The Elephant in the Room: Naughty Rihanna, Naughty Shakira

Sure, Rihanna and Shakira are hot, but together they do NOT turn me on. I’m talking about their music video, “Can’t Remember to Forget You.” If I just listen to “Can’t Remember to Forget You,” it makes me want to dance “in the moonlight.”

But when I watch the accompanying video, I get an unpleasant sensation in the pit of my stomach — I’m reminded of the term “heteroflexibility” that I learned in my Politics of Sexuality class. Heteroflexibility refers to the media’s representation of female-female sexuality for the sole purpose of “attracting and titillating young male viewers.”

Now, if Rihanna and Shakira had been at least attempting to portray a genuine same-sex relationship, I’d be all for this. Except they’re not. At all. The first clue? It’s the fact that they’re not looking at each other while they’re touching each other. Correct me if I’m wrong, but one of the most obvious signs of genuine emotion and attraction to a person is maintaining eye contact with them. While Rihanna and Shakira have their hands on each other, their eyes are looking directly at the camera toward the intended audience of their actions. These women aren’t even attempting to feign interest in each other, implying that the pleasure of a third party is ever more important that the pleasure of the actual participants.

Our second clue is too straightforward to even be considered a clue — it’s a direct message. While Rihanna has her hands on Shakira, she’s crooning “I do anything for that boy.” BOY. She’s touching Shakira, not for Shakira’s pleasure or even for her own pleasure, but for a man’s.  Shakira and Rihanna’s interaction both demeans and trivializes female sexuality.

Such depictions of pseudo female-female sexuality are “weapons of sexism.” “Can’t Remember to Forget You” sends the message that the pleasure of a male audience takes precedence over a female’s genuine sexual pleasure. Portrayals of male-male sexuality in the media are rare, while pseudo female-female sexuality has become normalized. Catering to a male audience? How shocking for a patriarchal society!

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