Saturday, November 29, 2014

All About Ambivalence: My struggle with Meghan Trainor's hit "All About That Bass."

Normally, I am the person who rallies in defense of pop cultural phenomena when they get so big that people start resenting them and picking holes. I’ve even written a feminist defense of “Blurred Lines” (see previous entry) and argued on behalf of Stephanie Meyer, Katy Perry, and Miley Cyrus, urging media consumers not to take Phenomenon X so seriously, as if it’s proof of the downfall of all cultural norms they hold dear. I think that a cultural backlash against a work of art that becomes wildly popular is usually a greater indication of the objector’s insecurity than it is a problem with the art. So it is particularly unusual for me to condemn a pop song to begin with, and stranger still, one that I am head over heels in love with.
"All About That Bass" made news this year as an inspirational message to young girls about loving their bodies as they are and not trying to be the thin, Photoshopped, unhealthy ideal that is now ubiquitous in popular media. The tune is catchy, upbeat, and wildly addictive. Even its harshest critics, Jenny Trout and Chloe Angyal, start their scathing deconstructions by acknowledging that “All About that Bass” is one demm fine helluva catchy tune.  Its problem, however, is the mixed, or perhaps downright catty, message this song presents: it is being hailed as a body positive message of self-acceptance to young girls, but instead of celebrating everyone, it elevates one body type by stepping on another. 
I actually purchased this song, which is amazing in and of itself because I am normally far too cheap to pay for entertainment I can get for free (no thieving savagery for me, I sit through advertising to keep it free on Spotify). But the melody and rhythm of “All About That Bass” are so infectious that I had to have the song on my portable devices so I could listen to it on repeat ad nauseum. (I am probably only alive due to the modern miracle of headphones, which have prevented the otherwise certain homicide that is triggered by a neighbor listening to the same pop song on repeat for hours.) I’ve gotten much more than my investment of $1.29 in entertainment from the song alone, and the video is visually striking, seductive, funny, and fresh. The dancers in their super feminine, chaste pastels evoke simple joyous revelry in dancing to pop music. I feel a rush in my chest and a barely containable urge to dance in front of a mirror whenever I hear it. It has carried me miles on a treadmill and caused countless drivers to lose their situational awareness on the road when they look at the goofy idiot next to them seat-dancing in her car. I LOVE this song. But I still squirm whenever I hear it.
So here’s my painstaking line-by-line breakdown of the lyrics:
Because you know
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble
I'm all about that bass
'Bout that bass, no treble         x2

Yum: “That bass” is a metaphor of her low-center-of-gravity figure. It is the bottom line, the meat of the sandwich, the “booty” as she calls it later in the song. The singer is gifted in the derriere and by being “all about” it, she is embracing it. Props for celebrating the figure you have!
Hmm: The metaphoric explanation of “treble” is not exactly spelled out, and whatever it is, it’s being rejected.
Squirm: There’s a convincing argument that “treble” might be the lighter, thinner, less substantial female figures of the type she makes comparison to later in the song. If so, these lines are a subtle suggestion that the treble type figure isn’t worth being “all about.”

But I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt and just assume these lines are only acceptance of her own unique figure, rather than an outright rejection of another figure type.

Yeah, it's pretty clear, I ain't no size two
But I can shake it, shake it
Like I'm supposed to do

