The Man of Mans has written what I think is a pretty rad letter regarding a popular, but in my opinion, disturbing new song. I’m posting it here with his permission.  The letter quotes  song lyrics which might be triggering for some. As always, take care of yourself and skip this post if you’d like.

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Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to you to express my concern over the song “Kiss You Inside Out” by Hedley, which is currently receiving significant airplay on your station.  I find the content of this song highly objectionable and do not feel it is appropriate music for the radio.  I recognize that your mandate is to play contemporary hit music, and that this song is quite popular.  However, I believe that as a privately owned radio station, you have the right to play, or not play, whatever you wish, and I hope that you will exercise that right and remove “Kiss You Inside Out” from your rotation.

I first heard “Kiss You Inside Out” on your station (which I listen to regularly) approximately two weeks ago, and was immediately struck at how the words and tone of this song strongly hint at sexual assault under the guise of romance.  I include here the first part of the lyrics in their entirety (as found on lyricsmode.com) to provide full context, but I have taken the liberty of highlighting lines that I find particularly problematic.

I don’t know if you’re ready to go
Where I’m willing to take you girl

I will feel every inch of your skin
And you know I can rock your world
Imma be the calm in the storm you’re looking for
I’ll be the shipwreck that takes you down
I don’t mind if you lie in my bed
We can stay here forever now.
Ouuu oohhh
Turn off the lights
Take off your clothes
Turn on the stereo
Ouuu oohhh
Give up the fight
I’m in control

Why don’t you let it go.
Yeah, I wanna know you inside out
I’ll spend my life trying to figure out
Just close your eyes and shut your mouth
And let me kiss you inside out.

The entire song reads as an attempt to initiate sex that is coercive and demanding.  The highlighted portions above (the latter of which are repeated 3 times) show this most strongly, implying consent has not been given, or even asked for, that the woman has no control over the situation, and that she should keep her mouth shut and accept what is happening.

I find the message of this song extremely offensive, all the more so because the music behind it clearly shows that this is supposed to be a love song, implying that women should actually want to be with a man who expresses himself in this way.  This is not a song about love, it is a song about rape, and as such, it has no place on the airwaves.

Because this is a letter as opposed to a conversation, I feel obliged to try and speak to what I imagine may be some arguments against my request.  I am not implying that you or your station will make these statements, but I have heard variations on them from many people on several occasions, so as said, I feel obliged to pre-respond to them.

“This song is romantic; it’s what women want.”

Romance has always been portrayed in an incredibly narrow way in popular culture, and at no time has this portrayal been particularly indicative of “what women want”, in part because there is no such thing; women are far too large a demographic to collectively “want” anything.  But I believe it is fair to say that virtually no one wants to be sexually assaulted, and that very few women would describe being coercive and demanding as romantic traits.  The real problem with songs like this is that they make it harder for everyone, but especially young and impressionable people, to tell the difference between appropriate and inappropriate sexual behaviour.

“It’s no worse than anything else out there.”

First, I hope that your station strives to a higher standard than this.  Second, as said above, amongst the dozens of songs I hear on the radio every day, this song immediately stood out as particularly offensive.

“You’re taking certain lyrics out of context.”

I feel the full context, which can be seen above, only strengthens the distastefulness of the highlighted lyrics.

“Not playing a song because you think it’s offensive is censorship.”

Every company has a code of ethics under which it operates, and it has the right to not engage in practices that violate those ethics.  This is not censorship, it’s a private company conducting business in the way it sees fit.

I hope that you are willing to take a stand against the misleading and dangerous portrayal of sexual assault as love, and that you will choose to no longer play “Kiss You Inside Out”.  Thank you in advance for your consideration.

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Do you have anything to say about this song? Please share you thoughts in the comments.

If you’d like to contact KISS FM directly, you can reach them here.  You can also contact KISS FM’s parent company Rogers Digital Media (Radio) here.

