There’s still a buzz going around about Chris Brown and Drake’s rumored Rihanna disses that writer Michael Arceneaux recently took to task on Ebony’s website in a piece titled, “RUDE BOYS: Stop Sl*t Shaming Rihanna.” The crux of his article can be summed up with the simple question, who are you to talk, as he points out the double standard and sheer audacity of these two male slores to try to expose Rihanna on wax when they’re doing the same thing or even more—a practice he calls “sl*t shaming.”
This isn’t a new argument, and I fully agree with the sentiment that with all the skeletons in these dudes’ closets and the blemishes on their character that we already know about, they shouldn’t have even fixed their lips to try to come at any other woman for what she does with her body; however there’s just something about defenses of Rihanna that never sit quite right with me.
At the end of his article, Arceneaux turns his attention away from these lyrical bashers and focuses on the public at large, writing:
“As for everyone else so fixated on this notion that there’s a problem with the way Rihanna carries herself and brought this attention on herself: grow up. She could have Mother Teresa’s sex life and would bring about the ‘starlet or streetwalker’ debate from any man with a certain attitude about women and sex.
“To ‘sl*t shame’ is to perpetuate the idea that sex is dirty, and in particular, dirty and dangerous for a woman. That rigid mindset is problematic as it is unrealistic and does little in the way of advancing the way we discuss consensual sex between adults. You know, any day now.”
Perhaps, but I venture to say something that’s probably a tad unpopular: Rihanna did invite this attention on herself and on purpose. She could in fact have the sex life of Mother Theresa but she has the public image of a hypersexed 20-year-old who can’t get through a set without grabbing her crotch at least 12 times and that’s just how she wants it. This is not the same as a woman walking down the street in a short dress who gets harassed by a man or even assaulted, this is a calculated marketing ploy to keep people’s interest in her because if it weren’t for her swexy shenanigans we’d have nothing to talk about. And with the choice by Rihanna and her team to create this image comes a certain risk because there are two sides to the sex symbol coin. Let’s just take a serious look at Rihanna’s career for a moment. She gets more attention for being topless in British Esquire, or showing her butt cheeks in a photo shoot with Terry Richardson, or telling Rolling Stone that she likes rough sex than she does when she announces a new tour date or an album release. Sex and promiscuity are her image and I think people have a right to criticize having her nipples in their face more than her new song.
My thing is, I’m not so down with the boys do it too argument. I am to the extent that if you call out one, call out the other. And yes, women can sleep around as much as their vaginas desire. But I’d rather both sides keep quiet about their bedroom dealings. No matter how comfortable you are with sex, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a private act. I wouldn’t force my sex life on anyone else and I don’t particularly care for anyone else’s to be shoved down my throat either. And the reality is, in today’s society sex is dangerous—for both genders—and going about it too casually, as she would like us to think she does, is dirty and dangerous. As I’ve said over and over again, she has no responsibility to anyone to be a role model but I don’t think it’s hard to understand why seeing her bounce from night club to night club scantily clad then supposedly laid up with a different celebrity, then catching the flu every other week and having IVs in her arm and missing professional engagements is cause for concern. It’s not any of our places to police what she does with her body but when you see the type of effort she puts into making us see her as a sexually liberated woman contrasted with the lazy approach to her actual career, it’s not wrong to think, hmmm she may want to slow down just a bit.
And I don’t think men are obsolete from this same shaming either. They may not be criticized for having sex but I know I have come across many a post calling out rappers and athletes for foolishly impregnating women across the U.S. of A and not being able to pay child support let alone keep a roof over their heads because of their sexual promiscuity. It’s a different argument but the same premise nonetheless. I don’t think anyone is trying to shame any of these people for getting it on when and with whomever they please but when you can’t be about your business because you’re so busy selling or engaging in sexual fantasies, then you ought to be ashamed.
What do you think about the criticisms against Rihanna? Is she being sl*t shamed?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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