Yum: On first listen it doesn’t sound too bad. It’s happy and self-assured and she’s claiming that even though she’s not the present cultural ideal of super thin, she still finds joy in her body.
Hmm: The inflection puts a heavy emphasis and little bit o’ ‘tude on syllable two of “supposed,” which smacks of bitchy one-upmanship, as if the tiny girls who can’t “shake it shake it” are not doing what they are supposed to do. And if they can’t do what they are supposed to do, does that imply that size two girls are inferior? At least in terms of performing the mating dance, it would seem.
Squirm: As a currently “fatcceptable” but formerly obese woman, I was shocked when I learned from a very thin friend that her body, too, often caused her psychological difficulties both in attracting mates and finding clothes that flattered. Until then, I had never even considered that thin people could be self-conscious of anything. I remember my older brother calling me out once for quite genuinely describing a new friend to him as “skinny, but nice.” I truly believed that skinny people had the advantage in every sphere of experience and therefore didn’t know the soul defining pain of body shame, which in turn, prevented them from becoming fully developed, empathetic, kind people. But it turns out that just as I assumed I had a lifelong man-catching handicap of excess fat, thin women can also have equally crippling confidence problems believing that they aren’t curvy enough. This man-catching concern brings us to the next troubling lines:

'Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places

Yum: That’s right, rock out with your sexy, curvy self!
Hmm: Having the “boom boom” that all the boys chase is problematic for a “body anthem” because it begs the question: is the celebration value of a woman’s body determined by what men want to do to it? This is a particularly uncomfortable thought for me because, as stated above, being attractive to the opposite gender was a preoccupation of my younger, fatter self (probably, still is). It feels hypocritical of me to say that she should not measure her body’s worth by that with which I built the very walls of my own self-loathing prison. Can I claim the expertise of age and experience in asserting that there is more to proving a body is awesome than the number of boys chasing it? Can you dance with it? Draw a picture with it? Run a 5K with it? How about singing a chart-topping, beloved, and unbelievably catchy song? All of these could also validate the pleasure of inhabiting one’s own body. That’s not to say I think being sexually attractive is not an awesome thing to celebrate. I am regularly thrilled that my stunningly attractive intended gentleman exhibits behavior consistent with finding me attractive. Being sexy is one of my favorite things. Ever. Only barely above ice cream. Both at the same time make the best day of my life. But if my reason for body acceptance is my man-attraction alone, it leaves a gaping hole if ever that particular success should falter on occasion.

Squirm: Finally, having “all the right junk in all the right places” kind of implies that there is wrong junk and that there are wrong places. If this is true, then it undercuts the whole “fat is ok” thesis because it puts a limitation on what kind of fat you can be. The booty seems to be an approved place in the universe of this song, and I’ll go out on a limb and guess that boobies are also a “right place.” So what about wrong places? The body positive anthem is becoming increasingly strict about what kind of bodies we should be celebrating.

Maybe I’m being too harsh to pick it apart this way. Is this just the millennial equivalent of “Baby Got Back,” which was revolutionary in its time for celebrating something sexy that popular culture hadn’t recognized before. I think there could definitely be a niche for a pro-fat-chick, or pro-plus-size song, even one that makes a distinct preference for larger lovers over skinny ones if it was no different than, say, a song praising a “brown eyed girl.” But I don’t think that such a song should be hailed as having a “great message about body acceptance” as I heard one newscaster put it. It would just be a fun niche song, like “Fat Bottomed Girls.”

As blogger Jenny Trout put it, the next verse represents what this song “could have been”:

I see the magazines workin' that Photoshop
We know that shit ain't real
C'mon now, make it stop
If you got beauty, beauty, just raise 'em up
'Cause every inch of you is perfect
From the bottom to the top

Yum: This verse is pure empowerment. Down with fakeness! Photoshop doesn’t just make people skinny who aren’t, it smoothes complexions, removes pores, straightens and whitens teeth, evens colors, and glamorizes features. There is a lovely faux PSA video floating around the Internet that turns a slice of pizza into a stunning model at a photo shoot, which showcases the magical powers of digital manipulation. Everything is subject to change in Photoshop, so it’s a good message to tell us not to believe it.
Hmm: But even this verse is not without a question of conscience; I am not exactly sure how she’s defining whether or not someone has “beauty, beauty.” Shouldn’t everyone? Why is there an “if” at this point in the song? The next phrase is “just raise ‘em up,” so maybe “beauty beauty” a euphemism for “fat arms”? Is it a play on words for the “booty” she’s “bringing back” in another verse? I hope there’s a legitimate interpretation that assumes everyone has some kind of beauty and the “if” is just a semantically clumsy allowance for unspecified forms of it.

