Rihanna released her video for "S&M" this week and suddenly everyone has decided it's smut. The video is being met with widespread blushing, including an "inappropriate" flag on Youtube and a potential re-edit from MTV. But, as Rihanna herself pointed out, she's actually less naked in this video than she was in "Umbrella." So why the censorship?
The answer, obviously, is the explicit nature of the lyrics ("Sex in the air, I don't care, I love the smell of it/Sticks and stones may break my bones/But chains and whips excite me"). Loud is full of brazenly frank sexual content, but somehow that hasn't really been an issue until now, when there's a video driving home the point. And yes, those are some pretty unambiguous concepts we definitely would rather our ten-year-old cousins are not shouting from the backseats of cars. But there are plenty of equally raunchy things they're already shouting without a raised eyebrow.
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Rihanna's tweet about her relative nakedness here is interesting: when the song is less direct or the deviant behavior is couched in metaphor, no one even thinks twice. And Rihanna saying she likes a little S&M is no less appropriate than Nickelback's Chad Kroeger saying, "I like your pants around your feet/And I like the dirt that's on your knees/And I like the way you still say please/While you're looking up at me/You're like my favourite damn disease." Actually, as a moral compass we'd much, much rather follow Rihanna than Kroeger. At least there's no ugly subservience with Rihanna -- when she's leading Perez Hilton around on a leash it's clear they're both having fun.