‘Slut”, ‘Whore’, and ‘Daddy Issues’?

Rihanna’s latest video on S/M has recently created quite a stir in mainstream media across the globe.  Currently 11 countries have banned the video and access to the video is relegated to 18+ viewers only on YouTube.   On one hand it could be argued that Rihanna has created dialogue regarding a community that has been traditionally silenced and marked as deviant.  However, on the other, one need question whether a candy coated, predominately heterosexual, and I would argue, fairly inaccurate depiction of BDSM (Bondage & Discipline / Domination & Submission / Sadism & Masochism), could potentially cause more harm than good.

Throughout the video images positioning Rhianna as a potential ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ are conflated with assertions of her ‘daddy issues’.  Sex negative language is explicitly expressed in the video, which demands all those who engage in practices of BDSM must surely be promiscuous and dirty.  The video further suggests that women, who engage in BDSM in addition to being ‘sluts’, must further suffer from ‘daddy issues’.   The narrative of this video reinforces dominant notions of hetero-patriarchy, re-inscribing women who enjoy their sexuality as inherent whores who suffer from abandonment issues from men.

In addition to positioning all women who practice BDSM as hyper-sexualized victims of abuse, there is a further heternormative imperative within the context of the video as most interactions were presented as heterosexual pairings.  The heterosexual imperative is further reinforced when Rihanna seductively sucks off a peel banana, or rather the imagined phallus.   And while many heterosexual individuals may practice BDSM, S/M is an important component to many queer communities.

Although Rihanna has every right to express her desires and sexuality in any way she chooses, I would argue that the way in which BDSM was presented is not representative of actual S/M practices.  It appears to me this video was intended to create shock value and increase record sales.  Rihanna effectively exploits the BDSM community in order to increase consumer capital.

Although I think Rhianna’s intentions were not to be harmful or damaging, the video marginalizes the BDSM community, particularly queer individual members.  And while perhaps this video could have been used to expand knowledge of BDSM in a positive way, it further re-inscribes BDSM as inherently deviant and as a sexual pathology.  Artists who engage with content that has traditionally been perceived as unnatural and violent must be responsible in the ways they willfully represent sex and sexuality or marginalized individuals.

YouTube link for video

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