Yeah, my mama she told me don't worry about your size
She says, "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night."

Yum: Awe, what a cool mom, allaying her insecurities.
Hmm: As someone who has seen the massive life change that comes from losing a huge amount of weight, I thoroughly enjoy the enticing power of my still-plus-sized curves. I know how men (and women!) treat other women when their bodies place them at various points on the skinny-fat spectrum. I shouldn’t knock a song for celebrating reassurance that fatty girls can get boys, too. But I wish it didn’t do it at the price of knocking the skinny girls down a peg, claiming that they are less desirable to men (and of course, that that desirability determines whether or not one should worry about their body size).
Squirm: At least two things wrong with these lines. The first is the hetero male validation problem again. This poor girl’s mother tried to assure her that her body is ok BECAUSE boys will be attracted to it. Second, there is an explicit limitation of who is considered sexy: only those with “more booty.”

You know I won't be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that's what you're into then go ahead and move along

Yum: The singer is not going to change her body for anyone’s preferences and cave to the cultural standard of improbably thin women with big boobs. If she’s not someone’s type, they can go find what makes them happy somewhere else.
Hmm: Apparently liking thin women with big breasts is distasteful enough for immediate dismissal.
Squirm: There are naturally occurring thin women gifted with a generous upper balcony, and is it fair to call them “stick figures”? Stick figure implies not only that someone is unshapely, but also that they have been created with a lack of sophistication and interest. The stick figure is our most basic, unadorned image of a human being. Intentional or not, this verse is a dig at not just porn stars, but all skinny women. And what about women who get breast implants? Are they no longer valid sexual partners because they elected to enhance their bodies in a way that made them feel more comfortable or attractive?

I'm bringing booty back.

Yum: Yay! I have a booty I want made popular, too!
Hmm: I was initially puzzled by this line. I thought, “Did booty go somewhere?” Didn’t Sir Mix-a-lot make a little ditty about booty 20 years ago that’s still the anthem of thick souled sisters everywhere? Didn’t Nicki Minaj just recast it into yet another chart topping hit?
Squirm: Oh. Racism. Jenny Trout’s blog poignantly exposed the racism that I, as a privileged fatcceptable white girl didn’t see once during my hours of binge viewing the video. Big lady booties have always been and never stopped being a Thing for ethnic minorities, and a song that doesn’t even know it—and has the arrogance to assume it is responsible for turning a cultural tide to a state it was already in—suddenly reeks of privilege of many levels.

Now the lines that cemented my unease about the song:

Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that
Squirm: Trainor has explained that the line is a joke, but that’s not exactly a defense. It may be “just a joke,” but it’s a bad joke, the kind of “joke” that people use to say whatever terrible thing they want, thinking they have cleverly cut themselves a loophole in the required social conventions of politeness by adding “just kidding.” Another implication of informing thin women that she isn’t going to change her is that skinnies must be antagonists. Why else would they need to to be told? This line alone illustrates a deep insecurity that not only are skinny people considered more attractive, but they’re actually out to harm you if you’re not skinny, too.

No I'm just playing.
Sounds about as sincere and effective as adding “no offence” after an insult. As a former fat kid, I am very familiar with the formula. It rarely works.

