Rosana Clarkson has previously been published in Storyteller Magazine, Yahoo Contributor Network, Canyon News and San Francisco News.
My Opinion About Why Some "Innocent" Music Can Be More Damaging Than We Realize
"Wow...that was by far the catchiest, most powerful and highly moving ballad about a male slut...er, I, uh, Casanova-type dude that I have ever heard," was my dreamy, inspired and slightly befuddled response to the description of the leading male role in Elvin Bishop's old school classic Fooled Around And Fell In Love.
This sensuous, sultry, sweet-sounding melody is a bit before my time, so I admit I'm not old enough to remember it; I also imagine the lyrics may resonate differently with everyone and it does indeed fall delectably upon the ears, however I'm likely among the small percentage who doesn't care for the hey-guys-let's-skate-through-life-using-others-for-our-own-temporary-pleasure-because-in-the-end-it-will-never-bite-you-no-worries-you-will-never-reap-what-you-sow-woooo sentiment it promotes.
Why the Media Often Seems to Make Light of Abuse
For those who are also unfamiliar with this golden oldie, the opening lyrics cheerfully announce: "I must have been through about a million girls, I'd love them and I'd leave them alone...I didn't care how much they cried, no sir, their tears left me cold as a stone; but then I fooled around and fell in love!" followed by an account of the character's glowing history of sexually exploring and experimenting with multiple women as if they are toys he each plays with for a time until the newness wears off so he could move on to look for another toy, or many varying flavors of ice cream he samples before he finally finds his all-time favorite.
The general consensus as to this ditty's basic message seems to be that any manwhore...er..I...uh...guy who has had a great deal of success with women and isn't used to an emotional attachment to any of them, is capable of changing drastically because when he unexpectedly develops an emotional attachment to one of the women, it hits him hard. While some might see some merit to this viewpoint, others might argue the opposite: how can he possibly have a change of heart because by then he should be pretty jaded?
The song's lyrics also don't indicate whether or not the man being described is still abusive, or whether or not he will in some way, on some level, be abusive to the woman he says he fell for.
I gather that I'm among a small handful of folks with iffy feelings about this tune's disturbing nature, yet, from my honest perspective, it seems ignorant to blindly follow a song's toxic lyrics just because it might have a snappy beat; children might enjoy it, for instance, but will the message it promotes unwittingly input bad subliminal ideas into their impressionable minds?
As much as I do enjoy this anthem's epic rhythm, incredible vocals, as well as the artist's extraordinary talent, I can't help wondering, "Hmmm..do individuals realistically snap back to themselves and fall in love after a lifetime of wallowing in filth?" and "Sure, it's great that the song's character fell in love, but does that automatically guarantee that he is no longer a sociopath?"
How My Being a Survivor May Have Sharpened My Senses
One advantage I've had to being among a fairly small percentage of individuals who is completely estranged from my family as a result of growing up horrendously abused by them is that when others attempt to play the dozens with me, ("Your mama's so fat..." etc.), I'm usually never offended, and I'm often almost even tempted to go, "Why, thank you!" and I wouldn't have too many cool comebacks at my command even if my relatives and I were on friendly terms anyway; and even though the guys in my life might say, "Oh! Baby, I'm so sorry to hear that," I can always tell they are thank-you-Jesus relieved about the prospect of not needing to worry about dealing with any in-laws.
However, many have also mistakenly believed they could use my aloneness against me, to their own selfish advantage, which could be why I've found the music industry often insensitive in its ability to distort the reality and nature of abuse, to normalize unhealthy relationships and to possibly even create more convenient platforms on which men can further enjoy attempting to abuse and take advantage of vulnerable women.
When others point out to me that this genre of entertainment elicits in me these types of emotional triggers because I'm merely a drama queen whose tender sensibilities are often easily offended and whose musical tastes are quite excessively corny and cheesy anyway, well, I actually feel compelled to agree; oh, and perhaps the fact that my background has been oppressive, abusive and traumatic enough to tide me over for ten lifetimes and would have long since driven the average person to sheer insanity might have a little bit to do with it as well; there isn't much else to add about my personal upbringing except just to say that if you'd like to give my folks a fair trial, simply find an infuriated rodeo bull and stand in its way; it will be just like spending two minutes with one of my family members, only comparatively much less intriguing.
