Panel talks rape and music for Sexual Assault Awareness Week

By: ANNA SOPHIA VOLLMERHAUSEN
How is rape culture defined? What are the consequences of calling a song ‘rapey’? These were just a few of the questions a panel entitled “‘Rapey’ Songs? Blurring the Lines between Music, Politics, and Rape Culture” discussed on February 11 at Carleton University.

By: ANNA SOPHIA VOLLMERHAUSEN

How is rape culture defined? What are the consequences of calling a song ‘rapey’? These were just a few of the questions a panel entitled “‘Rapey’ Songs? Blurring the Lines between Music, Politics, and Rape Culture” discussed on February 11 at Carleton University.

The panel was held by law professor Ummni Khan, postdoctoral fellow and sociologist Dr. Rena Bivens and sociology PhD candidate Deborah Conners during Sexual Assault Awareness Week at Carleton, which took place Feb. 10-14.

On music culture, Khan said that “music releases dopamine, the pleasure adrenal response that we have when we eat, and when we have sex.” She added that “it’s very confusing because those two things are connected to reproduction and survival, but music doesn’t have any instrumental goal that we can really comprehend.” She finished by saying that “it really tells us something about the power of music. Music moves us, it changes us physiologically, and that’s why it’s so powerful.”

Next up was racist culture, which Deborah Connors elaborated on. She spoke about how we have lots of different “ists” within our culture (such as sexist, ageist, ableist and so on). In the context of the panel, she said “we’re looking specifically at what that connection around racism and sexism is.”

Rena Bivens spoke about rape culture, which she said is “not really well defined, and kind of a murky topic.” She added that “it encompasses so much and it goes from normalizing, to tolerating, to excusing, to victim blaming all the way over to condoning and maybe even encouraging. I think part of what we associate with rape culture is that if you live in a rape culture there’s likely to be more rape.”

Kahn analyzes the infamous Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke at a panel for Sexual Assault Awareness Week, Feb. 11. Photo by Anna Sophia Vollmerhausen

Kahn analyzes the infamous Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke at a panel for Sexual Assault Awareness Week, Feb. 11. Photo by Anna Sophia Vollmerhausen

Finally, Kahn introduced a discussion about the word ‘rapey,’ by asking the audience what it means when we accuse something of being ‘rapey.’ The consensus was that people are afraid of defining something as being rape, and that by doing so, they’re minimizing the seriousness of the situation. Kahn offered her own opinion, by saying that “[the word ] ‘rapey’ seems almost cutesy,” adding that “it’s part of the popular discourse right now.”

The discussion then moved to the focus of the workshop: the music. Starting with “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, the audience was encouraged to talk about their opinions on the song, which led to plenty of discussion about how we have interpreted the song.

Discussion about the song “U.O.E.N.O” by Rocko ft. Rick Ross and Future centred mostly around the controversy caused by one of Ross’ lyrics in which he raps about putting a drug in a girl’s drink. Kahn brought up the point that in the song, Ross also raps about killing people, yet these lyrics received little to no attention. Kahn spoke about this by saying that rap artists often “take on the character of a demonized identity and use it to portray a persona.

The last song analyzed was “Papi Pacify” by FKA Twigs. This video offered a different perspective, as it portrays the issue of consent and objectification from a female point of view.

The last question asked by the panel was where do we go from here? The panelists finished by saying that “we wanted to give you lots to think about but we don’t want to paralyze your ability to judge and make judgments about things. It’s more about giving you the tools to open up these kinds of texts.”

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