 

Comments

  1. NJ says:

    This is a really interesting post, one that caught me totally by surprise because I actually really like that song. I think it’s because I saw it though the optics of a consensual dominant/submissive relationship. But you’re right, it could just as easily (if not more easily) be interpreted your way.

    • Nadine says:

      I’ve definitely made the same assumptions about other songs, particularly if the musical hook appeals to me in some way. Same thing with porn. If I’m enjoying the story but there’s been no explicit consent I often decide that it happened anyway.

  2. Trevor says:

    It’s hard sometimes to see echoes of the hegemony when you’re progressive enough to look at things through a sex-positive lens.

    Yes, it could be interpreted as a consensual dom/sub relationship, but consider the target audience. The general consuming public is probably going to read that as supportive of aggressive, predatory, negatively masculine sexuality, which is something of a trope.

    Something worth talking about, too, is whether or not progressive folks should be “allowed” to enjoy more regressive stuff while being conscious of and communicative about the problems inherent to that stuff.

    **TL:DR for this next paragraph: I talk about a bad movie that I either should or should not be allowed to like as a progressive sex-positive dude and ally.**

    Case in point: there isn’t much redeeming about the Hitman movie (2007, Timothy Oliphant/Olga Kurlyenko, unrated director’s cut–the theatrical release had NOTHING redeeming about it). It’s violent and brutal, and frequently puts its strong-and-sexy female costar into a position in which she’s protected or rescued by the sexless manchild assassin protagonist who she is inexplicably attracted to. Not to mention the fact that she’s a character who’s been rescued from a life of slavery–she was human trafficked into the possession of a Russian aristocrat at a young age, some scenes of which are depicted in the movie in an undoubtedly triggering way. Like I said–brutal. Still, the movie ends up almost unintuitively kinetic and balletic–it’s like watching 2h worth of action-heavy music videos. And the abuse inflicted on Kurlyenko’s character is carefully depicted as horrific and is brutally avenged, but not by her.

    I dig that movie, but it’s kind of messed up. Am I “allowed” to like that movie, as a sex-positive individual? Is it my privelege that allows me to do that, because I don’t have the same triggers associated with the idea of abduction and trafficking?

    I don’t know where to come down on this. Conversations are always worth having. I think people need to engage more with what they consume, period, because then you can make an educated decision about whether or not you want to support the artist or not, and have constructive conversations about it.

    Sorry I veered off course here, but I’ve been thinking lately about what we should & should not like versus what artists should & should not do versus what publishers should & should not stand for ethically. It’s an interesting problem.

    • Nadine says:

      It is an interesting problem. I’m not sure where I stand on these issues either…or at least my ethics aren’t such that I apply them universally.

      Generally speaking I think people should be allowed to like what they like. I also think people should be allowed to make what they want. That having been said, I also think that it’s important to discuss the implications of our consumption and our creations. I’m glad the MoMs spoke out against content he found objectionable, if for no other reason than it’s sparked this very necessary conversation about media portrayals of consent.

  3. Xian says:

    I’ve not yet heard this song, but I know that during the first warm weekend of the summer, radio stations everywhere put Mungo Jerry’s In the Summertime into regular rotation. It always infuriates me because of the following classist, rape-apologising couplet:

    If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal.

    If her daddy’s poor, just do what you feel.

    I’ve never written a letter of complaint, but have always thought about it. Kudos to you for following through.ñ

    • Nadine says:

      I had really positive childhood associations with In The Summertime (one of the local water parks used that song for in the TV ad). When I downloaded it a few years ago and I was gutted by the lyrics you quoted, because all my happy summer memories had been tarnished by bullshit.

  4. Tammy MacKenzie says:

    I had the exact same take when I heard this song.
    My daughter and I are Hedly fans. We listened to this a number of times in the car and talked about the lyrics, especially the “Just close your eyes and shut your mouth, and let me kiss you inside out.” ones.
    Very disappointed with this song. I have wondered if it was written, from a completelt different perspective and how it can come across eluded Hedley, but am thinking perhaps they need to be addressed on this fans.