I know you think you're fat

Yum: I do!
Hmm: Do I? Or should I? I’m tearing this song to pieces, which is unfair of me considering that I have gone through the struggle that the author has clearly gone through herself: thinking she’s too fat to be attractive to men. It’s a common concern, but it’s not actually universal. To boldly claim, “I know you think you’re fat” is a pretty telling indicator of the singer/song writer’s own mindset. When you’re that scared girl thinking you’re too fat for anyone to find you attractive, and you find support among friends who feel the same, it’s intoxicating to go fatproud and adopt comforting but exclusive mantras like “Men want curves, dogs want bones.” But that’s self-inflating and exclusionary, not self-loving.
Squirm: This verse is perhaps the most insidious because while it appears to offer solidarity, by creating an “us” (all us fat chicks), it also creates a “them” (anyone with any other insecurity). It alienates and completely dismisses girls who are plagued by other body issues (or don’t have any at all). It reinforces that the only girls who are sexy are the ones with extra weight, and suggests that they are also the only ones who need reassuring.

But I'm here to tell ya
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top

Yum: If this applies to everyone, then this is an indisputable “yay.”
Hmm: But as the rest of the song seems to imply that it doesn’t, then “hmm.”

The above suspicions and concerns are based on the lyrics alone (with the exception of the racism). The video, however, is indisputable anti-skinny propaganda. It begins with the singer and her slightly overweight girl friends cheerfully clad in pretty, chaste pastels, smiling as they dance to the upbeat tempo. 20 seconds in, we are introduced to The Skinny Bitch, whose garb is a skin-tight club dress made, literally, of plastic. A visual metaphor throughout the video is the image of people stuck in still Barbie-doll like poses. Plastic = fake. If there is a clearer metaphor for assessing women’s worth based on their bodies and clothing choices, I have no idea what it could be.

Every scene with the thin woman shows her making a face of disapproval or utter disgust as she watches the bigger girls (and one big boy) show off their booties dancing. 

The other thin women in the video are the chorus, whose faces are literally obscured by their garish hair and makeup. Their hair is identical, an unnatural white blond, which covers their eyes, and their lips are almost grotesque protrusions of violent pink, yellow, and blue. The effect of these visual additives with their expressionless faces is masklike, as if all skinny women are alike, fake, and void of real emotion.  

And finally, in case the “skinny isn’t real” message was too subtle, one of the dancers literally shoves the thin woman out of frame by bumping her with her derriere, at the exact moment we hear the phrase “skinny bitches.”

As if to say, look, Skinny Bitch gets what’s coming to her! Time for the booty revolution!  

Skinny Bitch doesn’t show up in the montage that follows of the individual dancers rocking out. After being shunned by the awesome power of the booty, Skinny Bitch makes a comeback to try to understand, but like most of her kind, she is apparently completely clueless: 

“Nope, still don’t get it.”

Some may claim it’s unfair of me not to consider the second-long shot of joy-dance that Skinny Bitch gets at the end. But this barely-more-than-still-frame feels tacked on, like “just kidding” after throwing passive aggressive insults at thin women for the majority of the song.

Some may also claim that the inclusion of Sione Maraschino, the big flamboyant male dancer, proves that the song really does promote acceptance of all body types. But it’s suspicious to me that the only male dancer is also the only dancer who might accurately be labeled “fat.” Would the video still be cheerful and funny if his part was played by an equally fat woman*? Or would we think that was exploitative and/or offensive? My hunch is the latter, which underscores a subtle sexist and sizeist idea that I have rarely seen explored: that truly fat women are considered tragic, but truly fat men are considered funny. I am ill equipped to fully diagnose the breadth of possible reasons for this inequality, but I have some ideas: The value of a woman is still based in large part on how attractive she is (a notion certainly not challenged by this song), and in the present climate, obesity is not considered attractive, ergo, a woman who is obese is pitiable and it’s bad form to showcase her. The fat man being funny is still an uncomfortable trope for me. If he were a thin male dancer, he would not have been of note at all, but as it is, he remains remarkable because he is both fat and dancing with abandon. Though it seems on the surface as if we’re saying “Let your freak flag fly at any size!” we’re still watching this guy dance as we would watch the spectacle of a circus freak, cheering “Go, fatty, go!” It’s spectacular because it’s someone we expect be ashamed or embarrassed to dance at all, and there he is freaking without a care. In that way, it’s reinforcing our idea that it is something unusual to be comfortable in your own (fat) skin.

