A guest blog from Melinda Tankard Reist, first posted at ABC Unleashed.
Can someone please tell Brian McFadden that ‘taking advantage’ of a woman when she’s drunk is sexual assault and against the law? Because he seems to have missed the announcement.
The Irish singer-songwriter and ‘honorary’ Australian on account of his four-year engagement to songstress Delta Goodrem, McFadden today officially releases Just The Way You Are (Drunk at the Bar).The barn-dance meets rap recording is described here as the novelty song from hell and hard to beat as the worst song of the year (and it’s only February).
But apart from its all-round awfulness it’s these lyrics which, with International Women’s Day almost upon us, show us just how far we haven’t come.
I like you just the way you are, drunk and dancing at the bar, I can't wait to take you home so I can do some damage
I like you just the way you are, drunk and dancing at the bar, I can't wait to take you home so I can take advantage
Describing the song as 'infectious', Universal Music in a statement Friday said the dance track will 'rattle around in your head for hours'. Doing some damage, taking advantage of a woman under the influence of alcohol... is this the soundtrack we want going round and round in the heads of males?
Just one more message reinforcing the rape myths circulating in our culture: that inebriated girls are asking for it, and that you’re not really to blame. One more message encouraging boys to help themselves. I love you just the way you are, drunk, because it’s easier to get what I want that way.
A recent UK study found that 48 per cent of males aged 18-25 did not consider rape to have taken place if the woman was too drunk to know what was happening. There’s a kind of party atmosphere around these criminal assaults, with many men boasting about their conquests. An online genre known as ‘Passed Out P*ssy’ encourages men to share photos online of women and girls they have taken advantage of while drunk. ‘She’s drunk? Don’t call a taxi and make sure she gets home safely! Call your friends, have some fun and share the pictures!’ men are exhorted.
Love you just the way you are (drunk at the bar) helps legitimise this behaviour.
McFadden - also a judge on Australia’s Got Talent and a father of daughters - hasn’t taken well to the criticism. He swears on his heart that he wrote the song for Delta. That’s right, ‘Can’t wait to do some damage’ is the sort of poetry McFadden writes to demonstrate the depths of his love for his bride-in-waiting. Look into my eyes Delta, he croons, I stayed up all night writing this ode to love, just for you my darling. Wow, lucky girl Delta. Perhaps he even expects her to swoon?
The song was first played on 2Day FM’s Kyle & Jackie O show last week. Jackie O - who could also benefit from reading Consent for Dummies – gushed that it was her 'new favourite song'. 'I love it, I’m a big fan of this song... this song rocks.'
And Kyle Sandilands, not exactly legendary for his sensitive treatment of young women - recall the lie detector scandal involving a 14-year-old rape survivor - said, 'It's a fun sort of song.'
Discussing this with Nina Funnell who campaigns to end sexual assault and is a member of the Premier’s Council on Preventing Violence Against Women, she says McFadden's lyrics echo a broader culture which ostensibly opposes rape while simultaneously demonstrating no real understanding of what actually constitutes sexual assault.
'Unfortunately many people still believe the myth that most sexual assaults are committed down dark alleys by strangers in balaclavas. This myth is damaging as it conceals the reality that the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are committed by people known to the victim - usually a family member, friend, someone they go to school or work with.
'It is important that we recognise that the sort of behaviour that some people are referring to as "taking advantage" may legally count as sexual assault. In NSW the consent laws now state that a person cannot give consent if they are intoxicated to the point that they lose the capacity to do so, such as if they are passed out.'
'To "take advantage" of someone in such a state would unquestionably constitute sexual assault.
Having sex with a woman who does not have the capacity to consent is not called "taking advantage". It’s called rape. Calling it ‘taking advantage’ reclassifies an action from being a serious crime to a negative but essentially trivial behaviour with no legal dimension whatsoever.'
Alison Grundy a clinical psychologist in the field of sexual violence for 20 years, describes the lyrics as 'one more open demonstration of the contempt shown to women's human rights and the fundamental legislation that is place to protect them'.
'Now we have 30 years of research to show that the sexualised and violent messages of popular music, media and video games do shape and provoke male aggressive and sexualised violence. I wonder how long it will be before songs like this are seen as inciting crimes under the criminal code?
'Not soon enough for those of us who work with victims on the long road to recovery after experiencing the "do some damage and take advantage" behaviour lauded in this song.'
So there you have it. A fun sort of song about sexually exploiting women – doing damage to them – to top off a night out. Let the good times roll. Just not for the one in five women over 15 who are sexually assaulted in this country.