in drag, drug use, group sex, and androgyny and self-harm. He uses the mostly sexual imagery during live performances and makes erotic fetish music videos in order to express his sexuality.

Marilyn Manson is the front man of the American rock band Marilyn Manson, beginning in 1989 to the present. He was most popular in the music scene from mid 90s to early 2000’s. He is a controversial figure because of his anti-religion lyrics and unfiltered sexuality. Many critics refer to his live performance and music videos as obscene and offense. This is the one of the reasons that he appeals to his audience. He encourages people to be themselves, regardless of how others feel. Thinking for you and expressing yourself is an inspiration for Manson.

Marilyn Manson is a conceptual performance artist that states that his intent is to “make a mockery of gimmicks, to make something that was faker than everything that was fake” (Heath 1). The sexual and religious imagery is a satirical performance and personal life choice that intends to make the audience question their personal beliefs and how those beliefs are formed. He is a criticized for encouraging kids to engage in drugs, sex, self-harm and suicide. Manson openly engages in drug use and has called drugs an “amusement park for adults” (Heath 9). He started cutting himself in high school and often cuts during in his performances to show people his pain. This is then sexualized and fetishized by his audience. Marilyn Manson challenges gender binary by dressing in drag or androgynous clothing and wearing make up.  “I wear make up like a girl wears make up. I always have make up” (Scaggs 2). Marilyn Manson wears his androgynous clothing and make up for photo-shoots for music magazines, such as Rolling Stone Magazine. Being on the cover the most popular music magazine help Manson create an image of androgynous sex deviant. This publicity gave him new fans and critics to celebrate and demonize his nonheteronormative sexuality.  A controversial music video only increased his deviant sexual image.

In 2003, Manson produced his music video for his song (S)aintThe video has been label art, obscene, erotic, pornographic, and disturbing because of the sexuality, drug use and self-harm. In the video, he uses cocaine and heroin, and cuts himself. The bloody nose and agitated movements after the effects of the drugs are gone is a comment on the after effect of extreme drug use that comes with being a wealthy sex symbol. He cuts himself in an aggressive sexual way and plays with his blood to show that he is fetishizing the pain, which is part of BDSM. There are a few BDSM uses of imagery, along with other deviant sexual acts. Women are bound and gag waiting for him to come have sex with them, which celebrates BDSM acts.  There is group sex with men and women, which rejects dominant Christian values about sex being between one man and one woman.  The group sex includes homosexual acts that are usually not depicted in music videos.  Queer sexualities are normally ignored in pop culture. Manson has one character in the video that starts off as a woman and turns out to really be a man. This transition starts with Manson touching himself while touching a female actress.  Later on, the actress is replaced with a male actor in drag playing the same character. Manson sees the switch happen and realizes that it is a man, but does not stop touching the man or himself. This is a comment that in his alternative sexuality the gender of the person isn’t important to sexual pleasure. The source of sexual pleasure isn’t from person; it’s from the act itself.  Manson’s sexual imagery attempts to normalize fetishes by giving the viewer permission to desire “the other.”  His queer and alternative sexuality has received attention from critics.

Marilyn Manson has become a symbol for moral decay of society. He has been blamed for school shootings, such as Columbine, because his lyrics celebrate suicide, death, and destruction.  National Review, a conservative magazine that comments on American society, refers to Manson as   a “derange Satanist” (Lowry 1). Conservative critics believe that Marilyn Manson commits obscene acts during live performances because of the lyrical content of his songs and appearance.  During his live performance, he does rips apart the bible and wears make up and women’s lingerie. This imagery rejects the dominance of Christianity in American society and celebrates alternative sexualities. Some nonfactual beliefs about him are “that the band hands out drugs to be consumed and puppies to be ripped apart at concerts, that Manson had a rib removed to facilitate autofellation and that he had sex with a sheep onstage” (Heath 1). One media company that reports on nonheteronormative stories and nonconformists with a disapproving bias is Fox News.

In 2001, Marilyn Manson appeared on The O’Reilly Factor on a segment called Children At Risk. O’Reilly factor accuses him of harming children by influencing them to perform morally “bad” behavior. He gives Manson the opportunity to explain himself, but in the end they agree to disagree. Rejecting gender binaries and embracing alternative forms of sexuality are labeled morally bad and wrong because it goes against the Christian beliefs that Fox and their audience follow.  These beliefs and repetition of them   promotes heterosexuality and gender conformity as the only form of morally right sexual performances.   O’Reilly asks Manson about the profanity, suicidal messages and Satanist references in his music and implies that children are going to start to model this behavior. O’Reilly refers to Manson’s public image as “bizarre.” They discuss if he encourages children to have sex and gay sex. O’Reilly believes that if his audience see him performing gay sex acts, they will go out and do them too. O’Reilly implies that homosexuality is wrong when he asks about the act Manson performed on stage.  Marilyn Manson states that he is only presenting alternative ideas to make people question their own, but doesn’t force any lifestyle on any one.  O’Reilly sticks with his narrative of alternative sexualities and lifestyles are morally bad through out the entire interview, which promotes heteronormativity as the only acceptable behavior.

