Even if you weren’t one of the 28.2 million Americans watching the 2014 Grammys last month, you probably caught wind of the controversy over Beyoncé’s raunchy performance of her song “Drunk in Love,” featuring her husband Jay-Z. Perhaps it was her lingerie-like outfit or her chair dancing or the part where Jay-Z grasped her rear, but this was one of those moments when parents find themselves putting their hands over their children’s eyes—or flipping to another channel.
Beyoncé, a mother of a 2-year old, raked in tons of media attention for that performance. Some of the publicity was negative. The Daily Mail quoted many parents who expressed their disappointment via Twitter: “It's a sad day when our kids can't even watch the Grammys.” Forbes noted that Beyoncé, a self-claimed feminist, “could have used her power to show that a woman doesn’t need to be a stripper to succeed.”
However, an alarming number of articles defended Beyoncé’s bold risk-taking and showered accolades on her for flaunting her size-2 body. Think Progress even claims that Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s steamy performance is a case for marriage. Think Progress writer Alyssa Rosenburg claims, “[I]f marriage is a product that conservatives desperately want to sell, the smartest thing they could do right now is to hire Beyoncé and Jay-Z as a product spokescouple.”
Claiming that public displays of sexual behavior will promote marriage is ridiculous. Kids aren’t going to watch Beyoncé and Jay-Z and think, “Gee, I can’t wait to get married.” They’re going to go out and try what’s been normalized on live television. Rosenburg, paradoxically, highlights a RAND survey that found “heavy exposure to sexual content on television related strongly to teens’ initiation of intercourse or their progression to more advanced sexual activities (such as “making out” or oral sex) apart from intercourse in the following year.”
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