By Andrew Biggs
Tove Lo is a Swedish singer enjoying a hit in the dance clubs at present.
Her song is very catchy and kind of fun. It is called “Disco Tits”, and here are the lyrics to the chorus:
“I’m sweatin’ from head to toe
I’m wet through all my clothes,
I’m fully charged, nipples are hard
Ready to go.”
Needless to say it’s a raunchy little number, in which Tove Lo informs us she loves to go out to clubs where she drinks to excess, gets really high on a number of drugs, then hits the dance floor looking for a man. Her account of that series of events is far more street-cred than mine.
The point is, this song is not just an update of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. It’s also entrapment.
Welcome to these modern times where the issue of allegations of sexual abuse and molestation has spread its tentacles thickly and audaciously over so many industries, most notably the entertainment field, causing monumental social earthquakes.
Big names are dropping like flies as we uncover and are exposed to the lurid behavior of the rich and famous. Harvey Weinstein is the poster boy for rabid predator producers and their casting couches. Kevin Spacey has just set back gay tolerance a good 20 years by mixing up child molestation with his homosexuality. Bill Cosby loves Rohypnol and women, in that order.
The “sexualization” of children is new too. Now there’s a word that will make it into the Oxford Dictionary’s new vocabulary list for 2017. Didn’t we used to call it sexual objectification in 2016? Or just plain old pedophilia? This week some model tweeted that she wanted to “wait four years” so that one of the Stranger Things child actors could mature and she can have her wicked way with her. Boy did she cop an avalanche of cyber-hate over that one.
Suddenly human behavior is under scrutiny thanks to modern technology, and our sexual behavior in particular has become a minefield. It appears the alleged good old days of the last few decades weren’t so good after all, especially if you were a young woman in close proximity to middle-aged men in power.
The rock that is Hollywood has been turned upside down, revealing the most open secret of all about how its starlets have not just been climbing ladders on their way to fame. Allegations of famous Hollywood figures engaging in retroactive sexual assault are almost as frequent as mass shootings in America.
Weinstein, Spacey and Cosby’s careers are over, while others are teetering. Ben Affleck may have dodged the career-ending bullet despite owning up to a couple of groping incidents. Amazon Studios boss Roy Price got fired for sexually harassing an actress. Over 200 women have filed sexual assault complaints against director James Toback. Two hundred! Jewish author and activist Elie Wiesel, who wrote the harrowing holocaust book Night, has been accused of sexual assault. He cannot defend himself; he’s dead.
Versace. Dustin Hoffman. Bill O’Reilly. Even 93-year-old George Bush Senior likes to grope women’s backsides, it has been revealed, cackling: “You wanna know my favorite magician? David Cop-A-Feel!”
(And yet others don’t seem to get tarnished by their lewd behavior at all. Remember Donald Trump’s brazen conversation about his strategy for foisting his bulk on women, caught on tape and released just prior to him winning the 2016 US presidential election? Didn’t stop hordes of women voting for him.)
The genie is out of the bottle when it comes to sexual harassment. This is healthy for those women who had been molested but couldn’t speak out. But that is not the whole picture. There are too many variables, or offshoots, that are threatening to turn perceived justice into ludicrousness. The sexual harassment bandwagon is now making all sorts of stops where it should not go.
Bob Weinstein, Harvey’s brother and guilty by fraternal association, has been accused of predatory behavior after asking a female executive out to dinner. She said no, and he asked again and again. The man sounds annoyingly persistent, but is persistent annoying behavior now tantamount to sexual harassment?
After the Spacey revelations, a BBC news story revealed all sorts of men had come out of the woodwork claiming to have been sexually molested by the actor. One was a filmmaker in his thirties whose crotch was grabbed by Spacey. Another was a bartender in his twenties who, after refusing Spacey’s advances, was given a 5,000 pound watch by Spacey.
This columnist would never, ever, stand up for what Spacey has done. One does have to weigh up, however, just how traumatized a 30-something filmmaker can be when an actor hits on him, or how much one man’s life was ruined by accepting a 5,000 pound watch — and whether the perpetrator should go to court over such incidences.
The same can be said for women’s empowerment. The battle for equal rights and respect has been a long and tortuous one for women. France may soon join Portugal and Belgium in banning wolf whistles, for example, as part of an ongoing program to make men learn to respect women.
Sometimes I wonder if that long and tortuous road to respect is actually circular, and we are about to overstep that empowerment and end up right back where we started from, as Tove Lo has demonstrated.
Tove is not an island on the pop charts. Artists like Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Beyonce, Fifth Harmony and a host of other singers strip down to their underwear on stage as they sing about empowering women.
What is empowering about Tove Lo’s public proclamation of sexually-stimulated breasts? Surely that is more demeaning that empowering. How would her mother react to this? Even the song title references an undignified description of women’s breasts. Is the empowerment fight a circular one which, once empowered, sees us take the extra step of liberalization and return us right back to where we started from, with women being perceived as sexual objects, because when Miley struts on stage in her underwear, or Tove starts singing about her colloquial breasts, how else can they be expected to be perceived?
And what if some guy, listening to Tove, dares to put his hands on those hard nipples of hers? Does he get arrested for groping? If he does, he is not allowed to say she was “asking for it”, as was the catch-cry from our misogynist past, because that is blaming the victim. It is okay for Tove to publicize her physical heightened response to sexual stimulation, but god help the man who responds to her invitation.
This is the topsy-turvy world of today. When do we say “okay, this has gone a little too far”? France, for example, may be congratulated for banning wolf whistles, but it is also considering making it a crime to ask for a woman’s telephone number. Of course we must respect women, and we have to include those who exercise their right to sell themselves via sex. That does not mean they want sex, as any male responding to their proclamations will find out. See? Told you it was complicated.
The definition of what constitutes sexual harassment and molestation needs to be redefined and honed, to ensure more extreme or dubious definitions are excluded. Tove Lo throws up a conundrum about modern life that can only get more intense and dangerous if not roped in.
And the worst part about it? I really like the song.