In 2009, the pop star Rihanna told ABC anchor Diane Sawyer she finally broke it off with her violent pop-star boyfriend, Chris Brown. For the children, of course.
"When I realized that my selfish decision for love could result into some young girl getting killed, I could not be easy with that part. I couldn't be held responsible."
She added, "I just didn't realize how much of an impact I had on these girls' lives until that happened. It was a big wake-up call for me."
On Sunday night's ABC broadcast of the Billboard Music Awards, the show began with the spectacle of Rihanna writhing around the stage floor dressed like a dominatrix in white leather. Coming up from the floor were grabby gloved male hands circling between her legs. Then came the sexually explicit song. It's called "S&M." It looks like Rihanna's gone back into a long sleep when it comes to the children.
The Billboard Music Awards are watched by millions upon millions of impressionable youngsters. So before the little ones headed off to sleep, parents nationwide had the educational opportunity of explaining what "S&M" stands for. Perhaps they could also answer why this woman was singing, "Now the pain is my pleasure 'cause nothing could measure" and "The affliction of the feeling leaves me wanting more."
"I Have Such an Impact on Young Girls" Rihanna repeatedly sang the chorus "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."
Later in the song, Rihanna was joined by the ridiculous Britney Spears in a black leather outfit and a matching mask with bunny ears. As they each sang about "sex in the air," they circled around stripper poles, and Rihanna kissed Spears. Then they concluded the song with a pillow fight. See? Sadism and masochism are really harmless, painless child's play. This ending was probably ABC's signal to critics to lighten up.
This is not the first time the Billboard Music Awards have caused controversy. In 2002, when the show was on Fox, Cher used the F-word. The next year, Fox "reality" star Nicole Richie deliberately dropped several unbleeped "fleeting expletives." Both were central to a long court fight where the networks fought for the right to broadcast expletives on TV at any time of day.
But on this show, the explicit adult content wasn't fleeting or unplanned, as executives dishonestly argued in the past. The Disney people wanted a saucy start early in prime time on a Sunday night, and the advertisers got in line to support it -- everyone from McDonald's to Chevrolet to Old Navy.
This is what you do when you're out of talent, folks.
There was one other happy business. Syren Couture put out a press release announcing it made the "elegant but mysterious fetish style mask" Spears wore, and wanted everyone to know they are "the world's premier erotic atelier, renowned for their handcrafted creations of latex rubber and leather."
Is that a nice match for Ronald McDonald, you think?
But this isn't just one bad night. There simply aren't enough people questioning why Rihanna has repeatedly put out a string of please-hurt-me songs over the last two years, two years since she left the violent embrace of Chris Brown, and she still so clearly expresses a desire to be beaten.
Last year, Rihanna also sang in "Rude Boy" that she likes the way "you pull my hair." Big deal, you say? Then try last summer's duet with the rapper Eminem called "Love the Way You Lie." Here Rihanna repeatedly sang, "Just gonna stand there and watch me burn / But that's all right because I like the way it hurts / Just gonna stand there and hear me cry / But that's all right because I love the way you lie."
These songs are not a pose -- or it's all part of an long-running publicity stunt to spur bad-girl "buzz." In March, she told Rolling Stone magazine, "I like to be spanked. Being tied up is fun. I like to keep it spontaneous. Sometimes whips and chains can be overly planned -- you gotta stop, get the whip from the drawer downstairs. I'd rather have him use his hands." She went on to recount for the magazine a wild recent trip to a sex shop in Sydney called the Toolshed, where she left with two full bags of whips, blindfolds and other sex toys.
Whether her affinity for violence is reality or fakery is irrelevant to me. Either way, it's a grotesque violation of her womanhood. And for that, she is given star treatment. For that, she is surrounded by all the trappings of fame and fortune.
What was that about her selfish decision possibly resulting in some young girl getting killed again?