Here are 10 songs that fight back against the oversexualization of women, chosen by Hex Poseur.
Broadly, Hex Poseur is a punk act, rebellious and confrontational in nature with shades of garage, stoner and sludge rock that fuels a stylistic guessing game from track to track. The vide is very anti-, with musical and lyrical inspiration culled from the riot grrrl movement of the '90s. 'Stunning,' the new Hex Poseur full length, tackles a range of styles, all of which drip with an uncomfortable sort of desperation that feeds right into the themes, which we'll allow Hex Poseur to elaborate on:
Since I was a child, I can remember women being constantly oversexualized in the media, whether it be in a music video, a lad mag, a film or TV show or even just walking down the street. I think as a woman this becomes more and more troubling as you grow up, moving closer toward your “prime” you start to think – is this my future? Am I destined to just be a mindless sex object? Or adversely be a snooty, stuck-up feminist, labeled as “frigid."
It’s upsetting to grow up in a world that constantly dehumanizes you and makes it clear that your thoughts and opinions don’t matter as much as your body. This is drilled into you from a frighteningly young age. This has often become the subject of my song writing — I’ve always felt the inherent need to speak out against how women are mistreated, and the real damage it can inflict.
READ MORE: 10 of the Best Feminist Anthems in Rock
My new album Stunning emphasizes the ways that underage girls are groomed into Hollywood and sexualized while they are still children, a practice that happens over and over again both in the film and music industry. I want to shine a light on the sleaziness and abuse — often swept under the rug — which is advertised as a life everybody should dream of, but really is just another way to objectify and control women and girls.
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Listen to "Miss My Youth" below and check out Hex Poseur's picks for 10 Songs That Fight Back Against the Oversexualization of Women further down the page.
Hex Poseur, "Miss My Youth"
PJ Harvey, “Sheela-Na-Gig”
PJ Harvey is never shy about confronting difficult issues head on. Though written as a more personal track for PJ, the track holds many interpretations. I’ve always seen this as detailing how women are shamed for their bodies, being oversexualized simply for being a woman. The “Sheela-Na-Gig” refers to statues depicting women with enlarged sexual organs – overexaggerating the sexual aspect of a woman’s body.
In the song, the woman seems to be showing off her body and highlighting her femininity (“look at these my child-bearing hips”) and yet is called an “exhibitionist” by the man. Women are allowed to be sexualized by men, but then when they choose to show off their bodies, they are criticized for it and made to feel like their bodies are shameful (“he said ‘please take those dirty pillows away from me’”).
For me, this song illustrates the hypocrisy of the patriarchy and the control it wishes to have over women.
This may be a slightly unusual choice, and somewhat a different interpretation of this song, but it sends an incredibly powerful message. “Polly” is based on the real-life abduction and rape of a 14-year-old girl, written from the point of view of the perpetrator.
This is a song that’s always stuck with me, as it’s rare to hear men write about such issues. Throughout the song the perpetrator seems to be under the delusion that Polly enjoys her abuse — I often interpret this as a wider comment about rape culture, stemming from the constant oversexualization of women, and especially young, girls in the media.
It also has the theme of Polly being something innocent that the perpetrator wants to ruin. This is a common trend in pornography and other media, which fetishizes virginity and youthful innocence, encouraging a predatory mentality.
Cobain was very outspoken about his disgust toward rapists and sexism, which I think is part of why this song has become important to many feminists.
In This Moment’s “Whore” has become a rallying cry for women in the metal scene everywhere. I first heard this song when seeing In This Moment perform at Download Festival — I was instantly drawn in when seeing Maria Brink give a feminist speech while sporting her famous dunce cap with “Whore” written on it.
Much like Harvey’s “Sheela-Na-Gig," in this track Brink highlights the hypocrisy of peoples’ views on women – women are sexualized by others and yet when they sexualize themselves they are criticized and shamed for it (“you love me for everything you hate me for”). It seems to be that in this song they are reclaiming the word to remove its power, and Brink allows herself to be a martyr to protect other women (“I can be your whore”).
It is clear from the title of this Hole track what the subject matter is, as well as the lines in the chorus. “Asking for it” is a phrase commonly used by people trying to blame rape on the woman, the victim, due to the way she dresses or her behavior. In the chorus, it seems Courtney Love is making fun of this way of thinking (“Was she asking for it? Was she asking nice?”) and highlighting the ridiculousness of people believing these statements.
Again, this mentality seems to come from the oversexualization of women — objectifying them to the point that seeing a woman in revealing clothing instantly means they want sex and therefore have given permission for men to take it from them.
