I wrote this post about a year ago, almost to the day. At that time no one took seriously the notion that Donald Trump could become President, especially after the comments cited here. So here we are, twelve months later, with Trump occupying the Oval Office, reading headline stories about Harvey Weinstein, another powerful man whose history of sexual harassment has been uncovered. I thought it would be a good time to pull this post from the archives. (Images are NSFW.)
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]— I just start kissing them…It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait….When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy…You can do anything.”
Those now infamous words, spoken by Donald Trump in a 2005 “hot mic” recording and revealed a few days ago by the Washington Post have a parallel in another video, also released this week. What Trump expressed in words—rich, famous men are entitled to use women’s bodies any way they like—Bruno Mars expressed in imagery in his video for the song 24K Magic:
As I noted in a blog post I wrote Friday (now sadly lost in the ether), the imagery in the video barely registered as problematic among the mainstream media outlets that fawned over the new song. USA Today described the video as NSFW but offered no comment on the blatant sexual objectification of women. Other media outlets only talked about the party atmosphere in the clip. (To be fair, Mars is hardly alone in using this kind of imagery. He is just the latest among a multitude of male recording artists who have employed the T&A trope to sell music.)
The imagery is what got my attention when I first saw the 24K Magic video. Upon closer listening, however, it’s clear that the song’s lyrics contain messaging not unlike Trump’s: “I’m a dangerous man with some money in my pocket/ So many pretty girls around me and they waking up the rocket.”
These lyrics are not “I’m so famous I can sexually assault women and get away with it” bad, like Trump’s utterances, but they do express a similar view of male sexuality in which “girls” are seen as a buffet of boobs and bottoms that are there for the taking.
I am in no way suggesting that Bruno Mars is anything like Trump in his actual treatment of women, but there is a continuum on which both men sit. Both are guilty of sexually objectifying women and promoting some very unhealthy messages about male sexuality: first, that men are entitled to use women for sexual gratification either physically (and without consent), in Trump’s case, or by leering and ogling, in Mars’ case; second, that demonstrations of sexual prowess and conquest are essential to proving masculinity.
The outrage over Trump’s remarks justifiably dominated the media on Friday. The man is dangerously close to assuming the highest political office in his country—or at least he was until this latest bombshell. In comparison, Mars’ video seems hardly worth attention, but it is essential it not go unnoticed.
When we excuse or ignore imagery like that used by Mars, we normalize the sexual objectification of women. We create a space for it in our culture, from whence it can influence boys and men, including those who find themselves running for President of the United States.
Sexual objectification is not a case of guys just having fun and gawking at hot women, as Trump implied with his “locker room banter” defense. It is harmful and it has to stop. Step one? Identifying the problem wherever and whenever we see it. We must connect the dots and make visible the line between jiggling, bare-bottomed women in music videos like 24K Magic and attitudes like Donald Trump’s. In so doing, we can challenge stereotyped views of male sexuality and masculinity and, in the words of Jackson Katz, “raise our expectations for what it means to be a boy or a man.”