"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Antifmeinist Childhood: "Sex Type Thing" Edition

Stone Temple Pilots released their album "Core" in 1992, when I was in the sixth grade and just discovering and beginning to love rock music. Its singles were overplayed on every hard rock radio station. There was "Creep" and "Plush"... and then there was the song "Sex Type Thing". Does anyone else remember this song? I think I had heard it a few times without noticing the lyrics until one day when I was riding in the car somewhere with my older brother, and I remember feeling so stunned by its rape-themed lyrics:
I am, I am, I am
I said I wanna get next to you
I said I gonna get close to you
You wouldn't want me have to hurt you too, hurt you too?

I ain't, I ain't, I ain't
A buyin' into your apathy
I'm gonna learn ya my philosophy
You wanna know about atrocity, atrocity?

I know you want what's on my mind
I know you like what's on my mind
I know it eats you up inside
I know, you know, you know, you know

I am a man, a man
I'll give ya somethin' that ya won't forget
I said ya shouldn't have worn that dress
I said ya shouldn't have worn that dress

I know you want what's on my mind
I know you like what's on my mind
I know it eats you up inside
I know, you know, you know, you know

Here I come, I come, I come

I am, I am, I am
I said I wanna get next to you
I said I gonna get close to you
You wouldn't want me have to hurt you too, hurt you too?

I know you want what's on my mind
I know you like what's on my mind
I know it eats you up inside
I know, you know, you know, you know
I know you want what's on my mind
I know you like what's on my mind
I know it eats you up inside
I know, you know, you know, you know

Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come
Here I come, I come, I come

Charming, huh?

I would later (much later) read that singer Scott Weiland claimed to write this song as an anti-rape statement, saying, “This song is really not about sex at all. It’s about control, violence and abuse of power.” Which sounds feminist-friendly and all, only I, as a young female listener, didn't interpret this song as an anti-violence statement at all. Because it's sung in such a creepy ominous way, and in first person from the point of view of the rapist, I interpreted this song as a frightening lesson in women's inherent vulnerability to male violence. And the repeated line, "you shouldn't have worn that dress"? An early lesson in victim-blaming.

The song is still played on rock radio stations everywhere, and I whenever I hear it, I cringe. If Weiland was trying to make some sort of positive political statement about rape with this song, I think he failed miserably.

9 comments:

plumpdumpling said...

I totally love this post, because I know exactly how you sound when you mock Scott Weiland's voice and can hear that instead of his voice when I read the lyrics.

I used to think the "ya shouldn't have worn that dress" was hot until you just COMPLETELY RUINED IT FOR ME. Thanks a lot.

Tracey said...

God, I really do mock a lot of rock singers, huh? I don't think I'm capable of going one day without doing it.

It's so interesting to me that you found that line hot. Did it not scream "rape" to you? Or was it that you found the rape theme sort of exciting?

Sirriamnis said...

I don't know. I always understood it to be an anti-rape song, in that he is most definitely not projecting the rapist's voice to be anything but creepy and violent.

Sevendust has an anti-rape song (I would have to research to find the title) that I, as a rape survivor, found much more ambiguous and problematic, leading me to nearly walk out of a concert until the friend I was in explained the backstory of said song.

Tracey said...

It's so interesting how people experience songs differently. I got that the rapist's voice is creepy and violent, but it never sounded to me like he was projecting. Only that it's what he was actually thinking about someone. And the language could be so totally triggering to someone whether or not Weiland agrees with it.

Lindsay said...

I remember this song, too.

I also didn't catch the rape theme --- I must've been too young when it came out (i.e., preteen. And a fairly dense one at that).

Seeing the lyrics again, though, you're right --- it *IS* sung from the rapist's point of view, and even if Scott Weiland intended to write an anti-rape song, he failed for that reason.

kikilarue said...

I had this exact experience not long ago. I was never an STP fan, but I certainly gave no thought to this song when it was on the radio constantly. But then I heard it in the car recently (on a 90s alterna-rock "oldies" weekend - ouch!) and my jaw could not have dropped further or harder.

Thanks for writing it about it.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the Nirvana song Polly which, despite knowing the back story, still really freaks me out.

Tracey said...

Good call, Anonymous. Polly just sounded so shocking to me.

Anonymous said...

This is cast in a bit of a new light given his own childhood rape revelations....