Sex on the radio

Posted: Jan 17, 2003 12:00 AM
A few months ago, the New York shock jocks Opie and Anthony were fired after encouraging listeners to have sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral. The mere suggestion of an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) -- and perhaps the outrage of a large number of offended Catholics -- were enough to shut that nonsense down. But it's not just the shock jocks who have turned radio into a jaw-dropping arena for sexual titillation. When will the FCC or anyone else address the shocking sex talk in music? Exhibit A: Missy Elliott's "Work It." Nearly every music critic in America is hailing Elliott's hip-hop grooves. They call it "minimalist funk." For those unhip to hip-hop, the first reaction to hearing this song might be: This is a song? The only melody on this "minimalist" single sounds like a siren on a toy fire truck. One wishes the "minimalist" tag could apply to the lyrics as well, but no such luck. Even adoring critics will concede that this "artist" is all about encouraging girls to be as ready and willing for casual sex as the boys. Washington Post writer David Segal raves about her latest album this way: "Elliott, meanwhile, does what she does best: boasts about her curves, crows about her conquests and seduces men with all the subtlety of an anvil dropped from the third story." Segal thinks even the boy rappers look mild by comparison. "Guest vocalists Jay-Z and Ludacris add testosterone, but neither can out-crass Lady M., and both end up seeming like wallflowers at a striptease." Or take this recommendation from the New Yorker: "Dirty fun for the whole family." In "Work It," Elliott tries to impress a man with how well she can perform as his sexual plaything. The chorus -- if you can call it that -- begins: " If you got a big ---- (sound of an elephant roar), let me search it/ And find out how hard I gotta work ya." In her lyrics, this Mama Crass advertises her willingness for infidelity: "Your girl actin' stank, then call me over/ Not on the bed, lay me on your sofa." She talks about shaving her private parts. She suggests getting drunk. She asks to be stripped, ogled and pawed. She asks for oral sex. The lyrics are unbelievably blunt and far too obscene for a family newspaper. You'll have to turn to your children's favorite station to hear them. How can this trash not trickle down to the kids who love listening to the radio and watching MTV? How many tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of young girls -- who love the hippest thing in their headphones -- have memorized these lyrics? Elliott's video features a pre-pubescent girl dancing along to the song. For the American Music Awards on the ABC television network, Elliott repeated that "dirty fun for the whole family" formula, bringing along a crew of pre-teens to dance along as she performed her hit. But Elliott's not the only loose woman putting they-said-what? offerings in heavy rotation on the radio. Top 40 stations are just latching on to Khia's oral-sex ode "My Neck My Back (Lick It)." Its chorus is that simple: "Lick my back, lick my neck, lick my uhhh ... Just like that." Khia even offers a lyrical how-to brochure for the sexual rookies. Khia's album, titled "Thug Misses," is already a best seller, certified gold, featuring a list of tracks that includes titles like "F--- Dem Other Hoes." What's truly bizarre is that you can click around on and purchase "Thug Misses (Clean)." How does that work? The Web site lists no alternative titles to songs ... like "Dismiss Those Other Girls." It doesn't promise the big hit, rewritten as "Lick My Stamp." If in real life, a woman walked up on the playground and told the kids how to perform sex acts, parents would want her arrested and charged with the sexual abuse of minors. Yet this coarse instruction is taking place every single day on the radio, and parents don't even know who these so-called musicians are. Raunchy TV at least comes with lame warnings of "viewer discretion advised" to cover their own utter lack of discretion. Radio doesn't even have that minimalist amount of responsibility. Someone ought to be demanding that this medium assume some.