    • Nadine says:

      I’m not familiar with Hedley’ in general, but other people have told me that this song isn’t indicative of their other work. Which makes me wonder if you’re right. I can well believe that they wrote these lyrics and never realized that the lack of consent might be problematic. Which, frankly, bums me out on a whole other level.

  5. Sari Cooper says:

    Does anyone remember the song from the 80’s by Gino Vanelli called Wild Horses? A much more blatant example from my youth that I found so disturbing and I couldn’t believe that they would play it or that anyone would listen to it without being horrified. Some of the lyrics were as follows…
    “you can cut me deep, you can cut me down, you can cut me loose
    Dont you know its ok
    You cankick and scream
    You can slap my face
    Send my wheels on a high speed chase
    Oh you
    Dont matter what you do
    Wild horses could not drag me away from you”…
    “you can call me a fool
    You can call me blind you can call it quits,
    Can’t hear a word you say
    if I had you once I’m gonna have you twice
    Follow my heart instead of good advice
    Oh, you… No matter what you do…
    Wild horses could not drag me away from you”
    That song horrified me as a teen. I still hear it on the radio every now and then.
    Never really paid much attention to the coersion subtext of the Hedley song, I was more annoyed by its blatant description of the guy wanting sex, without any further depth. Most of their songs have so much more to offer. Good to point out the subtext though. You are right. I certainly would not want my daughter pressured that way, nor do I want her to think its ok because Hedley said it’s ok.

    • Nadine says:

      I do remember that song. I’ve only heard it a handful of times and I’d never really listened to the lyrics. They’re awful!

      Not to be all WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!! But….what about the children? I’m with you. I don’t want The Bean (or any of our kids) to ever feel pressured this way. And I don’t want him to grow up thinking he’s entitled to barrel ahead with his sexual agenda regardless of what his partner wants.

  6. christo says:

    The classic romantic ballad “Every Breath You Take” by The Police was a catchy tune, I thought, back in the 1980’s. Until, one day, I realized what the lyrics were all about. Coming from Stings, they’re deep and a human expression of pain; From the mouth of an everyday person, they’re just creepy, really about stalking…

    Here’s a sample:

    Every breath you take
    And every move you make
    Every bond you break, every step you take
    I’ll be watching you

    Every move you make
    And every vow you break
    Every smile you fake, every claim you stake
    I’ll be watching you

    Oh can’t you see
    You belong to me
    How my poor heart aches
    With every step you take

    Although I like being aware and criticizing the underlying messages behind the tunes we hum, I am wary of the excesses that calling for songs to be banned may bring; Especially if the lyrics have some room for interpretation. Consider the hell the Dixie Chicks went through when radio stations banned their music because the group criticized the Irak War.

    Popular music can be a reflection of our collective psyche. As long as the lyrics stay in the realm of fantasy and leave room for interpretation, why would anyone want to suppress it ?

    • Nadine says:

      Even coming from Sting I find those lyrics creepy and stalkerish. But I admit that, like you, it took years of hearing that song before I really heard what he was saying.

      Why would I want to suppress it? Because people don’t keep it in the realm of fantasy. Sexual assault rates are alarmingly high.I’m constantly speaking to young (and not-so-young) people who ask me how you can “tell if someone really means ‘no’ or if they’re playing hard-to-get”. We live in a culture that rarely teaches young people how to communicate their desires around sex, which gives songs like “Kiss You Inside Out” a lot more relative influence. I want to limit that influence because there still seems to be a pretty persistent notion that straight-up asking someone if they want sex isn’t neither hot nor romantic.

