Vriezen: Chains and whips are OK, but sex is scary


Graphic: Rebekka Brown/Iowa State Daily

Is the word “sex” any less acceptable  than suggestive references to whips on the radio?

Claire Vriezen

Most everyone knows that in modern pop or rap music, there can be many references to sex, violence and substance use — often delivered along with a barrage of profanity. And of course, when played on radio stations, some of these lyrics are censored out. This occurs so that the radio stations can comply with laws regarding obscenity, indecency and profanity on air.

While it makes me sad that Cee Lo Green’s popular song “F–k You” was reduced to merely “Forget You” on the radio, I get it. I probably wouldn’t want my future kids hearing that playing during a car ride home either. But it just strikes me as utterly ridiculous when a radio station censors out the word “sex” in a song. Particularly a song all about sexual activity.

In Rihanna’s song “S&M,” a line in the chorus reads “Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it.” Perhaps it’s just a radio station in my hometown, but when played over airwaves, the word “sex” was removed. Yet the following lines crying “Sticks and stones may break my bones/But chains and whips excite me” were deemed allowable.

I suppose it’s more subtle than “sex,” but honestly? The entire song is about S&M. Sadism and masochism. Otherwise known as a popular form of erotic or sexual play.

If radio stations are going to have a problem with playing the word “sex” in a song, how do they justify airing a work that has an unabashedly erotic theme?

To me, this sounds eerily similar to the problems surrounding the “Don’t say gay” bill passed in the Tennessee Senate, under which teachers at the elementary and middle school level would be prohibited from discussing homosexuality with students.

As it was with homosexuality, it seems that the mindset here is that if we don’t talk about it, our youth won’t know it exists. We try to censor all mentions or references to sex in the hopes of protecting young minds. While I believe that discussion of sex should occur at an appropriate age, pretending that sex doesn’t exist by never talking about it seems like it would do more harm than good.

Now, in the case of Rihanna’s song, censorship would be understandable if the lyrics in her song were more explicit with regards to sex. It certainly had the potential to be. But simply removing the word “sex” while letting other lyrics remain sends the message that “sex” is a dirty word.

Perhaps I’m being an idealist, but I had thought we were making more progress with regard to sexuality than this. I thought we were getting to the point where the mere mention of sex wasn’t breaking some huge cultural taboo. Apparently, we’re not there yet.