“Let Me Wear You Out.”

Ever have a song catch you off guard while you’re doing something else? I was doing some reading, and I had my “Indie Soul” playlist going when a song I love came on. I recognized it and smiled when it started, and then went back to reading. But it dragged me out of my book after about 4 minutes, when the final lyrics were moaned out by the fantastic Tunde Adebimpe (it was a TV on the Radio cut, of course).

Now you’re two hours away from the start of your day
And you can’t be late, so let’s get straight
Let me wear you out…let me wear you out…

The track is “Wear You Out.” It’s one of the hottest songs about desire ever recorded.

Ta-Nehisi had a great discussion going this week over at his spot, about the lyrics of another TVoTR song from their latest album Dear Science called “Lover’s Day.”

Adebimpe sings: “I want to love you all the way off, I want to break your back.”

From what I read, the disagreement amongst his commenters was over whether the lyric was an innocent expression of desire, or if there’s simply violence and domination inherent in sexuality, or if the violence is accepted because that’s the way men frequently express desire. Ta-Nehisi suggests that those of us interested in learning about how men process desire should listen to more TVoTR.

I did and do get disturbed by certain common phrases used to discuss hetero sex by a lot of the dudes I knew in college. There’s “beat it up” and “smash” and “cut” and “blow her back out” and many more that I’m sure I’m not remembering. And on one hand, those phrases contain the potentially thrilling expressions of strength and dominance that many women enjoy. But they don’t speak to the tenderness and submission that are just as often parts of sex. Without context, they appear to be about pure, unadulterated violence.

Now, for some reason, “wear you out” and “break your back” don’t irritate me the way “beat it up” and “smash” do. I don’t know exactly why. But I do know that, in many circles, saying “making love” would earn me a snicker, while any one of the former expressions would pass without comment.

I think I’m rambling now. I guess I could tie this to some grander point about gender and misogyny and sexual violence in the hip hop community, but I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead. I do think this might be something as simple as: men talk about sex more frequently and in more spaces than women do, so the terminology they use becomes normalized, for better or worse. And I wonder if it’s my responsibility, as a thinking woman who is firmly anti-misogynist, to call it out when I hear it.


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24 thoughts on ““Let Me Wear You Out.”

  1. thinking of a name April 11, 2009 at 9:32 pm Reply

    As an old married woman, I know I am showing my age, but these terms are just, in my opinion, hyper masculine juvenile. First, I don’t understand the need for group discussion on the topic. Second, if you look at the terms “break your back”, “beat it up” and so on they all speak in terms of destroying something as opposed to “making love” which speaks in terms of building something up.

    An additional comment on your statement that “break your back” and “wear you out” don’t bother you as much as “beat it up” and “smash” and “hit” and so on, I believe the reason this is so is because, although all of them are violent in nature, the first two terms speak to the person and because of that connote something that is mutual, or that someone has gotten permission. With the other terms “beat it up”, “smash”, “cut” and so on, these phrases speak directly to the sexual organ and connote something that is taken by force. If you take any one of these terms( beat it up, smash, hit) and try to replace it with her or you it literally becomes an act of physical violence.

    • G.D. April 11, 2009 at 10:25 pm Reply

      Um, what?

      First, I don’t understand the need for group discussion on the topic.

      • thinking of a name April 11, 2009 at 10:46 pm Reply

        Fair enough. My original thought was I don’t understand the need for group discussion about sex and therefore the need in certain circles to use terms such as “beat it up”, “smash” so on and so on, but then again I do remember having several conversations with friends about sex pre-marriage. I guess it was just so long ago that I forgot :).

    • shani-o April 11, 2009 at 11:11 pm Reply

      I think you’re right. The terms that bother me do speak directly to the sexual organ, as opposed to the person with whom the experience is shared.

      But I’m still troubled, the more I think about it. “Wear you out” and “beat it up” are wholly about the feelings and desires of the male, not both parties. I wonder if one is okay, then the other has to be, because both are expressions of desire, and desire is a valid emotion. By the same token, if one isn’t okay, then the other isn’t, either.

      Hmm, this is a twisty one.

      • thinking of a name April 12, 2009 at 12:27 am Reply

        I don’t know. Who is setting the standard for what is okay? I find them all a bit offensive. I cannot imagine a guy coming up to me, when I was single, and saying “Girl, let me wear you out”. Well, I could, but not with out bursting out in to laugher. So is expression of desire another way to say expression of ego, because that is what I get from these terms, ego. I mean, with out some tenderness how does a man even know he has worn her out, broken her back, smashed and so on? Does he assume because she screams that he has done this? I know I am going a bit off on a tangent with this.

  2. GVG April 11, 2009 at 10:57 pm Reply

    What G.D. said.

  3. universeexpanding April 12, 2009 at 11:13 am Reply

    How are men allowed to express desire then? Is the only valid expression for him to say “Baby I want to make sweet passionate love to you” ?
    Raw desire isn’t cute – in men or women. Is it only that men express their desire in violent and dominating ways? Or is is that women don’t engage in that kind of discourse about what it feels like to want someone because we’re taught that we should maintain some modicum of hesitancy and at least act demure lest people think us “fast” and “loose”?

