For months, the debate over universities' decisions to ban Blurred Lines has remained heated. The obvious reason for the ban is that the song is rife with sexism and casual support of rape culture. There is no doubt that the song is sexist. Robin Thicke himself does not deny that it demeans women. Regardless, those opposing the ban defend its misogyny on the basis of 'free speech'. The idea seems to be that nothing can possibly be banned without violating some imaginary moral code, and then banning everything else. Perhaps this fear stems from the knowledge that popular music is often misogynistic, and likely deserves the same treatment as Blurred Lines. As the debate continues, it is frequently derailed by vague political arguments about the nuances of free speech law, drifting further and further from the issue at hand. The most pressing case for the ban is the song's effect on victims of sexual assault.
Sezin Koehler published an article this September called From the Mouths of Rapists which matched up lyrics from Blurred Lines to images from Project Unbreakable, a site that depicts the words of rapists to their victims at the time of the assault. Phrases like "I know you want it" and "good girl" are not only direct quotes from Robin Thicke's magnum opus, but also frequent submissions to Project Unbreakable. There are a number of other lyrics that are not found word for word on the website, but refer to similar experiences, such as "the way you grab me, must wanna get nasty" or "I'll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two". These ignore the necessity of explicit consent, and display a lack of regard for women. The latter lyric is often defended as intentionally hyperbolic, but the implication is still one of male dominance, and pleasure derived from harming women. This information makes the song repellent to a lot of people, so the impact on victims of rape is unthinkable. Rape victims tend to struggle with an overwhelming feeling of self-blame, which results in psychological issues that can include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder and rape trauma syndrome. Blurred Lines does two things: it reinforces rape culture and victim-blaming, through the murmured litany of "I know you want it" in the background of the chorus; it also speaks the words of rapists back to victims in settings where they are supposed to feel comfortable and relaxed. Aside from causing extreme discomfort - not only for rape victims but for any woman - the symptoms of mental illnesses that resulted from the trauma will likely be triggered. To some Blurred Lines may just be a pop song, but to others it is a trigger, and a reminder that their environment is not safe.
This isn't to suggest that Blurred Lines is the only piece of media, or even the only song that could be triggering in some way. The difference is that Blurred Lines held the number one spot in the Billboard Hot 100 chart for twelve weeks, and has reached over 242 million listeners throughout the world. There is no other song as problematic or as omnipresent as this one, which is why more than 20 UK universities so far have become places for students to escape it. The focus in this debate should return to the reality of the effect of Blurred Lines on students' wellbeing, and leave behind the stale excuses that have kept this song in the media for far too long.