The University of Leeds’ student union has banned Robin Thicke’s popular song “Blurred Lines,” saying it will not be played at any of the three nightclubs or two bars operated by the union. It’s the second university in the United Kingdom to recently take this stand, after the University of Edinburgh banned the chart-topper last week.
The officers in Leeds’ student union collectively made the decision to ban the song, saying it “undermines and degrades women.” The pop hit has been widely criticized for its lyrics connoting nonconsensual sexual activity — such as “I hate these blurred lines, I know you want it” — and its music video featuring naked women alongside fully-clothed men.
Alice Smart, one of the officers at Leeds’ student union, told the Independent that students’ reaction to the decision has been largely positive. “A few students are asking why if we have banned this song, we aren’t banning everything, but we’ve chosen this one as an example, because it’s so popular,” Smart explained. “Blurred Lines” has reached number one in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Australia.
The Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) relied on similar logic when it moved to ban “Blurred Lines” earlier this month. EUSA’s vice president pointed out that the song “promotes an unhealthy attitude towards sex and consent,” which violates the school’s explicit policy to tackle rape culture and sexual harassment.
Robin Thicke has brushed off the feminist critiques of “Blurred Lines,” saying it’s “irresponsible” to suggest that the lyrics are promoting rape, and noting that art is supposed to spark a conversation.
But this week, the Sociological Images blog pointed out that many of the lyrics in “Blurred Lines” are lines that actual rapists have said to their victims. Using images from Project Unbreakable — an online photo essay exhibit that features survivors holding signs noting what their rapists said to them before, during, or after their assault — the sociology blog was able to match up Robin Thicke’s lyrics with sentences that have accompanied real instances of nonconsensual sexual activity.
The issue of combating rape culture on college campuses has been especially prevalent across U.S. universities over the past year. Student activists have banded together to pressure their university administration to take rape more seriously, and work harder to create an atmosphere where sexual assault isn’t tolerated and survivors are supported. Earlier this week, a group of college students sparked a widespread conversation about consent by playing a prank on Playboy Magazine, putting out a fake “guide to a consensual good time” that made it appear as though Playboy was prioritizing sexual assault prevention over partying.