Ex Westlife member Brian McFadden would not ordinarily make it into my listening zone. Just a matter of taste (my friends call it music fascism. They mean it kindly, I think). But today I’ve spent several minutes on YouTube listening to his latest release, Just The Way You Are (Drunk at the Bar):
What’s even scarier than the musical content of this techno-rap-country-and-western thing is the lyrics in the chorus:
I like you just the way you are, drunk and dancing at the bar, I can’t wait to take you home so I can do some damage
I like you just the way you are, drunk and dancing at the bar, I can’t wait to take you home so I can take advantage
That’s right, it’s a song about rape.
If only it were that simple though – world hears song about doing damage and taking advantage of drunk woman, world knows this is sexual violence – because the law says, in NZ and elsewhere, that if someone is too drunk to give consent, it’s rape.
No, it’s harder to tell what’s happening because Brian says he wrote this song about the woman he’s engaged to:
“For the record I wrote the song about how I love it when Delta has a drink (which is very rare) and she’s dancing.
“I am shocked at these ridiculous accusations about my new song that have been written.”
Herein lies the great controversy around sexual violence. For Brian, “doing damage” and “taking advantage” is consensual good fun. It’s “just sex”, to quote a wonderful book from New Zealand feminist Nicola Gavey.
But what is sex if it’s only about one person’s pleasure? Do you invite other people to allow you to do “some damage”? Is that an effective line? I have to say, it wouldn’t crank my handle, but then I’m an old-fashioned, likes to be enthusiastic, kind of sexual partner.
The fact is, in New Zealand and elsewhere, alcohol is used to faciliate sexual violence in at least half of reported sexual assaults on adults. Offenders use it to excuse what they do, and to make it easier to target potential victims. It’s harder to be clear about consent when you’re pissed, especially with someone new, and if you’re seeing someone drunk and thinking of “taking advantage”, you’re actually just thinking about rape.
Now Brian has decided to give all the profits of the single to rape crisis charities. Which might just about be the worst compromise ever made. I would far rather he realised that sex should be only about people who want to be there, said that, and pulled this encouragement to rape off the rack.