Desensitised To The Sexualised
Desensitised To The Sexualised
There are plenty of videos online showing toddlers dancing and singing along or rapping to the music a parent or guardian is playing. Some are cute, but others turn out to be rather disturbing as you watch some young child sing lyrics that are inappropriate. In 2013, an agency named Amusement Park released a video of children in a playground, showcasing these kids reciting controversial and offensive lyrics from popular rap songs. Watching the disrespectful lyrics come out of the mouths of these babes opened our ears to just exactly what we are listening to.
While many children have no idea what they are exactly saying, what happens when we do know what we are saying when singing along to a popular rap song? Rap has been constantly criticized and known for its misogynistic themes and messages. A superfluity of songs depict women as objects of male domination, foster an acceptance of sexual objectification and glorify violence against women, sometimes even including rape and abuse. What is it about rap that makes us turn a deaf ear to the hyper-sexualized and derogatory lyrics? Is there even an answer to this question?
Growing up as a teenager in the third millennium and hearing lyrics which one would class as offensive from Jay-Z, Eminem, Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent was a norm. If you lived in a household that played this music, you became used to it – and even if this was not the case for you, everyone was talking about the songs at school. They were played all the time on the radio. It was not absurd to hear Mystikal’s song “Shake Ya Ass,” or “Big Pimpin” by Jay-Z and UCK and even Young Money hit “Every Girl.”
We grew up with these degrading lines in the back of our heads, never really confronting how disturbing and wrong they were. I have a lot of memories of being in the car with my mother and her turning off the radio or changing the station because of the song that was on. I remember her gasping and being utterly disgusted with some of the lyrics. Being young, I did not really stop and think about what I was listening to. Even when I did, it was never enough of a turn-off for me to stop listening to the music.
Most of us did not think twice when listening to Ying Yang Twins’ popular song “Shake” or the track by Cam’Ron that had every guy asking a girl if they were going to suck it or not. I cannot believe that this music with its simple, repulsive and demeaning lyrics towards women was the backdrop of my teenage old self. I rapped along to these without attaching a meaning to them. As kids and as teenagers could not connect a meaning to them because we did not stop to think what they meant. This is essentially the idea of innocence. Our inexperience and lack of understanding of the world makes us naïve and delicate in our experiences.
Innocent children are perceptible to just about everything. So when a song is telling a little girl “Baby just make me cum, then don’t make a sound,” or a little boy “I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it”, they are going to accept it as the norm. The effects of children not knowing what they are saying makes them believe these lines are right, especially when no one is telling them that they are wrong. They are losing their innocence. Girls growing up today want to be objectified by boys. They want to look and act like the vixens in music videos. Boys grow up thinking masculinity means being aggressive and misogynistic. This idea that women are only good for sex and exploitation we hear in a lot of rap songs forges stereotypes and values that are prevalent with children as they grow up and only demeans them – and the realisation comes too late.
At first, there is a certain naivety and mischievousness that comes with listening to such music. It is that feeling of ‘I know I should not like this, but I cannot help but love it’. But now that we are older, the same degradation continues, although it is laced with clever production, catchy hooks and a rapper’s impressive flow – it is still there thanks to Kanye West and such.
We went from not really understanding what we were consuming to fully comprehending every misogynistic and sexually oppressive line. Desensitization means that over time, we come to be more accepting of the sexual aggression and violence we hear in songs and see in music videos. And since we have been listening to rap from our teenage years, we have gradually become desensitized. We will defend ourselves and state that just because we listen to this kind of music, it does not mean we approve of domestic or sexual violence; and we would not stand for being in a relationship with a man who does. And yet, we are unconsciously endorsing this misogyny with the music we listen to. Whether you want to accept that or not, repeated exposure to all that has been mentioned in the music we listened to challenges our emotional and cognitive sensitivity.
Society is desensitized because most are unable to understand how or why we become psychologically stimulated to sexual imagery that promotes women as sexual objects and men as hunters of sexual conquest. When we were young, we did not know what was wrong with this music, but now we do. So how come we can still listen to it and like it? Perhaps we are not really fazed by the overtly inappropriate sexual themes, we should be ‘shaking it’, no?
Written by Chenae Rodrigues,
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