The silver lining of all that is that just like with many other Cinderella-type stories, I was able to move on from that and meet many men who encouraged me to continue to live life on the edge. True, they were all man-children, losers, deadbeats and woman-beaters and the last guy even went to prison for nearly strangling me to death, and I'm sure it says a lot about my life that they were probably the most loving, nurturing and compassionate people I'd ever met, yet, to this day I'm forever indebted to them and so many others for inspiring me to miss the abuse my parents already heaped on me from before them.
So if I were to be more in-your-face and thoroughly objectionable and candid, I'd argue the point that the like-oh-gee-you-get-away-with-murder-and-then-have-a-complete-reversal-of-suddenly-waking-up-in-love-and-miraculously-snapping-back-with-Mr.-or-Ms.-Right-as-a-result-of-cultivating-this-use-and-discard-attitude-toward-relationships angle can quite sit well with what my gut intuition and knee-jerk reaction to the apparent fairy tale/fantasy that, similar to tossing pearls before swine, an inherently selfish, greedy hog would be capable of recognizing a pearl when he sees one slant tells me. Fortunately, however, I've received very intriguing feedback from my online discussions with men who identify with the persona being delineated who tactfully disagree with my stance; I sense that they're trying to be encouraging, but I could very well be interpreting it all wrong:
"&$#@!!!!*** you crybaby slut! Don't you realize the reason these guys do these things is because of things you do? It's always the man's fault, isn't it? You &@$# women! You nasty trashy *&@!!!#**$%!!! And furthermore, #@&$##$@&##$!!!!"
I do see these guys' standpoints. Even the most abusive man can have the most compelling, complicated dimensionality and redeeming quality to his character, (e.g., Hitler loved kids, especially perfect-looking, blond-haired, blue-eyed ones); I also know that everyone matures at each their own paces, in each their own ways. For instance, the song's hero most likely ran through women like a football player at an age like 16 and then matured into a screeching halt at an age like 28, or 30, or 50, or whatever. From what I myself have come to learn about smug womanizers...I mean players, men with no emotional strings or commitments to their intimate partners have often been emotionally wounded in the past and deep inside are insecure; they tend to feel unable to bear being additionally hurt, or have been so damaged internally that they remain emotionally cold and avoidant and left unable to deal with additional drama. Others simply feel they have no control over their sexual impulses or are even likely patterning after poor role models, e.g., having observed their fathers regularly cheat on their mothers, and etc.
Can Questionable Entertainment Worsen Peer Pressure?
On the flip side of the coin, however, there are many with similar childhoods, who, for whatever reason, come out on the right side. Many teen boys, for example, are still quite moralistic and respectable and can acknowledge the absurdity to that famed double standard that sexual promiscuity for a male is a triumph and for a female it's not. All too often, I've had young males age 15-25 report to me the often pertinent, thought-provoking and enlightening feedback they've received from male acquaintances in their own age group regarding their personal decisions to remain celibate until marriage:
"You're jealous, envious losers who probably couldn't get laid even if you paid a girl! You're all fat, ugly, with no swag and will stay virgins even when you're 40! You're hating because we get all the women and you don't; no worries, though, I'm sure you're all gorgeous on the inside."
Of course, in my advocating for myself and even more so for these wonderful, beautiful, ill-treated boys as well as any other youth who is viciously ridiculed and persecuted for bravely sharing my unpopular wavelength, I always try to be the positive, modest example they so sorely need by calmly, rationally, and civilly reasoning with their oppressors in the best, possible way I can manage:
"No, you're the ones who are hating because you probably have S.T.D.'s and they don't, they have morals and class and you don't, and beautiful, intelligent women probably don't even look at you repulsive lowlifes and fat obnoxious hippos twice!"