Now, despite the anti-skinny message of the song, I doubt that it is going to do any real damage to anyone’s self-esteem. As my older brother pointed out, pop culture is still very much in the skinny, beboobled woman’s favor, and this one song is unlikely to change the tide. But I worry that the impact of this song is not a universal celebration of all female bodies, but a wedge driven between the skinny and the not, one that further alienates women and girls larger than the generally acceptable not-fat-but-not-skinny body type. It polarizes the skinny/fat dichotomy under the guise of universal female empowerment rather than encouraging us to appreciate the entire spectrum of shapes and sizes. Ladies of Size, do we really need a revenge anthem, one in which skinny women are shown as being somehow less “real”? Aren’t we past that point in progressive body politics where we need to shove the skinny woman off the screen to be able to dance and revel in our own bodies? Maybe not. But until some other body-positive musical prodigy can write a catchier tune, we’ll need to make our peace with this anthem as our flawed, but freaking adorable theme song.

*Ok, maybe Rebel Wilson or Melissa McCarthy could make this funny, but women being funny and fat is a pretty new and rare thing.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Blurred Lines on Blurred Lines

I consider myself a feminist, but I absolutely love the song "Blurred Lines." This is why.
Some broad strokes of my personal brand of feminism: I want to be paid equal money for equal work, and I want to be able to stay home and raise children without judgment if my partner and I decide that's what we want to do. I love the modern independence of owning a car and driving myself places unescorted, but I also thrill inside every time my boyfriend opens the car door for me. I'm pretty sure he doesn't open this door because he feels my weak feminine muscles are unsuited to the task of prying the masculine steel cover away from my my designated spot in the front seat. I'm pretty sure it's a gesture to make me feel cherished and special. If we lived in a time when he was expected to open the door for me, his chivalry would have communicated, "I am fulfilling my obligation of the social contract to be the workhorse in this relationship and protect you from unnecessary and uncustomary strain." But that's thankfully no longer our contract. Under the modern, chivalry-optional contract, opening the door is a way to say “I don't have to do this, but I want to make an extra effort to show my appreciation and admiration of you.” In terms of male “dominance” behaviors like door opening and meal buying, the fact that the behavior was once a symptom of a patriarchal institution doesn't disqualify it from being a legitimate, consensual choice any more than owning an analog watch disqualifies someone from owning a computer. Intentional anachronistic throwbacks don't necessarily mean that the weight of female oppression is implicit in them. When we choose to engage in these sort of “unfeminist” behaviors, we're not caving to shadows of the insidious patriarchy, rather, we're making informed choices and exercising our power of agency.
So how does this feminist backdrop make date rape songs ok? It doesn't. But my interpretation of this song is that it celebrates playful seduction that is caring, cooperative, and most importantly, consensual.
I can't deny that a rapey interpretation of “Blurred Lines” is entirely plausible. It features the dialog of a man trying to convince a woman to be more intimate than she is giving clear verbal cues about wanting to be. Reading his pleas as coercive certainly damns it to feminist hell, and rightly so. No one should be pressured into sexual activity, period. By this interpretation, the song is a pretty evil horseman of the women's rights apocalypse, end of story. But I have a hard time believing that that's the song's intent. If this is the real interpretation, then the bubble gum pop song Blurred Lines is essentially a college cheer, "Give me an R! Give me an A! Give me a P! And an E!" Clap, clap, clap! Hip, hip, hooray! Something so blatantly pro-pervy sex is an envelope-pusher far beyond the ambitions of Robin Thicke. This isn't gritty Eminem, exposing the hard knock life that kindled murderous feelings toward his mother, or dirty, raw Rihanna shocking us with her desire to get knocked around, or the Rolling Stones making us cringe at the pleasures of a plantation master's rape of slaves. Blurred Lines is a cotton candy confection, performed by a goofy doofus, not a Don Draper. I personally have a hard time just taking Robin Thicke and Pharell seriously enough to credit them with creating something intentionally so controversial.
When I first heard the song on the radio, minding my own business in the car, not having heard anything about the controversy, I got my groove on thinking the "blurred lines" were the fun lines between "good girl" and "bad girl," essentially the Hot Librarian trope (a personal favorite. See the author's glasses). For those of you from a foreign planet, the allure of the Hot Librarian is that the woman has a professional, competent, intelligent, and composed demeanor that the public sees, her asexual "good" side, and a fierce, sexual, animal "bad" side.