Supposedly Love wrote the song after her own experience with being molested by an audience when she stage-dove into the crowd. It’s a harrowing reminder of how unsafe women are in the music industry and throughout life in general.
CLT DRP, “Where the Boys Are”
I discovered CLT DRP after playing with them last year and was totally blown away by their performance. They have a totally unique and experimental sound, but the lyrics are part of what makes them so strong. “Where the Boys Are” seems like a song about internal conflict of wanting to excel but not wanting to betray your gender.
There is a strong theme of sexuality throughout it, I interpret it as her illustrating how she doesn’t want to be submissive to men, both in life and sexually — as women are often depicted to be in the media. Instead of simply pleasuring a man, she discusses the importance of female pleasure, a subject shied away from in popular media, which tends to focus on the woman simply as an object of pleasure for a man.
Nova Twins always know how to make tracks that fully make you feel like a powerful woman just for listening to it. Similar to previous examples, “Bullet” seems to detail the frustration of being harassed by a man, who cannot take no for an answer.
Rather than the melancholy tone of Hole’s track, Nova Twins highlight that they will not be pushed around by men, and in turn seem to be encouraging others to do the same (“I’m not asking for it…I hit like a bullet, son”), emphasizing their own autonomy.
There is also an added message of the fetishization of black women in lyrics such as, “don’t you ever touch my hair, unless you’re paid to cut it.” My personal favorite part of the song is in Nova Twins’ mockery of men who think like this and seem to be driven merely by sexual desire — “I talk about my dick, cos my brain is fucking slow.”
This has been one of my favorite tracks over the past few months, and I continue to love Witch Fever for their total outspokenness and vicious lyrics.
“Bully Boy" speaks out against misogynistic men who try to demean and belittle women, with a kind of medieval theme to it, saying these men should be held accountable for such crimes (“…watch me say ‘off with his head!’”).
They discuss how men use women’s sexuality against them in order to make them feel less than and how women are seemingly punished for the supposed crimes of our ancestors (“am I tits and legs and arse to you…or a stupid brainless bimbo with nothing much to say?”).
Ultimately the take-home message of the track is that we will not let men push us around anymore and will hold them accountable for treating women as thoughtless sex objects, a brilliant message for young women everywhere.
Sonic Youth, “Kool Thing”
I found out about this song from one of my university tutors, he recommended it after he had listened to one of my songs, and I totally understand why. Sonic Youth’s “Kool Thing” seems to mock and ridicule the common tropes in rap music where women are often highly oversexualized — used as objects to dance in videos or draped over cars on album covers. Kim Gordon highlights her rejection of this role for women in music in the repetition of “I don’t wanna, I don’t think so.”
Supposedly, the track was based on a real interview she had with LL Cool J where she struggled to discuss feminist issues with him, which is then satirized in the bridge of the song. This appears to highlight the lack of awareness of such issues with many musicians, and how they only really view women in one kind of way, a way that benefits them.
Petrol Girls, “Touch Me Again”
This is another track similar to Hole’s “Asking For It,” but with a more furious rather than somber tone. The song emphasizes female autonomy and rejects the idea of women being sexual objects for men, instead the singer repeatedly reminds the listener that women are not simply sexual beings and have power over their bodies (“it’s my body and my choice”). It is refreshing to see so many women in punk becoming more and more outspoken about such issues, especially when in the past women were more afraid to speak out about such things.
The repetition of “touch me again and I’ll fucking kill you” comes across like a chant, a mantra for women to learn and repeat whenever faced with a man who won’t back off. It encourages women that rather than being afraid, they can fight against their aggressors.
X-Ray Spex, “Oh Bondage Up Yours!”
I couldn’t write this list without mentioning such a famous track. X-Ray Spex’s “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” was revolutionary in feminist music as Poly Styrene screams at the top of her lungs that she will not bend to the will of an oppressive system. While the “bondage” referred to is originally intended to just be the bindings of society, this song has over the years taken on so many new meanings for a lot of people.
For me, it can be interpreted as the oppression that is put on women and the ideas that they are supposed to be submissive in society and sexually. Poly Styrene highlights this in the opening – “some people say little girls should be seen and not heard, but I say oh bondage up yours!” – she totally rejects the notion that women shouldn’t stand up against their oppressors and are much more than simply submissive sex objects.
To release this in the late 1970s was truly a courageous move as it was a time that highly sexualized and demeaned women in films and media in general, proving that Poly is really iconic and massively influential in punk music.