Re-imagining sexual 'empowerment'
Published Friday, February 11, 2011 5:29PM EST
Sometimes I find it hard to believe that sex still sells. In an age where everything related to sex in media seems to have a "been there, done that" kind of feel – I often wonder if the pendulum will ever swing back.
I would simply love if there was more variety when it came to sexual representations, particularly in film and video. I hope for a time when we will see more imaginative images and that sexy will start to be inspired again by subtle references to sex or slightly humourous ones. But time and time again, current representations of sex just seem to continuously be about pushing some kind of envelope that quite frankly has already been pushed over the edge so many times that it's become kind of boring.
This is particularly true in the realm of representations of "female sexual empowerment". This is a term that gets thrown around a lot and it seems to me that it's definitely in the eye of the beholder. Take, Rihanna's latest video "S&M". Some people are calling it "sexual empowering" – others are calling it "trashy".
From a purely artistic perspective, it's a mishmash of images that other artists have already put forth like Madonna, Christina Aguliera and David LaChapelle (who, incidentally, is suing her for using imagery that look an awful lot like his photographs.
But can you call it sexually empowering?
I recently asked Sex Matters' intern, Kadie for her opinion on Rihanna's new video "S&M" – here's what she had to say:
When I first watched this music video – actually, when I first read the title "S&M" – my first thought was "I hope my niece doesn't watch it, or worse, an angry parent." But other than the fact that I'm sure plenty of parents will have negative responses to this video, it's sexy, quirky, entertaining, colourful… and very provocative. This video has its fair share of bondage, ball gags and ropes. So of course it's provocative, that's what they were going for. When you take in consideration that music videos are meant to compliment the song; the video works. The end result just happens to be full of kinky, sexual imagery.
It would be ignorant of me if I didn't say that Rihanna's increasingly sexed-up image isn't part of the business. So many female, and male, artists are working on the shock value of their image, it has become a competition to see who can be the most shocking. And if you want to shock your audience, other than wearing a meat dress, you can use your sexuality.
To me, there's nothing disempowering about her video. Rihanna is seen in both submissive and dominant roles. What's empowering about that is the fact that she's being open and comfortable about her sexuality. Even if it's just a music video. It might be provocative in many ways, but it's far from disempowering.
While I agree that Rihanna certainly seems in control of her image, and in that way it is sexually empowering to a degree, I still maintain that it's not as interesting as it could be. After years of seeing a similar type of female sexual "empowerment" handed over by the film/television/music industries, to me it feels a bit stale and dated and in that way, it doesn't seem authentic. I guess for me, authenticity, honesty and imagination are key elements in what I define as sexual empowerment.
With that in mind, here is my list of top 5 sexiest and empowering music videos by female artists.