You couldn’t escape the media coverage in 2009 of Chris Brown assaulting his then-girlfriend, Rihanna. Afterwards, graphic photos of Rihanna’s injuries were leaked. Rihanna became the poster-young-adult for a domestic violence victim.
Months later, Rihanna did a photo shoot for Italian Vogue. The shoot was dark and gothy and included some bondage themes. I think the photos are gorgeous, you can judge for yourself. Some, however, disagreed vehemently with Rihanna’s decision to participate.
“Am I alone in seeing some distrubing mixed messages here? This is a woman who has just come through the trauma of being brutally beaten and abused. Yet here she is seemingly playing with fire on the fringes of bondage, dominatrix , even S&M. Does she WANT to attract men who are into violence?”
“Well this isn’t saying a lot for her decision making skills correct. I think what happened between her and Chris Brown was horrible but I wasn’t there. At some point we need to start taking responsibility for our actions. What kind of behaviour do these images bring about to you?”
The controversy has resurfaced recently with the release of the video for Rihanna’s latest single, S&M. The song and video, of course, touch on some S&M themes, depict Rihanna tied up, and include the lyrics “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me.” Predictably, a vocal group of people disapproved.
”You would think after a bout with domestic violence she would not ties herself up in a music video and perform violent sexual acts to glorify S and M. Domestic violence may not be what defines her but a lot of people relate to her for that incident. She is sending mixed messages and should be more responsible.”
“didn’t she get beat once by chris brown? and she makes songs with “love the way it hurts” and “whips and chains excite me?” she is pathetic, and it won’t be long before someone else beats her again.”
Hey, abuse victims! Wanna try out those fuzzy pink novelty handcuffs? DENIED! Now that you have been the victim of abuse, you must have all of your sexual interactions on a bed of rose petals while listening to Kenny G. Clearly there is no difference in life between acts you consent to and acts you don’t. That’s why strong safety Quintin Mikell is legally allowed to tackle you whenever he damn well pleases.
Rihanna didn’t consent to being hit by Chris Brown. She did consent to the photoshoot and the video. Therein lies the apparently difficult-to-comprehend difference. To say that because Rihanna (or any abuse victim) likes getting spanked or being tied up, she must have been okay with her assault is akin to saying that because I play soccer, it’s okay to slide tackle me in the grocery store. Or the because I enjoy having sex, raping me is totally acceptable.
Your sexual preferences do not make it okay for someone to assault you. Being the victim of assault does not mean you have to change your preferences. An unconsented-to attack on your person is, in no way, the same as a consensual sexual interaction, no matter how rough it might be.
(This post orginally appeared as a guest post on Britni’s Blog. Since Britni is off decorating her new love nest, I’ve taken over responsibility for not letting her blog become an internet graveyard.)