      I don’t think Sting or Hedley or any one artist are responsible for this state of affairs. And I agree that art is a reflection of our collective psyche. But art and media also have tremendous influence on our collective psyche. Radio caters to a general audience. Their programing is intended for consumption by a broad demographic and they vet their content all the time. The Dixie Chick’s critics called for an outright boycott of the group. The MoMs isn’t telling people to stop buying Hedley’s music, to avoid their concerts or not to like the song. He’s simply explaining to a radio station why he feels a song about non-consensual sex isn’t appropriate material for a general listening audience.

      The MoMs is not calling for a boycott of the song. He is not saying that people shouldn’t buy it, download it play it or enjoy it. Unlike the Dixie Chicks backlash, he isn’t calling for a boycott. He’s asking that it not be played on the radio – a broadcast medium that vet content all the time, in order to remain appropriate for a general audience. Most radio stations will not play songs with cuss words. Most radio stations won’t play songs with explicit sexual language. And if enough people are bothered by non-consenual sex to speak out the way The MoMs has that may influence them to stop playing that music as well.

  7. A. Nonamus says:

    Doesn’t he ask for consent in the second line?

    Where I am WILLING to take you girl (as in, if you say, ‘yes’)
    I feel like the opening lines are about a boy expressing his uncertainty over whether or not the girl is ready, but if she is, he details what he wants to do in the rest of the song.

    This is how I like to be made love to, by the way…

    • Nadine says:

      Hi, A. Nonamus. Thanks for your comment and perspective.

      To be clear, The MoMs’ letter wasn’t meant a criticism of this particular type of sexual encounter. Power play is a totally legit thing and a lot of people enjoy it. The MoMs problem is the song’s inference that it’s romantic for one person to assume sexual control without asking if their partner is down with that.

      If the lyric had been something along the lines of “where YOU are willing to let me take you” or if were phrased as a question “are YOU willing to let me take you?” I think I would have interpreted that as a request for consent. But he only sings about his own willingness to do this . The very first lyric is “I don’t know if you’re ready….”

      If someone isn’t sure their partner is ready, I think it’s pretty essential that they get some clear, unambiguous consent before proceeding with the sexy times.

      • A. Nonamus says:

        Hmm. I just don’t see the coersive and demanding initiation of sex here. Oftentimes, at the beginning of a relationship, there is a lot of not knowing what your partner’s likes and dislikes are. Hedley opens the song with an admission of this – which, at the very same time, acts as the beginning of a dialogue with his partner. I think it’s a very common way of initiating this sort of dialogue, too. “I don’t know, but… And it’s through dialogue that we learn about what the other likes, right?… It’s a good way to open the song, I think. You know, Let’s talk about sex, baby.

        Also, the word willing. It’s like an eager compliance – of a wish that is asked of us. It’s the essence of how we negotiate sex with our partners, really. The phrase, I’m willing to take you there – it already implies that his partner has expressed a wish or desire in this type of sexual act. Basically, he’s saying, That thing we talked about, I’m ready if you are.

        Plus, the song is written TO his partner. He doesn’t position his partner as the third person here where he’s explaining to everyone else what he’s going to do to her – as though he owns her, or as though her wishes don’t matter. No, there is nothing possessive in the song as a whole. Ownership is an important point here – or lack thereof. Does that make sense?

        I usually agree with your perspective on things, Nadine. But this time, I don’t know. I’m getting pretty defensive. This song just gives me goosebumps, precisely because it depicts a consensual dom/sub relationship that is often not portrayed in pop culture.

        • Hi again,

          I’m really sorry if I implied that it wasn’t okay for you to like this song or the type of sex it portrays. To be clear, I have no problem with dom/sub sex or any other mutual sexual experience. As NJ said in an earlier comment, she had a very similar interpretation of the song as you do. She also likes it very much.

          I just have a very different reaction to those first couple of lines. Which are probably informed by my experience talking to people (youth especially) and a few of my own. I do agree that it’s very common for us not to know what exactly what a sexual partner wants. And admitting that can open up a dialogue, which I agree is a positive thing. When I read the lyrics see the interpretation that’s:

          a) I’m not sure if you’re ready. I’m checking in and asking if all of this is okay. If you say yes, here’s a whole song about all the sexy awesomeness I have in store for you.

          but I also see the interpretation that’s

          b) I’m not sure if you’re ready but this seduction is happening regardless.

