Should "Wiggle" Make Your Conscience Wiggle?

Yes, most definitely. If your conscience isn't nagged, bothered, made uncomfortable, niggled at, and wiggled by this song, I would suggest that your conscience is malformed and you need to work on that. I can only shake my head in disappointement that Jason Derulo now has, not one, but two singles hovering among the top ten hits which both degrade, objectify, anatomize, and "utilitize" the human person, particularly women. "Wiggle", the fourth single from Derulo's album Talk Dirty (2014), focuses on what you would expect it to: the particular parts of women's bodies that can move in such a way as to sexually arouse their male spectators. It is voyeuristic; it is porn-lite. And if we're concerned about the so-called "rape culture", maybe we had better start analyzing songs like this which encourage it.

Every lyric in this song is an insult to women, even (and perhaps especially) the line in which Derulo claims that he's "in this club making wedding plans". This line is perhaps the most foul because it is the deepest lie. For one thing, there is no country on earth (as yet, that I'm aware of) that has made it legal to marry only a part of a person's body. The only "wedding plans" Derulo has in mind involve a woman's backside. She is not a person to him; she is not even simply a body. She is nothing but a mound of flesh. Her body can be referred to in the same way we refer to cuts of meat: steak; rib; sirloin; tenderloin; chuck; brisket. It is possible to section her off and only partake of those particular bits that you find the choicest. Derulo has no interest in marrying a person, in being joined for life to a woman he desires, admires, respects, and loves; he just wants to indulge in a little rump roast. This process of depersonification is what makes it easier to objectify a human being, to think of her as not a person with thoughts, feelings, and dignity, who possesses an inherent right to our respect. This is what makes it easier for us to view pornographic images and think that there's nothing wrong with it because the persons involved are "not real". This is what makes it possible for us to degrade sexuality to such a point where it is not a matter of "we", or even "you and I", but simply "me". As Rollo May has remarked in his book Love and Will, modern sexuality tends to shift the classic fig leaf away from the genitals in order to obscure the human face. We obscure the other's face, her person, her dignity, in order to objectify, use, and abuse in "good" conscience. The music video for "Wiggle" encourages this by showing repeated images of an ice sculpture of a woman's nude torso; the head, of course, is completely absent. This is where voyeurism, pornography, misogyny, and "rape culture" originate. And it's a hit single. And we act shocked and scandalized when freshmen on college campuses dutifully repeat similar refrains en masse. We just as dutifully refuse to make the connection. Please don't take it personally when I say that we are a culture of utter morons.

This problem extends far beyond the actual physical interactions between men and women. Derulo makes it easy for me to immediately start talking about the problems modern technology causes in perpetuating this kind of abuse against the privacy of a woman's body: "If I take pictures while you do your dance, / I can make you famous on Instagram". Rather than being a place reserved for loving intimacy, a woman's body can now be photographed, videoed, posted, disseminated, shared, liked, tweeted, almost instantly and entirely without her knowledge or permission. Her body becomes a household object, accessible from any device, to be ogled and abused by an infinite number of anonymous "users". If the face is not visible, then the image is of nothing but a body, an impersonal object, a thing to be utilized for the enjoyment of others. Her "fame" has nothing to do with who she is as a person; her value is measured by the amount of pleasure her body parts give to other people. And, again, we act shocked and scandalized when military personnel are charged after secretly filming women having sex with them and sharing it as "homemade" porn, or when young girls kill themselves over their appearances in pornographic videos on the internet. We're shocked -- until we hear this song playing and say, "Oh wait, I have to dance, I love this song." Unfortunately, Jason Derulo is probably not going to do what the lead singer of Staind did to save your dignity during one of his concerts. In fact, he might invite you onstage so he can molest you himself: "Come on, baby, turn around, / You're a star, girl, take a bow". The Derulos of the world are normalizing this kind of behavior so that young men somehow feel that it is okay to publicly grope women at outdoor events. And, through this star-studded encouragement, young women are tricked into believing that exposing as much skin as possible and dancing provocatively is a sign of female power and independence. Again, if we don't see the connection between the two, we are cultural morons.

To people like Derulo and his rap collaborator Snoop Dogg, the future of every woman is pornography. Every invitation to fame and fortune made by these men is an invitation to the abuse of her body as an object of sexual utility: "You're a star, girl, take a bow"; "I can make you famous"; "Tired of working that 9 to 5? / Oh, baby, let me come and change your life"; "You've got a bright future behind you". This "bright future", as emphasized in the "joke" itself, is one of allowing men to indulge their sexual fantasies. Every well-endowed woman can be proud of the bright future she has dancing, stripping, pornographing, and prostituting for the pleasure of such voyeuristic canines as Snoop Dogg, depicted in "Wiggle"'s music video as watching women's behinds through binoculars. Snoop Dogg's addition to the song explicitly describes such sexual fantasies of oral and anal sex, fantasies that are given greater clarity through pornographic images, and are too often pursued with or without the permission of "real" women, women who in all truthfulness have lost their reality in the deepening abstraction provided by voyeurism and pornography. Women become nothing but a means to an end, a body without a soul, that headless torso with exaggerated body parts. This is what lies at the root of all misogyny: a desire for women actually to be headless, soulless, person-less objects requiring nothing beyond basic functionality, least of all love or respect.

I've heard people argue that we shouldn't get too worked up about things like this. After all, it's "just a song". And they're right. We shouldn't necessarily start boycotts and revolutions every time we run into something that sends a negative message about who we are and how we relate as human beings. After all, an overabundance of boycotts and revolutions stunts their power to move the general populace. But it's incredibly naive to think that the lyrics, images, and ideologies we expose ourselves to every day have no affect on us. They do. They are affecting all of us all the time in very real ways. We need to stop being shocked about the behavior of our young men and women, and start making ourselves aware of the places where these attitudes start. They're sitting right in front of us. They are assaulting our ears and eyes everyday, out in the open, in the public square, in front of our children, with smiles on their faces and upbeat jangles. When confronted with toxicity, the best thing to do is reduce your exposure. So that's what we should do. When the song comes on the radio, change the station. When the music video comes on the television, change the channel. When it plays at parties, don't dance. Request a song change. Don't buy the album or the song; don't put it on your iPod or your phone. And if someone asks you why you don't want to hear the song, tell them the truth. There are a hundred little ways we can protect ourselves and those around us from imbibing a toxic culture that promotes the use and abuse of women in such an open and shameless way. Let's help put an end to "rape culture" by avoiding and teaching others to avoid those little things that foster its growth in our daily lives.

If you or someone you know is affected by pornography, I highly recommend Matt Fradd's book Delivered and his blog as an excellent resource for all things porn-related.


The point of this blog is not to tell anyone what they should or should not consider entertaining, nor what films, books, lyrics, or television shows are morally or artistically good or bad. The point is to engage with the stories that are creating our culture on an intellectual level, to meet the morals with our minds before they go to our hearts. Once you know what's in the entertainment you imbibe and you're aware of how it may be shaping your perceptions of the world around you, well then, imbibe away!

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