I want to start with a confession. I’ve never been a fan of Prince’s music. There, I said it. I understand why he is such a hailed musician. I understand (in a non-musician way) his impact on music. I believe he was a great musician. I just didn’t like his music.
Despite that fact, I’ve been reading the many posts about him, his music, his impact on people. It clearly was and, I suspect will continue to be, significant. But I was really struck by something else. I was reading a post on the Trustable Sluts Facebook page. It was an article from The Rude Pundit’s blog title Dead Prince.
One of the primary points was that Prince wanted people to enjoy sex. Trustable Sluts emphasized that point by highlighting the post on their page with this quote –
But, perhaps more importantly to a young brain being raised in the deep south, Prince said, without being coy about it, that it was okay to want to fuck. In fact, fucking is the supreme, even transcendent act of human existence. And he wasn’t centering that desire in men alone, like so many other artists. He wanted women to get off in every possible way. The song “Come” is an ode to pussy-eating, encouraging women to want to fuck, too. In Reagan’s America, that shit was practically treasonous. If you were old enough to fuck in the 1980s, at some point, you either fucked to Prince songs or with Prince’s music in the back of your mind, controlling the rhythm of your sex.
On another page was a post of a Washington Post article by Alyssa Rosenburg about how Prince, and Bowie, showed that there was more than one way to be a man. More evidence suggesting Prince was no friend of gender stereotypes.
Reading that took me back to my UW Madison days. It was 1984 or ’85. I took a Women’s Studies course. I don’t recall the exact name anymore but it was focused on representations of women in art of many types… literature, visual art, music. I don’t recall if there were other performers discussed but I remember the focus on Prince. He was held up as an example of misogyny. Only portraying women as valuable for sex. Two songs were used to demonstrate that – Little Red Corvette and 1999 (when that was still soooo far in the future!).
The lyric “‘Cause you had a pocket full of horses, Trojan and some of them used” was highlighted. It was pointed out that “shockingly” Trojan referred to the condom. The fact that some were used showed how the penis owner was only interested in women for sex. We went on to dissect the rest of the song, highlighting evidence of Prince’s alleged misogyny. Then we took on 1999 and it’s lyrics “I got a lion in my pocket, and baby he’s ready 2 roar.”
Fast forward 30 or so years. I’m reading opinions that are very different. I don’t believe it is just a case of, “don’t speak ill of the dead.” I believe it is that our perspectives have changed. We’ve developed a deeper understanding.
In short, I suspect this maybe due to the idea (and I’m being simplistic for brevity’s sake) that in the early ’80s there was an emphasis on men not owning or controlling women’s sex and sexuality coupled with a more negative view of sex. Now we have changed (or are in the process of changing) that negative view about sex to a more positive one of women embracing and enjoying their own sex and sexuality. It’s not as easy to simply criticize Prince for singing about a male wanting sex.
That’s what looking back over my “relationship” with Prince has underscored – beliefs and opinions change because our perspectives change. We grow, we understand differently, we see things from a different view. Perspective matters.
It’s a lesson that can’t be emphasized enough. When we get entrenched in our positions, be it with ourselves or partners or other people in our lives, it is important to remember that perspective matters. The way you see things isn’t necessarily the way others see it. Nor is it necessarily the way you will see it in a day, a week, a year…or 30 years.
Open yourself to the possibility of other perspectives. In relationships, be willing to try to understand other people’s perspectives. Instead of focusing on being right, focus on understanding. You may not agree with them, but it opens the door for compassion and empathy. Those are crucial to good relationships of all types.
So, while I really don’t want to listen to any of Prince’s music, I honor that his life gave me something more.