The sexualization of women in music videos is certainly nothing new. Believe it or not, it’s been over a decade since Britney Spears was crawling about in a see-through outfit laced with diamonds, and even that was far from the first example. Frankly, it’s something we’ve all gotten used to. But the recent trend in extremely explicit videos—particularly focused on “bringing booty back,” as some have stated—is a little bit different.
For the most part, we’re talking about two music videos here. The first was Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” video, in which she and a number of background dancers spend the video in little more than skimpy lingerie while showing off their butts from all angles. The second is “Booty,” a somewhat-alarming song and video from Jennifer Lopez featuring Iggy Azalea. While this second one seemed almost like a response to Minaj—something along the lines of J-Lo reminding the public that she is still the Queen of Booty—it’s “Booty” that’s started a pretty big conversation across the Internet.
The Huffington Post was kind enough to confirm for us all that the video and song are indeed all about booty. Seriously, the video consists almost entirely of Lopez and Azalea swaying and shaking their own butts and rubbing against one another, occasionally while oiled up. However, some have taken the approach of criticizing the highly sexualized nature of the video. In particular, Australian rock artist Brody Dalle has stirred up headlines after being accused of “slut-shaming” following her own criticism of the video, in which she pointed specifically to the lyrics “give him what he wants” as being far from empowering.
But before we address the argument about the content of these recent videos, it’s also important to recognize that the so-called “Booty Trend” is not limited to Minaj, Azalea, and Lopez. Rather, it’s a cultural trend that’s been visible for a few years now: booty is being emphasized, and in many cases, people seem to take a “bigger is better” approach.
The trend is reflected perhaps most notably in celebrities, where a number of the most admired and successful women are specifically known for having ample backsides. Kim Kardashian has become one of the most searched celebrity women alive; Beyonce, Minaj, and now Azalea are part of a small handful of artists dominating the pop scene; Lopez has made a comeback; and now new artist Meghan Trainor has earned her first major hit with a song that preaches that it’s perfectly fine, if not preferable, to have “a little more booty.” While no one is suggesting that these women are famous because of their butts—that would be incredibly unfair—it’s difficult to deny that some popularity stems from their respective willingness to show off their bodies. It’s a willingness that some call courageous and others deem shameless.
It’s also possible to look to fiction and fantasy as having had their own impact on the booty trend, largely through the growing popularity of BDSM. Specifically, this calls to mind the incredible popularity of the 50 Shades Of Grey books, which to their credit have inspired millions to be more open and accepting toward healthy, moderate BDSM lifestyles. But while there’s not necessarily a direct emphasis between these lifestyles and the “booty trend,” it’s not difficult to find a link. BDSM, in the eyes of many, means handcuffs and spanking, with the latter having an emphasis on butts. If this connection sounds like a bit of a stretch, think again. According to Adam & Eve, there is actually a 50 Shades Of Grey-inspired “Soothe Me After” spanking cream—kinda interesting, right?—in addition to its own line of popular products for use in spank play. It certainly seems as if fans of the series have been emphasizing booty in their own ways in recent years.
And then there’s porn, where the same trend—at least toward more voluptuous women or women with larger than normal backsides—is visible in the world’s most popular pornstars. Many sources cite Lisa Ann, best known for her “MILF” scenes and exceptionally curvy figure, as the most popular adult film star working today. However, any search of popular pornstars will turn up women like Tori Black and Asa Akira, who are well-known for anal scenes.
All this is to say Nicki Minaj, J-Lo and Iggy Azalea didn’t necessarily start the “booty trend.” However, they have definitely intensified the conversation about it and prompted many to ask whether it’s empowering or potentially detrimental to women.
The trouble is, the so-called “booty trend” refers to different things. In the context of a prominent pop star displaying her rear end while singing “give him what he wants,” it’s possible that Brody Dalle has a point: that this could send a message of objectification rather than one of empowerment and a sense of bodily acceptance. As the trend relates to the acceptance (if not promotion) of thicker and more voluptuous body types, it’s certainly possible that it could be empowering to women who have previously been presented largely with images of extremely thin models, actresses, artists, etc. as icons. Ultimately, there are just both positives and negatives here. While criticisms of the new brand of sexualization in music videos have some fair points, the greater movement of bodily pride may just be more important.