The real patriarchal stink that, bafflingly, no one seems to be outraged over, is that the song assumes women have to be asexual to be "good." Ironically this assumption seems fundamental to the whole misogyny interpretation of the song. When he sings “I know you want it, but you're a good girl,” people are up in arms that he arrogantly assumes she is hiding sexual desire from him, but not at all upset that “wanting it” and being a good girl are presented as contradictory. The rapey interpretation seems to have no problem concluding that if she's a good girl, then she doesn't want it, and therefore the singer must be coercing her.
Now here's where I'm pretty sure I'm taking the safety off a loaded gun and stuffing it into my pants: Imagine that maybe the object of affection actually does want sex with the singer in this song. Just for argument's sake, imagine that she's enjoying the benefit of having a powerful, professional female persona and playing with when to reveal her passionate animal lover persona. Imagine one step further that she's familiar with the singer and his feelings for her, and they have spent time together learning each other's nonverbal sexual cues. This context actually makes the opening lines an expression of concern for her feelings before it even attempts the seduction.
If you can't hear what I'm trying to say/If you can't read from the same page/Maybe I'm going deaf/Maybe I'm going blind/Maybe I'm out of my mind”
In these opening lines, he's trying to make sure that they are on the “same page” and offering his own fallibility as reason that they might not be, “ I want to communicate clearly with you, and if we're not doing that, it might be my fault.” It's almost a disclaimer of sorts, “This coming business is real, and I want to make sure that we aren't miscommunicating.” Maybe my hopeful naivite just reads wildly optimistic, but I see it as an invitation to the woman to call him on shenanigans and join him as a partner, not a victim. He doesn't want to coerce her, he wants to be on the same page. He wants the playful flirting to be mutually understood and consented to.
The next lines:
Now he was close/Tried to domesticate you/but you're an animal/baby it's in your nature/Just let me liberate you/You don't need no papers/That man is not your maker”
I'm assuming he is talking about the woman's previous lover/dance partner/boyfriend, one who didn't understand and appreciate her dual nature. It's a far cry from lyrical genius, but I still don't think it's coercion. The singer is trying to express an appreciation of the whole woman, not just the “tame,” “good” side. Even with this less-than-nuanced appeal to her to choose him, it's still putting the power in her hands. “Let me,” he asks and reminds her of her own power. He's not telling her how powerful and wild she is only take her agency away. He's offering up his admiration of her power and asking if he can assist her in her efforts to embrace it. And yes, I'm certain he's hoping to enjoy the results of her empowerment himself, but I think he enjoys the fact that it's the woman with power making the choice to involve him in using it.
The next verse:
And that's why I'mma take a good girl/I know you want it (x3)/You're a good girl/Can't let it get past me/you're far from plastic/Talk about getting blasted/I hate these blurred lines/I know you want it (x3)/But you're a good girl/The way you grab me/must want to get nasty/Go ahead, get at me.”
He's going to take (as in partner with, not rape) a good girl, because he wants the complex woman with the dual nature. Could “I know you want it” be his satisfied observation of the sexually confident woman he admires, rather than an attempt at brainwashing her? The next line is another appreciative nod of this woman's true nature, “you're far from plastic” (again, not poetry). He likes his real woman in a world where perfect, plastic Barbie ones are easy to come by.
I can see how “Talk about getting blasted” followed by “I hate these blurred lines” could scream drunkenness and make the blurred lines the inability to tell if the woman is interested or not. This is the most compelling couplet for the rapey interpretation. But I still think the rest of the song makes more sense if we pair “talk about getting blasted” with the previous lines as part of the effect she has on him. He's drunk on her raw sexual power of attraction. When he tells her “The way you grab me, must want to get nasty” he's showcasing her agency and offering her a chance to embrace the “nasty” or the not-good-girl side. He is interpreting her sexual advances toward him (she did the grabbing), and inviting her to take action, but he never once suggests doing anything to her. Over and over in this song, he acknowledges that the woman is the one with the sexual power and he invites her to embrace it.
The next lines offer a stronger case for the “they knew each other already” argument:
What do they make dreams for/When you got them jeans on?/What do we need steam for/You the hottest bitch in this place/I feel so lucky/You want to hug me/What rhymes with hug me?”
If this woman was someone he had just met and was trying to seduce for the first time, I can't imagine anyone being an idiot enough to use the term “bitch” with expectations of success. “Bitch” can be an empowering term if you use it about yourself or are invited to use it by someone else. We have all seen pop culture iterations of the following:

