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Lennox joins sexualised pop debate

By | Published on Monday 7 October 2013

Annie Lennox

Annie Lennox is the latest veteran pop star to join the debate over the highly sexualised videos and performances being peddled by certain (often American) female singers in recent years, expressing similar fears to those written by Sinead O’Connor last week, in her original open letter to Miley Cyrus, that these performers are being unknowingly exploited by a misogynistic music industry chasing the sexed-up pop girl dollar without considering the impact it is having on their often young fanbases, male and female.

Following last week’s online skirmish between Cyrus and O’Connor, though not exclusively commenting on the recent Miley reboot, Lennox wrote on Facebook on Saturday: “I have to say that I’m disturbed and dismayed by the recent spate of overtly sexualised performances and videos. You know the ones I’m talking about. It seems obvious that certain record companies are peddling highly styled pornography with musical accompaniment. As if the tidal wave of sexualised imagery wasn’t already bombarding impressionable young girls enough”.

She went on: “I believe in freedom of speech and expression, but the market forces don’t give a toss about the notion of boundaries. As long as there’s booty to make money out of, it will be bought and sold. It’s depressing to see how these performers are so eager to push this new level of low. Their assumption seems to be that misogyny utilised and displayed through oneself is totally fine, as long as you are the one creating it. As if it’s all justified by how many millions of dollars and YouTube hits you get from behaving like pimp and prostitute at the same time. It’s a glorified and monetised form of self harm”.

Returning to the social network yesterday, Lennox clarified: “On reflection I will say that sexuality is an inherent and profound part of life. There is absolutely nothing ‘wrong’ about our sexuality or sensuality per se – but if a performing artist has an audience of impressionable young fans and they want to present a soft porn video or highly sexualised live performance, then it needs to qualify as such and be X rated for adults only”.

Continuing: “I’m talking from the perspective of the parents of those young fans. The whole thing is about their children’s protection. Is it appropriate for seven year olds to be thrusting their pelvises like pole dancers? I really don’t think so. Boundaries need to be put in place so that young kids aren’t barraged by market forces exploiting the ‘normalisation’ of explicit sex in under age entertainment. That means – no audiences under eighteen. Simple! Well – not quite. The internet has put paid to ‘boundaries’ and ‘simple'”.

Lennox and O’Connor aren’t the only people joining in with this debate; Britney Spears too, as someone much more closely linked to the current generation of pop ladies, has expressed some concerns as well. She’s told Boston radio station AMP 103.3: “A lot of sex goes into what I do. But sometimes I would like to bring it back to the old days when there was like one outfit through the whole video, and you’re dancing the whole video, and there’s like not that much sex stuff going on. It’s about the dance and it’s about being old school, it’s like keeping it real and just making it about the dance. I’d love to do a video like that”.

Then asked if she felt pressured by her management to produce more sexualised performances, such as that seen in her latest video for the track ‘Work Bitch’, Spears said that she did. Though reps both for her manager Larry Rudolph (also Cyrus’s manager) and father/business manager Jamie Spears insisted that wasn’t the case. They told TMZ: “Britney is never pressured into anything. She reviews all creative and for her ‘Work Bitch’ video she discussed toning down some parts in finding a balance of sexy and being a mom”.

Of course the pressure Spears and others feel may be more subtle than a manager or label rep insisting on more tit or ass in this shot or that; because in the YouTube age pop stars can see for themselves that rival performers are generating more hits and shares when they take their clothes off and twerk for the camera.

And even if the pop industry isn’t overtly demanding that its female stars strip and wiggle, it’s no secret that the pop machine does demand big numbers. Which is possibly why Cyrus, so keen to shirk the Hannah Montana image created for her by ‘the man’, has voluntarily chosen to rebel against the system by reinventing herself in the only other image the same ‘man’ could have imagined.

This debate, I am sure, will continue for sometime. Until, perhaps, a strong-minded American pop songstress realises that the really edgy thing to do in 2013 is keep your clothes on. Though real edge might also hit those YouTube stats.