Monday, 9 January 2012

Tonight (or, the substitution of words)

WARNING - herein lies much swearing, discussion of rape (briefly)

There's a song which has two versions. I'm sure most people have heard the "clean version" of it, I'm not sure how many people have heard the "original" version of it. I'm sure not all that many people even know there's an original version.

The song(s) in question, of course, are "Tonight (I'm loving you)', and the original version of it, "Tonight (I'm fucking you).

This isn't meant to be a discussion of the artistic merits of the songs, or the musical construction. Rather, it is an exploration of the word choice, and it's implications.

In the original song ("Tonight (I'm fucking you)", lyrics here), the singer is, quite obviously, stating his intent to fuck someone. That's it - the video clip also makes this pretty plain, though it becomes intent to fuck multiple women. Fair enough, most people like to fuck, although many probably wouldn't state it so plainly. The lyrics can be a bit creepy from some perspectives ("You know my motivation/given my reputation" springs to mind - sexy or really goddamn creepy? I think from one perspective it could be "sexy" - guy known for fucking, is flirting, you probably know what he wants. On the other hand, could be really goddamn creepy, along rapist lines.), but that's not what I find interesting.

I find the "clean version" interesting. In order to "clean up" the song for radio, the choice was made to change all instances of "fucking" to "loving" (Thus the song becomes "Tonight (I'm loving you)", lyrics here). As if this cleans up the song, instead of giving it an air of "nudge nudge wink wink know what I mean".

It's interesting, because the choice of word to substitute one word for another, "cleaner" word is usually, where possible, done with a word that means the same thing/is understood to mean the same thing. Obviously, some words can't have this done. But here they've substituted "fucking" with "loving", yet kept all  (corrected) most of the other lyrics. Somehow this has magically made the song "clean" enough for radio, which seems very odd to me. Surely the all the lyrics must be considered before something is "clean" or not - one word shouldn't make a difference. But I digress - "loving" is an odd yet understandable choice for "fucking".

It's an odd choice because "love" is often viewed as pure, romantic, familial or platonic, and not something that is a "one time thing", but rather a  long, gradual thing. You "love" your SO, your god(s), your country, your family. Love is an emotion, a feeling, divorced from action (you can love someone while not near them, while going about your day, etc).

"Fucking", on the other hand, is not really seen as gentle. It's rough, it's raw and sexy, it's divorced from romance, it's what people do with strangers. It's something you don't do with those you love - it's short term, not long term.  It's vulgar, slang, dirty. It's a young person's thing, it's wrong, it's done before marriage. That's the implications of fucking - sexy, but somewhat forbidden/wrong/other weird societal things.

And despite the recent acceptance of fucking as acceptable, the recent attempts to drop some of those implications, it's still got them. It makes the original song a club song, to be played at clubs and parties in "not family friendly" areas - places people are expected to be either fucking (though please stay out of bathrooms, those are dirty and not really healthy, please don't fuck in public unless everyone in the area is cool with that [i.e. if it's that kind of club, go for it, if it's not, don't]) or wanting to fuck, and the dance style is very close to upright fucking/is grinding/is meant to imply fucking.

The substitution of the word "loving", on the other hand, makes the song playable for radio, while listeners can still understand what's implied by loving. Which is interesting, because on the one hand we have the generally accepted view of love (romantic etc), yet we also have the general understanding that "loving" = "fucking", which, obviously, it doesn't always. There's a reason "making love" is understood common slang for fucking. Yet it's this common acceptance that "loving" includes "fucking" that alienates people, that causes fear and shame and pressure on people, both asexual and sexual, who don't want to fuck (now or ever). It's an implication that has to stop.

Love is not always physical, fucking is not always without love. They can be, but not always.

(also, can I just state that the concept of "clean words" and "not clean" words is really goddamn weird? There are words you shouldn't use because they're insulting slurs [I'm sure you can think of them], and then there are other ones. I can see the whole "some people aren't used to swearing", and that's cool, but the concept that we should avoid some words because they're inherently "dirty" is really goddamn weird. Also, I think, probably a product of a mostly sex-negative society - there's a reason "fucking" is considered dirty, and it's not because it originally meant to plant seeds)

Fun fact to end this : the words "fuck" or "fucking" have been used 25 times in this post, and "love" or "loving" has been used 11 times.

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