I believe that because much of what has been considered taboo decades ago is no longer deemed such a big deal now, it can be difficult for many to grasp that many, especially the young, still retain old-fashioned values. I gather I'm among society's few remaining women who prefer genuinely good-hearted/Christ-like men who don't have to hurt other women even if they don't care about them, and that such an idea strays too disturbingly close to mentalities and lines of thinking that many rapists have; all this is only among many ways that seemingly harmless entertainment may well ultimately promote a rape culture, or cause more damage than most think. It's my suspicion that female-hating entertainment is likely condoned because society tends to be so oriented in a culture that degrades women that things as destructive as one-night stands are seen as reasonable; while I do respect the personal decisions of all consenting adults in a free world to treat their sex partners as interchangeable and disposable...well, I highly doubt that this is really the best idea to promote. Whether or not one realizes it, there is always a psychological cost to immoral behavior, whether or not there is a physical one.
However, to be fair to those who believe that anyone could possibly envy a scuzzy promiscuous guy or a woman who just connected to a dog, I decided to put myself in the shoes of the carefree guy in this ridiculous song, all venereal diseases, unwanted pregnancies and prudish moral compasses aside; even though I've experienced for my entire life that those with loose ethics tend to lose the ability to lose sight of what is precious, that everything we do has consequences, that a life of debauchery can inevitably create in one a conscience that has barnacles on it, that in using others sexually, it wouldn't make sense that one would suddenly, inexplicably become committed, that in one using and abusing not only other people, one uses and abuses one's own set of values, that in using others sexually that drives one farther apart from identifying what's right, that when you're like that you're no longer oriented to anything of value, that behavior is like nutrition, the more you eat junk food the more you crave junk food, the more we eat salads the more we crave salads...well..uh...I guess I'm supposed to be coming to some kind of "but" at this juncture, and for whatever reason I'm unable to, so I'll just leave the counter-logic to my sweet opposers.
And, ahhh..speaking of butts, not once does the main character in the song stop to tell the woman what he has to bring to the table, nor asks her whether or not she loves him back...sooooo apparently the song is a solo. Not a duet. Call me insane, but the man in question appears to love this woman on a selfish level. Innocuous though this number seems, I'm certain it's among many that have created the subtle impetus for the more flagrantly female-hating music so prevalent today. The desensitization has been gradual, and uhh...oh, there's also that AIDS thing, and whether or not the song would be popular, or even published, if the genders were reversed, with the woman bragging to her boyfriend about all the men she slept with before him and what any so-called ex-player would eventually tell his daughter, whether or not he would be equipped to guide her and er...hrm...let's not forget this incredibly defiled body he now has to bring to her mother.
Uhhh..duhh..oh, yes, my crybabyish rant about the sexually promiscuous guy who sexually uses and discards a long series of women before supposedly finding the one with whom he develops an emotional attachment; so, because so many are fans of this fabulous song, I do try to maintain an open mind; in doing so, I recently met a guy like the one in said hit, and he was actually quite charming, telling me repeatedly that I was cute and beautiful and aside from him behaving like a human octopus immediately afterward and performing nasty acts to himself that I refused to allow him to perform on me, the date was absolutely fantastic. It's just a shame that my past sexual predators, would-be murderers, and human bulldozers weren't quite so gracious.
The good news is, I got out of that safely and was happy to be strong-willed enough to resist Mr. Touchy-Feely's advances where another girl probably would have gave in. That said, the gist of this whole obvious waste-of-time, just-pointing-out-all-the obvious-right-in-front-of-your-nose-red-flags commentary is that an abusive man doesn't change with the right woman; an abusive man changes when he realizes that he is an abusive man.
Are You Tuning Into Your Abuse Radar?
Going against the grain of society is not easy, but in the end, the upstream swim will make us stronger. Ultimately, it will pay off, further conditioning us in finding our way through this cesspool of a system, and in helping us to discern who is toxic and who isn't. It's why it's important that we continue to associate with like-minded people who nurture and upbuild us while we resolutely allow all negativity to roll off of our shoulders.
As a final word of encouragement to young people who are put down by their peers for sharing beliefs similar to mine, be proud of who you are. There is nothing wrong with you, there is something wrong with the world if it is able to create scuzzy music into such major money-makers. Find positive, genuine people who back you up and support you, and never sweat the negative things people will say. If you're seeking a loving mate, don't sell yourself short. Find a strong, moral person who deserves you and is hand-picked for you so that you may both forever enjoy being "freaks" in a "sane" world together. Such a person may be the draw of luck to find, but I promise you, it will be well worth the wait.