Blurring the lines of hetero male fantasies

I’m completely out of the loop, and wasn’t aware that Robin Thicke has the song of the summer with his hit “Blurred Lines.” Until recently, I had only heard the song once. A while back, I saw the uncensored version, which features a number of naked and otherwise half-dressed women participating in various activities, but mostly prancing around to the delight of Thicke, Pharrell and T.I. I didn’t think much of it at the time.

(That’s the “fully” clothed version). And I didn’t think much of it because it seemed standard fare. For most male artists, the music video is an outlet for their hetero male fantasies. A naked woman walking in front of balloons plastered to a wall that read “ROBIN THICKE HAS A BIG DICK” didn’t even register as abnormal because, well, that’s pretty much the message of every music video I’ve ever seen a dude make.

But that’s sorta the problem, isn’t it?

Roxane Gay, writing for Salon, said: “In the wake of the criticism, Thicke is fairly unapologetic, saying, ‘Women and their bodies are beautiful. Men are always gonna want to follow them around.’ I guess that’s that. Men want what they want.” And as her headline “What men want, America delivers ” suggests, in our society whatever men want, they get.

That’s the danger of brushing aside this video and the potentially “rapey” lyrics, as I first did (a function of my privilege as a hetero man). It’s not about the nudity in and of itself, or that the three men in the video are indulging their fantasies, or that they even have these type of fantasies to begin with. It’s the idea that their fantasies are meant to be fulfilled, whether the other parties are willing participants or not. It’s about the fact that we bend over backwards (in some instances, literally) to accommodate hetero men’s desires for a sexual playground, and in turn deny anyone else the same pleasure. If everyone is focusing in on how to please hetero men, when are they afforded the opportunity to pursue their own sexual fantasies? And if hetero men become so accustomed to being the star, how resistant will they be if asked to play a supporting role in someone else’s show?

Thicke’s video is mostly playful, and wouldn’t necessarily classify as demeaning, but that doesn’t matter all that much because it still fits inside the narrative of “boys will be boys.” And if you’re not one of the “boys” there’s apparently nothing you can do about it except participate as the boys wish. The lines are clearly drawn here.


Mychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation Magazine, as well as columnist for and Salon. As a freelance writer, social commentator, and mental health advocate his work has been seen online in outlets such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, Salon, Al Jazeera English, Gawker, The Guardian,, Huffington Post, The Root, and The Grio.

Mychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation Magazine, as well as columnist for and Salon.

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  • Jennifer Smith

    This author needs to keep practicing at casting off the blinders of his hetero male privilege. These lyrics are HIGHLY demeaning. “OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you
    But you’re an animal, baby it’s in your nature
    Just let me liberate you
    Hey, hey, hey
    You don’t need no papers
    Hey, hey, hey
    That man is not your maker” ..this is disgustingly patriarchal.

    • ELot

      Yeah, the video isn’t demeaning?? Come on. I appreciate the author’s effort in this but Thicke himself said he meant to degrade the women in the video. From Huffington Post:

      “People say, ‘Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?’ I’m like, ‘Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.’ So we just wanted to turn it over on its head and make people go, ‘Women and their bodies are beautiful. Men are always gonna want to follow them around.'”

  • Sophie Herreid

    If you have an ad-blocking software (such as AdBlock) I highly encourage you to use it while watching Robin Thicke’s video. The ads on YouTube videos are highly profitable to prominent YouTube artists and creators, and if you view the ads on his video, you are inadvertently paying Thicke to continue making similar content. I understand that the internet largely runs on advertisements, so I almost always have AdBlock disabled in order to support the websites I frequent. However, if you have this software installed, I urge you to use it to block ads while viewing content whose message you disagree with (i.e. misogynistic YouTube videos, or hateful websites). Even if you are there to disapprove, you are still viewing the ads and that is the only thing advertisers care about when paying their hosts.