(Click here for the Spanish version titled "¿A ella le gusta agresivo?" published in El Diario/La Prensa last Wednesday, June 13.)
Does she like it "agresivo"?
Last Saturday, June 9, I was at the Bling Blineo concert sponsored by radio station La Kalle. There, before a not-quite-full house, performed Jowell & Randy, Tito El Bambino, Héctor El Father, El Torito, Victor Manuelle, Wisín y Yandel, Don Omar, and others.
Sitting with a friend in the nosebleed seats but thanks to the giant screen focused on the artists on stage, I had a great time enjoying the music, criticizing all of the many things that just begged to be criticized, and observing the reactions of the audience around us.
One little detail caught both of our attentions. As usual, the reggaeton headliners had dancers with them almost at every moment. What was not usual was the humble role played by the female dancers compared to the starring role played by the male dancers. In many occasions, the women onstage danced along the margins of the main action while the male dancers, often shirtless, would gather tightly around the singers/rappers, suggestively humping the air to the sounds of the fiery howls coming from the women in the audience.
That strong display of macho beauty and erotic energy from the stage, accompanied by so many songs aimed to make the females hot, left me thinking, among other things, in the pleasures that women are deriving from this musical genre. (I'll leave the male social/sexual bonding aspects of this all for another time.)
Reggaeton is often criticized for its sexism and/or sexual agressiveness. What is fascinating is that it is precisely its agressiveness that atracts many women. "A ella le gusta agresivo/Que la calienten con dembow… Dale más látigo" (She likes it agressive/She likes to be made hot to the sounds of dembow... Give her more of that whip), as Jowell & Randy sang that night.
Now I can't stop thinking about all that attracts women to these sado-masochistic images and fantasies. And, as I've asked myself plenty of times before, I wonder if (and how) sexual explicitness can be untangled from sexism; I wonder if (and how) we can participate in power games on the dancefloor or in bed, but, once the game is over, to be able to leave those dynamics behind.
I think it's possible. I'm just not quite sure how.
(For Nina la Bandolera's insightful blog post that touches on similar topics. Click here.)