Talk Fetish to Me.

I think it is fair to say that hip hop has been a powerful space of resistance. It often allows artists to exercise their agency by creating discourse around issues of race and class difference. From the pioneers like Tupac to more modern artists like Lupe Fiasco, storytelling through rap exposes stories that may be relatable and comforting to those in similar situations while drawing attention and informing others who are not. Either way, the critiquing of larger social constructs and their lasting effects through this art is a gateway to discussion that reaches a wide range of people.

That being said, it is no secret that this genre also has a pretty bad track record for reinforcing violent, misogynistic, homophobic and capitalistic values. On a whole, it seems that we as a society have gotten better at recognizing problematic lyrics and calling them out publicly. May I present exhibit A. But let’s not congratulate ourselves just yet. I’ve noticed a common theme in rap that tends to be silently accepted and it is time for that to stop. I first heard it from Craig David in the lyric “what’s your flava?” Drake played off the same metaphor with the line “I get girls all different flavours”. The self-proclaimed “Mr. World-Wide” Pit Bull makes light of some controversial cultural stereotypes in the song International Love. Example: In Lebanon, yeah the women are bomb. Down in D.R. they’re looking for visas, I ain’t talking credit cards if you know what I mean. And most recently and certainly most explicitly, Jason Derulo’s extremely popular “club anthem” Talk Dirty to Me is really more like the anthem of sex tourism.

So why doesn’t the fetishization of racialized bodies cause a stir?

It’s the values instilled in our culture. We automatically assume “Isn’t being the object of desire a good thing? You are novel. You are different. You are exotic.” It’s hard to hear that word and not get the mental image of dancing around on a tropical beach like Prianka Chopra. Thus, coloured women in media are inclined to use their sexualization to their advantage – as Prianka Chopra did in her ironically titled single, Exotic.

Awh yeah that’s me – exotic. I was practically raised under a palm tree.

By failing to address the issue and simply taking it as a “compliment”, we aren’t challenging what is wrong with the system – we are reinforcing it. White colonial patriarchy was based on the notion that female coloured bodies are wild, animalistic, sex objects to be tamed. Nothing is said of talent or ability or intelligence in fetishization but if we look to Orientalism and how the two concepts intersect we see that the attention won by skin colour comes at the price of being categorized with the assumption that each group of coloured people “belong” to some less civilized, far-off land. Each coloured body remains bound to numerous false beliefs about a homogenized culture, language, religion and appearance. All this is deduced unconsciously and without consideration of birth place, nationality and personal identification preferences; elements that make identity more complex since the rise in globalization and migration. Contrastingly, white bodies have the privilege of defining their own identity without others questioning or coercing them into categories. See what I mean? This insistence to define coloured people as the “other” creates an unnecessary divide and encourages racial prejudices and discrimination to persist.

Jason Derulo’s song is just one example in an ongoing pattern in the way foreign-looking bodies are portrayed. As a black man himself, one might think this artist would be more conscious or sensitive to isolating race as a defining feature but it seems that the sexual appeal society has “awarded” race makes it seem okay. In saying that “Your booty don’t need explaining, all I really need to understand is when you talk dirty to me” there is an undeniable lack of respect for (and possible lack of verbal consent from) the voice of the women he is singing about. It is dehumanizing in the fullest because what makes us human is our ability to communicate our thoughts and feelings. Disregard for a person’s humanity in extreme cases may cause inhumane treatment to seem tolerable. Sex tourism as I mentioned earlier is the practice of travelling with the purpose of having sex with local prostitutes where legal restriction is not as heavy. Sex tourists may not be well informed when engaging in these practices so they could be putting themselves and sex workers in danger of financing human trafficking. I’m sure this is not what Jason Derulo was thinking when he recorded this song but it’s important to challenge the artists of popular culture to recognize the implications of what they produce.

Currently, products exploiting Orientalism and racial stereotypes can be found in popular culture everywhere. (Allow me to point your attention here.) A heightened consciousness and deconstruction of Orientalism could free us of harmful and unattainable expectations. It would mean to have greater control over the way we present ourself to others. It would mean being allowed and expected to look, think and act differently from what society assumes of our ancestors.

Now I ask that we bear this in mind; it’s not feminism until you’re fighting for the equal treatment of everyone. In this case, that means acknowledging the intersections of gender and race. If we can listen to controversial songs (like Blurred Lines) and argue that girls aren’t just objects to be claimed, shouldn’t we be able to recognize that coloured girls aren’t just stamps to be collected?


“TTFN Ta Ta For Now!”

― A.A. Milne



7 thoughts on “Talk Fetish to Me.

  1. First, I really enjoyed the parody music videos you displayed! You raise a really good point! A lot of time feminism can group all women together without acknowledging other aspects of ones identity i.e. race, ableism, class, religion, etc. Orientalism discourse is extremely prevalent within popular culture, like you displayed with Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty To Me.” I agree with you that his song drew a lot less attention than Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” I agree with you that the reasoning is probably based on the fact that their is a colour hierarchy and that the idea that women should just take it as a compliment is still prevalent. However, I also feel that because Jason is black himself, and in my opinion is being derogatory against these women and their race, it might not be seen like that because of his own colour. Whereas in class when we were watching the Miley Cryus concert it was very obvious the objectification of her black female performers because she is white.

    • also here is Jason’s performance of “Talk Dirty To Me” on Ellen -

  2. I agree with Eeyore that the links you posted are excellent examples. With regards to Robin Thicke’s music video, in the original video the dancers are actually completely naked. I remember someone having to show me the video because I didn’t believe that they actually allowed this to be produced and released on Youtube for that matter. It’s sad that sex is what sells and draws the most attention in our society. Even today with more awareness and analytical points of view being said, objectifying women as objects of sex is still dominant in the music industry. In addition, it’s not only male artists who are at fault. Female artists such as Rihanna flaunt their sexuality and bodies as sex symbols. A good example of this is in her “Pour It Up” music video, but I’ve attached the link so you can take a look for yourself.

  3. I love the videos and the links that you put up. As littlebunny10 stated, sex is what most music videos try to sell. It is completely appalling in my opinion. I find that one can get a huge message across, or even maybe a higher rating, if women AND men were respected in music videos. As stated above, in most videos, women are seen to be wearing close to nothing and luring the men.

  4. The caption following the gif Chopra was quite amusing. haha.
    It’s interesting that the song is actually Chopra’s herself, it’s not “featuring” her or anything of that sort: it’s simply her production. Yet, she has chosen to display herself in such a sexual manner. So, that said, even though she is the lead, she presents herself in such a provocative manner, while Pitbull, is once again, dressed elegantly, poised and like he’s just rocking the world. This goes for many other female artists as well–think of any of Ke$ha’s music videos, etc. It’d be nice to see more female artists who aren’t just making themselves out to be a sexual object, and instead embrace their musical talents, or take on a less submissive role in their music videos, etc.
    Moreover, I cannot agree with you more. It’s quite problematic that many people don’t see what’s wrong with being an “object of desire”. You’re not just a mere object to be made a spectacle of or to be quested as a cabinet trophy..

  5. This post was extremely accurate in reference to contemporary society and the hegemonic views that “Sex sells”. The Jason Derulo and Pitbull songs are of no surprise to me, they are well known for their ignorance of objectifying women. what surprised me was the song by Chopra and how she conformed to the sexual representation of herself even though she debunks it after with the comment underneath the gif. This demonstrates the hypocrisy that media is forced to deal with today, Chopra produces music conforming to the sexual exploitation of women even though it is contrary to her beliefs. But what else is to be expected in this backwards society ruled by capitalism.

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