  4. Winslowalrob April 12, 2009 at 4:03 pm Reply

    Imma make a song called “Let me massage your feet and do the taxes” and hopefully TV on the Radio will make a cover of it.

    • thinking of a name April 12, 2009 at 5:13 pm Reply

      It’s already been done. Babyface “Soon as I get home from work” 1989 …

      I give good love
      I’ll buy your clothes
      I’ll cook your dinner too
      Soon as I get home from work
      I’ll pay your rent
      Your faithful lover
      Soon as I get home, soon as I get home from work
      Girl, I’ll treat you right
      And I’ll never lie
      For all that it’s worth
      I give good love (good love, good love, good love, good love)

      • Winslowalrob April 12, 2009 at 7:25 pm Reply

        Ha, but I wanted my song to be a lil more gender neutral, namean? Babyface can buy my clothes, pay my rent, and give me good love anytime he wants though.

  5. ladyfresshh April 13, 2009 at 9:05 am Reply

    I’m kinda upset i had friday off now, fantastic topic.

    I get more annoyed at those expressions. Yes there is the violent aspect but more it’s that they are trite. So much so that yes Winslow a ““Let me massage your feet and do the taxes” would actually be refreshing. Annoyed because i agree with thinking of a name (and maybe my age is showing as well) it sounds juvenile. frankly you (ok…’I’) reach a certain age and you (ok…’I’) hope for some creativity in sexual expression.

  6. Big Word April 13, 2009 at 12:25 pm Reply

    Terms like “beat it up”, “smash” aren’t the least bit offensive unless they’re intended to be. Now “superman that” is a whole nother story altogether.

    • thinking of a name April 13, 2009 at 12:45 pm Reply

      Are you saying that the terms are not offensive to you and therefore should not be offensive to anyone else or did I misinterpret?

  7. Big Word April 13, 2009 at 1:10 pm Reply

    It all depends on the intent, especially when we’re talking about a subject as personal as sexual relationships. A man telling a woman he wants to “blow her back out” can mean the same thing as “I want to make really passionate love to you”.

    To answer your question directly; No, I did not mean that and yes you did misinterpret.

    • shani-o April 13, 2009 at 1:46 pm Reply

      Big Word, I believe that intent is important, but it isn’t all that matters.

      My problem is less with a man saying that to the woman he’s with, and more with “blowing backs out” and “smashing” becoming accepted terms to reference sex, in the abstract, by both men and women. They are violent terms and they imply that sex is a violent act.

      • Big Word April 13, 2009 at 2:04 pm Reply

        I think it’s a bit of stretch to say that such terms imply that sex is an act of violent. I think it makes a lot more sense to say that they allude to the fact that sometimes violence is a part of the sexual act. I think what’s more important is how you define violence as it relates to sex.

  8. quadmoniker April 13, 2009 at 1:55 pm Reply

    I don’t really see “blowing backs out” and “smashing” as being in the same category as the much less violent-sounding and less implicitly-genderized “wear you out.” I think a woman could tell a man she wants to wear him out, and it doesn’t necessarily imply violence. But I agree. To the extent that it’s private dirty-talk, all of it’s fine. It’s when it enters the public sphere in an abstract way that it might become problematic.

  9. Big Word April 13, 2009 at 2:29 pm Reply

    We traded affection/ while I mess up her bang

    Wow. I’m offended. LOL!

  10. Grump April 13, 2009 at 5:39 pm Reply

    Man, where’s that Eddie Murphy “Raw” clip, when I need it….

  11. Ron April 13, 2009 at 5:52 pm Reply

    I hadn’t heard this. But it pretty much rocks.

    I’m not sure it’s as deep as you’re making it out to be. I get the sentiment, I guess. But on some level, parsing intentions seems a bit counterintuitive. I mean, what is he supposed to say “I fancy you and I’d like to make you some grape soda that I crush with my own feet?”

    He’s not talking about baking a cake, it’s passionate and fierce and…well you know. Intense.

    • shani-o April 13, 2009 at 6:36 pm Reply

      Ron, I don’t disagree. As QM said, dirty-talk between partners is one thing; anything goes in that scenario, as long as both partners enjoy it.

      But, and maybe I’m not making this clear, my problem is this: how is it okay, in the abstract, for sex to be referred to generally with violent terminology? It implies that sex is akin to perpetrating a violent act upon a partner, particularly when using gendered language.

      Desire, and expressions of it, like in the TVoTR song are a separate thing. I think UE is right- raw desire isn’t cute and tender and we don’t have to pretend it is.

      • Ron April 14, 2009 at 12:59 am Reply

        You make a ton of sense and I’m not defending violent terminology in reference to sex. I think it’s a bigger problem that both men and women have embraced demeaning conjecture as an accepted part of our interactions and as a result, folks aren’t willing to confront violent behavior as unacceptable, but rather, something which can be parsed to the nth degree as if there are levels at which such negative behavior is somehow acceptable.

      • Grump April 14, 2009 at 11:58 am Reply

        But on the flip side, can’t we also pretend that it is NOT violence?

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