Marilyn Manson isn’t as scary or kinky as his image would portray according to ex-girlfriends. His image as the man to fear has decreased over the years as details of his personal life have surfaced. Manson is a romantic in his personal life. He wrote his album, Eat Me, Drink Me, to seduce his girlfriend at the time, Evan Rachel Wood.  Jenna Jameson states in her book, How To Make Love Like a Porn Star, “I couldn’t believe how intelligent and thoughtful he was. I had a preconceived notion that the sex would be crazy, but he was so tender and loving.” (Jameson).

Marilyn Manson’s deviant sexuality and popular success in the 90’s presented an alternative script to mainstream America. His performance of sexuality rejected the dominant Christian morality judgments surrounding physical appearance based on gender, BDSM, group sex, and homosexuality. Manson’s hyperbolic performance of deviant sexuality questions heteronormativity and gender binaries and makes queer and alternative sexualities more visible.

Mad Men and desire for “the other”

The idea of giving up pleasure in order to be successful reminded me of the AMC show mad men. No matter how hard they work or how much money they make, the majority of the characters are unhappy. They use sex, smoking and drinking to try to obtain happiness and experience pleasure. In the second season, Paul is seeking out pleasure in the other and trying to prove that he is progressive by dating a black woman. Joan, a coworker and ex-girlfriend, calls him out on it. The show is set in the 1960’s, but I think the argument is still valid. Are you dating the other for romantic reasons or are you with them only because they are the other?

Lane Pryce is another character that falls in love with a young black woman. Lane is a junior partner and main financial officer of the ad agency. His work ethic has caused strain on his marriage and led to him seeking pleasure in the other. His irresponsibility towards his family and relationship with the other has caused his father to react with hostility and racism.

Pro vs. Anti porn

Arguments against pornography
1. Porn dynamics are set up to have active men and passive women. Sex becomes a thing that a man does to a woman. It reduces women to objects for male consumption.
  • ·      Creates social inferiority of women.
  • ·      Endangers children because many women are depicted as childlike or presented as under 18.
  • ·      Doctor and nurse & plumber and house wife fantasies show female economic inferiority
  • ·      Cum shots are degrading as an act of subordination.  When it happens on her face, it disregards her identity.
2. In bdsm porn (hetero and homo), women are forced into sexual acts using masculine power dynamics and reinforce women’s oppression.
3. Socializes men to be aggressive and violent towards women; socializes women to get sexual pleasure from being powerless.
4. Many of the female workers within the industries are being abused and/or have an abuse history.
5. Women’s sexual desires are ignored.
  • ·      Male performers receive oral, but don’t give it.
  • ·      Focuses mainly on a women’s body and gives minimal attention to the penis.
6. Homophobic
  • ·      Lesbian sex is performed for male audience.
  • ·      Male bodies are not focused on and male on male contact is absent
7. Unrealistic body image and desires.  No body hair, large breasts and butts with tiny waists. The porn fantasy sex give teens false ideas about sex and creates body image issues, such as eating disorders, for young girls.
8. Cause and effect theory. Porn makes rape and sexism acceptable.
·      Middlesex University London study found that college men couldn’t determine which statements about women were descriptions from porn or quotes from convicted rapists.
Arguments for pornography
1. Human beings are sexual people who desire to be desired by others and to pleasure and be pleasured by others, which may be seen as objectification.
2. People involved in BMSD take pleasure in being dehumanized and dehumanizing others.  They participate freely, making it liberating, not oppressive, when they see representation of their sexuality in porn.
3. Pro believes that anti
  • ·      Ignores issues of equal representations of sexualities based on race, class, gender, and sexual preference within our culture.
  • ·     Ignores the treatment and rights’ of workers within the porn industry by demonizing porn.
4. Porn made by women for women gives women opportunities to shameless explore their sexuality and see themselves as sexual people, instead of objects. Examples of sexualities shown in queer or alternative porn:
  • ·      Plus size porn actresses, gay and lesbians experiences, dominate females, submissive males, women wearing strap-ons, straight males enjoying being penetrated, multiple sex partners, comical / satirical situations and emotional sexual experiences.
5. Banning porn and male dominance of the industry
  • ·      Leads to guilt, shame and confusion about sex.
  • ·      Traps women in the bad girl/ good girl or slut/virgin dichotomies
  • ·      Creates the idea that there is only one normal sexuality, heterosexuality
6. A correlation between S&M porn viewing and committing rape and violence isn’t cause and effect theory.
  • ·      Correlations are not facts.
  • ·      Blaming porn ignores free will and removes responsibility from the individual
  • ·      Porn reflects macro cultural problems that will not be solved by banning porn
7. Porn made by women that include storylines, emotional connections with sex, and mutual fulfilling sex acts can change how sex is perceived.
8. Porn can be used as an educational tool to teach
  • ·      How to establish boundaries and consent.
  • ·      How to have safe sex.
  • ·      How to express desires to your partner(s)