Monday, 14 September 2015

Pop Stars as Sex Workers

Earlier this week singer Chrissie Hynde hit the headlines when she criticised
scantily-clad stars and branded them ‘sex workers’ for selling music by ‘bumping and grinding’ in their underwear.  She said their performances were doing ‘a great deal of damage’.

It is now completely mainstream for the videos of chart topping artists to include nudity, highly sexualised dancing, violence and references to prostitution.  This summer the video for Rihanna’s latest release, Better Have My Money, was much criticised for its fetishisation and glamorisation of weapons, torture and murder.  What is particularly disturbing about this is that the fan base of all these performers is so young.  Watching them, one could be forgiven for thinking that these videos have been produced to appeal to an adult male audience but, in reality, they are far more likely to be viewed by school children.

This pornification of our culture, created just to sell us a product, is having damaging and far-reaching consequences.  Young boys watching these videos will come believe that women are merely sex objects for their entertainment and young girls will learn that their value lies in their sex appeal and how they look.

Parents who responded to the government’s Bailey Review in 2011 cited music videos as a major concern.  The report subsequently recommended that age restrictions should be applied to music videos to prevent children buying sexually explicit videos and guide broadcasters over when to show them.  In its manifesto the Conservative party promised to “stop children's exposure to harmful sexualised content online, by requiring age verification for access to all sites containing pornographic material and age-rating for all music videos.”

This summer a new scheme to classify music videos came into operation.  Music videos on YouTube and Vevo will now be rated by the BBFC to protect children from seeing inappropriate content.  Some of the biggest recording labels - Sony, Universal and Warner - have agreed to submit the videos they produce to the BBFC before uploading them to the sites but the American offices of these labels have not agreed to the system, meaning any artist who is signed with them won't have their videos subjected to ratings.

In practice this means that some of the most troubling music videos - even the ones that first sparked this move towards a classification system - won’t actually be affected by it.  This may be a step in the right direction but much more still needs to be done to make this truly effective.

Earlier in the year, we wrote to all the new MPs in the 2015 intake outlining our concerns and asking for their support.  We have received several supportive responses and will be meeting with some of the new MPs over the coming weeks to discuss ways in which we can work together in the future.

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