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Check Out Our Desire, Sex and Power in Music Video by Sut Jhally Essay

Since the early 1980s when MTV came into operation, music videos have become a major component of the entertainment, especially in the music industry. One characteristic feature of music videos is the depiction of narratives that portray female sexuality as a way of appealing to the dominantly male audience. It portrays femininity as an inferior trait to masculinity, thereby encouraging the economic and social oppression of women in society. What is more, the depiction of violence, gender roles ad female sexuality in music helps to entrench the idea that it is normal for women to be abused and treated as sexual objects. The corporate sector exploits this notion by using female bodies as attention catching strategies in advertisements. This marketing ploy, however, conveys dehumanizing messages about the female body by portraying it as a sexual object for the satisfaction of male desires. The documentary “Dreamworld 3: Desire, Sex & Power in Music Video” by Sut Jhally portrays the sexual abuse and violence that women experience in a male dominated society. This essay argues that music videos contribute to the sexual abuse, violence, oppression and negative perception that women experience in society by depicting female bodies as cheap, sexual objects.

Women are depicted in a variety of music genres; rock and roll, rock, country, and hip-hop music. A common narrative and entertaining technique that video music directors employ is depicting women as dancers and hookers who hang around male artistes. The presence of scantily dressed females in video music is one of the cheapest, if not a free-marketing strategy that producers employ to get attention. They connect the music’s message to visually attention-catching images of the female body. This approach is aimed at drawing and maintaining the attention of male audiences. Producers understand the psychological functioning of male viewers about sexual fantasies, and therefore create corresponding sexual images in the music (Gymnich, Ruhl, & Scheunmann, 2010). While this may be seen as a purely marketing ploy aimed at promoting CD sales, it suggests an underlying negative societal perception of women. The very idea that the female body can be exploited in this way shows how lowly women are regarded in society. It suggests that the female body is not only a sexual object, but can be viewed in purely economic terms and be manipulated to serve capitalist interests. Surprisingly, it seems that there is a collective agreement that it is socially acceptable to treat women this way. The music industry has fed society the ideology that women are, by nature, sexual objects and should be treated as such.

 Women and femininity are also depicted as the weaker sex, and that they are at the mercy of men. This is portrayed by the consistent comparison of femininity and masculinity; fragile, though sexually appealing female bodies, against muscular, powerful males. This narrative proposes that women should be submissive to men, an ideology that is dominant in most societies (Lambiase, 2006). These messages not only belittle women in the literal sense of their physical powerlessness, they also project them as lesser human beings. The use of their own bodies to convey this message rather than explicit statements is even more dangerous; it hints that to treat women otherwise will be against the laws of nature. Consequently, music videos have contributed greatly in conditioning the collective societal mentality to regard the oppression and mistreatment of women as a normal thing, as merely conforming to the laws of nature.  The fact that such videos show more women than men suggest that a balance between the sexes is arrived at by increasing number of the weaker sex, an idea that justifies the acceptance of polygamy. It stems from the subtle suggestion that women ought to share men, or, more correctly, that it is normal for men to have as many women as they can manage. After all, they are stronger and power, and therefore one man can deal with more than one woman, the latter being as weak and submissive as they supposedly are. Dreamworld 3 conveys this idea by showing video clips of sexually hungry, semi-nude females crowding around male artistes.  This portrayal is an assertion that women are seductive objects whose role is to fulfill the sexual needs of men……after seducing them (men), presumably, with their nude, feminine bodies (Lambiase, 2006). Sut Jhally portrays the unequal relationship between males and females by showing how music videos promote male dominance, and the dependence of women on men. This narrative is reflected in the family institution, where men are regarded as the head of the family. It further shows the chauvinistic and patriarchal ideologies that promote male entitlement to positions of power and influence, while women are relegated to subordinate roles.  Consequently, there are fewer female political and corporate leaders, largely because society regards them as inferior and incapable of leading.

Nevertheless, Jhally shows that the music videos, and therefore the way society understands gender roles, is presented from a male-perspective. This revelation shows that women have let men to tell their story, rather than do it themselves. It reflects the overall dominance of me in all spheres of life, whereby women are denied the voice to speak for themselves. It leads to the question of whether the feminist movement is a conscious and deliberate response to male dominance, a protest at the negative way in which men project women in music and literature.  

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