There's a pretty famous song:
I once had a friend who took great pride in being her husband's “best bitch.” Bitch in these contexts refers to a bold, powerful woman who knows what she wants and how to get it and won't take crap from anyone. While it can mean these empowering things, that's still a minority usage and I can't imagine anyone being an idiot enough to think someone they just met would find it complimentary. The relationship in this song has to be about people who are already intimately familiar with each other to use ironic terms of endearment.
He alludes to previous romantic interaction, “I feel so lucky you want to hug me,” which I think is much more likely a cute understatement about an established romantic partner than a manipulated a hug from of a relative stranger. As for “What rhymes with hug me?” I have nothing. I can only assume this line is just ... dumb.
As I've said before, the song is not a work of genius. But I don't think it's a work of misogyny either. I think its implications were not well thought before it was released, and it certainly could have used some more work on the branding strategy. But I think reading this song as a rape anthem actually removes the woman's agency and assumes a male-dominant sexual arena in which women are not supposed to want sex. It puts all of the power in men's hands, assuming that they are the only ones with agency, and that the females are just reacting. And yes, that's kind of the idea of rape, that it completely removes a woman's agency. But I like the reading of this that has her fully engaging in playful push-me-pull-you courtship. She has her “good” side and her “bad” side and leverages them as she likes in the game of seduction. Her dual nature is something to be appreciated
The big question is: where lies the burden of proof? Are we allowed interpret this song in what I feel is the feminist way in which this woman has agency and is in full control of this seduction, or does the existence of rape culture mean that by default we should interpret this song as coercive to eliminate the possibility of inadvertent approval of rape tactics? If my interpretation is correct, does it need proof? How would the woman's consent to this seduction be communicated? A surgeon general's warning at the beginning of the video? “The Surgeon General warns that the male and female in this song are engaged in a loving and committed relationship with a known history of nonverbal sexual consent.”
If the woman was playing a cat-and-mouse game and went so far as to actually refuse or even imply that she was not interested (as she does in “Baby It's Cold Outside,” which will have to be another essay), what then? Thankfully for this essay, this song doesn't actually have any evidence that the woman is disinterested—our only hint is that the singer is telling her “I know you want it,” which doesn't necessarily have to be a douchey frat boy line. But what if she actually did refuse and was playing? What would be an appropriate platform to honor this type of play in pop culture? Are we not allowed to have it until the patriarchy falls?

These questions I don't have the answers to. But I like being a Hot Librarian (or, more accurately, Hot Flight Attendant), I like being seduced and seducing, and I don't think I can wait for the end of the patriarchy to dance to this song.