Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rihanna's "S&M"



A few people have asked me my opinion of Rihanna's S&M video. The truth is that I avoided watching it for awhile. I don't like pop music much, and I like celebrities whip up publicity and make money by simultaneously titillating people with sexy images and stirring up righteous indignation -- frequently in the exact same people.

However, I watched it now and I like it. The music is even pretty good, for pop music. The video is certainly hot (titillation accomplished), apparently enough that it has been banned in nine countries (righteous indignation accomplished). Some controversy has been stirred up, and not just from BDSM-phobic people -- fashion photographer David LaChapelle is suing Rihanna for ripping off his images.

I can understand why some people who are actually in the BDSM scene might have objections to the video. We don't know whether Rihanna is kinky herself or whether this is a publicity stunt. Her video has a whole mish-mash of fetishes and different kinks on display almost interchangeably (bondage, puppy play, etc.), and there seems to be a lot of posing in hot, probably really expensive latex fetish clothes going on, and almost no sadism or masochism. But I say, who cares?

Just the other day, I was writing how cool I think it is that polyamory, bisexuality and BDSM are portrayed positively in a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and how, when an alternative lifestyle is portrayed in a positive way, it's good for both people who are part of a lifestyle and people who may discover it now that it's less scary. Well, Rihanna's video makes BDSM look fun, sexy and not too serious. It's a far cry from the way it usually looks in pop culture -- dangerous, abusive, self-destructive. It certainly will help that Rihanna spends most of the video in the dominant role, but she also spends part of it restrained behind plastic so she doesn't completely shy away from the image of a submissive female, which is what presses the most buttons with the obsessively politically correct.

Even if Rihanna isn't kinky (which she might be) she has done a service for people who are. Besides, it's actually a pretty catchy song. I'm humming it right now.

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