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Ask first: Haligonians respond to Robin Thicke with sexy-but-consensual video of their own

by Jon Grant

Two women from Halifax have released a playful but serious video in response to American pop star Robin Thicke's recent single "Blurred Lines."

Kaleigh Trace and Mary Burnet, both employees at Venus Envy, a sex shop and bookstore on Barrington St., came up with "Ask First" in response to Thicke's song, which they say glorifies rape and sexual assault.

"[Kaleigh] told me she'd heard this really popular new song that had un-consensual lyrics and a video that the artist said was intentionally degrading to women. We work at Venus Envy, a...sex shop and book store, so we think, read and talk about sex, sex-positivity and consent a lot" says Burnet.

The uncensored version of "Blurred Lines," which has recently been banned on Youtube, features topless women, bestiality themes, and extreme misogyny.

Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres endorsed "Blurred Lines" while hosting Robin Thicke on her show, apparently unaware of the irony of a celebrity feminist advocating such a song.

"I think the message that is being sent [in a video like "Blurred Lines"] is that when it comes to sex the lines are blurred, and sometimes someone may say they don't want it, but really they do. This problematic and commonplace ideology promotes a rape culture that I do not want to be a part of," says Trace.

"It's horribly common for a survivor to be blamed for their assault or rape because they 'were giving mixed messages' or because something they said, did or were wearing made their perpetrator 'know they wanted it,'" Burnet adds.

Burnet and Trace's parody of the "Blurred Lines" video has alternative lyrics, demanding that people "Ask First" before engaging in sexual activity, in order to highlight the importance of consent in healthy sexual relationships.

In the video Trace and Burnet change Thicke's "I hate these blurred lines, I know you want it" to "no way to know I want it, unless I say I want it."

"We want to promote a critical analysis of pop culture," says Trace. By changing the words to the song, Trace and Burnet say they are attempting to change the conversations people are having surrounding sex.

Thicke has responded to criticisms of the video by playing it off as a joke. 

"What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I've never gotten to do that before," Thicke told GQ magazine recently.

"The degradation and objectification of women is too commonplace in this patriarchal world, and reproducing it as 'a joke' is a joke that falls very flat. Having a wife and children does not give you a get-out-of-jail free card on the misogyny front," says Trace.

Trace and Burnet acknowledge that their own video has been criticized by viewers for containing explicit themes and lyrics.

"There's a line in our version of the song that we debated including, which is, 'Cause if you grab me, I'll get nasty. I'll break your fucking knees.' We decided to include it to reference the need for self-defence, particularly among women and queers, from people yelling at us, following us down the street, and touching our bodies without our consent. We also included it to give voice to the completely legitimate rage people feel after being harassed and assaulted.

"We're not necessarily saying go out and break some knees, but that if you feel furious about the violent, hetero-normative, racist, ableist, cissexist, misogynistic patriarchy we live in, it's valid," says Burnet.

Trace explains that the key to changing the current cultural paradigm of misogynistic patriarchy is having much-needed conversations about consent and healthy sexuality. She writes a blog, thefuckingfacts.com, which contains a variety of information about rape culture, consent, and sexuality.

As of midnight on July 16th, the video had been viewed more than 15,000 times in just over 2 days. 

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Topics: Sexuality
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