          I hear the second interpretation because I’ve spoken to so many youth, who don’t understand that they can and *should* ask if they sense their partner might not be comfortable. And they’ve heard “no means no,” but no one is modelling affirmative consent for them. They aren’t taught how to negotiate consent and make sure that everyone is happy with the sex they’re having.

          I’ve also had the personal experience of someone touching me or invading my personal space. And when I’ve objected, as often as not, the reaction I get is something defensive, along the lines of “I thought you would like it!” And perhaps that belief is sincere. But they didn’t ask me.

          So that’s where I’m coming from with all of this. But you’re right, he’s talking/singing directly to his partner. I just wish the consent piece had been really t and not left open to interpretation. If the song lyrics had a little more of what you wrote “what do you like” or “let’s talk about this” or at least confirmed that the woman actually said yes, I’d feel very a lot better about hearing it on the radio.

          I hope that clarifies my position a bit. Thanks for keeping this discussion going. Even if we don’t see this particular song in the same light, I think talking about sex and consent is always a very, very good thing.

  8. tuppence says:

    I’m a Hedley fan, but I’m also Mom to a couple of teenaged boys, so very conscious of what’s out there for them to see and hear.

    First of all I have to say that, fan or not, as far as this post goes I’m in agreement with A. Nonamus, who has voiced my views way more eloquently than I ever could. What I can add here though is a little info about Hedley and this song .. Unlike the vast majority of Hedley songs, ‘Kiss You Inside Out’ was not actually written by the band (http://www.ascap.com/Playback/2012/09/wecreatemusic/Adrian-Newman-on-Hedley-Kiss-You-Inside-Out.aspx). Obviously that doesn’t make them any less accountable for it, but I truly believe their musical & professional integrity would never allow them to record and release a song they didn’t stand behind anyway. The previous link gives the writer’s view of what the song is about, and that’s the same message which is portrayed in the official Hedley music video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksrFRkA8J4w. I think it’s also relevant to add that, this is a band who wrote and released a song about standing up against domestic violence (‘Brave New World’ off ‘Famous Last Words’) and who I saw just last week, doing one of several benefit concerts for breast cancer research. They’re ambassadors for Free the Children, have been involved in anti-racism public information messages, and on their last arena tour, encouraged their fans to look for beauty beyond what they see in the mirror. Knowing about these and the many other things they do in support of women and children, it just doesn’t make sense to me that they would actively market a song which condones abuse or assault of any kind.

    I guess lyrics, like any other art form, will (and probably should) be interpreted by the listener/viewer as they see fit, and that’s really where the potential for misunderstanding comes into play. I’m sure the writer of the original letter feels as strongly that their impression of the lyrics is correct, as I do that it’s not. It’s certainly food for thought ..

    • Nadine says:

      Hi Tuppence,

      Thanks for your comment. Thank you also for providing additional context regarding the band and the song.

      This discussion reminds me of conversations I had with friends when the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council considered banning ‘Money For Nothing’ from being played on the radio because it contained homophobic slurs. I believe the first person narrator of the song is intended to be portrayed as ignorant and his use of the word reflects negatively on his character. However, casual listeners without benefit of an explanation or context had vastly different interpretations.

      I still wish the consent was more explicit. And the line about “give up the fight” makes me uncomfortable. Still this makes me think a lot about mainstream portrayals of D/s relationships. I wonder how often they are misunderstood or misinterpreted by general audiences. Might be an interesting subject for another post…

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  1. […] the song ‘Kiss You Inside Out’ from their rotation. You can read the entire letter here but the gist is this – The MoMs heard the song and felt the lyrics were describing a coercive […]