There are lots of songs that support and even romanticize abusive behavior. Remember, I’m not criticizing these songs musically – I’m simply pointing out that our culture allows the romanticizing of dangerous behavior, and this is sometimes celebrated in song. I won’t go into details, just listing them out with a comment or two.
“Run for your Life” by The Beatles (1965): Cheery song about threatening a girlfriend with death if she leaves him for someone else.
“She’s a Lady” by Tom Jones (1967): Lyrics are loaded with references to “taking” what the man “dishes out” and being properly subservient being the key qualities of being “a lady.”
“Vehicle,” by The Ides of March (1970): “I’m a friendly stranger in a black sedan/ won’t you hop inside my car?” Need I say more? “Because I love you… need you… want you… got to have you” – he falls “in love” with someone he just picked up on the street and conned into getting into his car with candy????
“Build Me Up, Buttercup” by The Foundations (1968): Song about how an abused partner recognizes being set up over and over but “can’t leave” because he loves her so much. Says he’ll “make her happy” if she’ll just give him some time.
“Kim” and “’97 Bonnie and Clyde” by Eminem (2000): Simply revolting lyrics. Songs (based on his actual relationship with Kim Mathers, which Kim reports as very abusive) fantasize about killing his partner and telling his young child about it or having the child watch.
“Ultraviolence” by Lana Del Ray (2014): “He hit me and it felt like a kiss/ Violins Violins/ Give me all that ultraviolence.” The lyrics speak for themselves.
“He Hit Me and it Felt Like a Kiss” by The Crystals (1962): You get the idea.
“Under My Thumb” by The Rolling Stones (1966): I can hardly read the lyrics – the whole song is about him getting control of his girlfriend and making her do as he pleases.
“Animals” by Maroon 5 (2014): Song romanticizes rape. Makes “Under My Thumb” look like easy reading.
“Tonight’s the Night” by Rod Stewart (1976): More subtle, but read the second verse:
“Come on angel my hearts on fire
Don’t deny your man’s desire
You’d be a fool to stop this tide
Spread your wings and let me come inside”
“Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel (1977): Now I love me some Billy Joel, but in this one, he sings a light and chipper song about pressuring a “good Catholic girl” into having sex before she’s ready. “You Catholic girls start much too late…”
The list could go on and on. Again, I’m not necessarily critiquing the songs (with a couple exceptions as noted) but want folks to think about the pictures they have been given about what is romantic. From 1962 and long before, right up to the present, being pressured to be sexually active and to accept violence from a man is romanticized, and male violence and control toward partners is justified and excused in hundreds of popular songs. I encourage all of us to listen carefully to the lyrics of songs we like and see what the real message is. You can still enjoy the song, but don’t let it sell you on the idea that “no means yes” or that violence “feels like a kiss!”