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.