Ariana Grande: ‘Expressing sexuality in art is not an invitation for disrespect’

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While I’m loath to take the side of a donut-licking America-hater, I have to give props to Ariana Grande this week. She did something interesting. First, she posted a disturbing story about a weird and sexist interaction with a fan, and then when people yelled at her on Twitter, she defended herself by making a really great feminist argument.

First, Ariana posted this on Twitter – go here to read her whole story (which includes some NSFW language). Basically, she was out with her boyfriend Mac Miller and a guy came up to them and told Mac that he was a big fan, then the guy said (in front of Ariana) “Ariana is sexy as hell man I see you, I see you hitting that.” Ariana wrote that she felt “sick and objectified” and that’s the kind of thing that contributes to women’s “sense of fear and inadequacy.” She writes that she is not a piece of meat and she’s in a relationship with a man who treats her with love and respect, not some object. When Ariana’s followers and random Twitter people were like, “Hey, but it was a compliment, you dress sexy so why are so bothered that someone thinks you’re sexy,” Ariana responded:

Pretty much. While I think Ariana had every right to be offended by her boyfriend’s fan objectifying her, I also think she knew she was going to get attention when she posted the original story on Twitter, and she was prepared to make the argument for making her own choices about being sexy or whatever, but that doesn’t give anyone else the right to treat her like a piece of meat. Anyway… well done, Ariana.

Photos courtesy of Getty, WENN.

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77 Responses to “Ariana Grande: ‘Expressing sexuality in art is not an invitation for disrespect’”

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  1. Aiobhan Targaryen says:

    Donut licking Grande is right. point blank period. I am glad she stood up for herself online.

    I also hope she said something to her boyfriend about his fan disrespecting her. Maybe I am missing something because I did not see if she addressed her feelings with Mac as well. He cannot control what comes out of the fan’s mouth, but Mac can step up and tell the fan that he was being disrespectful to her and to knock it off. Hopefully, he did and she just left it out because she wanted to focus on expressing how she felt i the moment.

    • attackofthekb says:

      I read her tweets in response to other Twitter users asking her what his response was. Her basic response was that he drove away with her from the scene of the incident. She made it very clear though that his response wasn’t what mattered. Basically she’s saying she’s a big girl and can both handle herself and not be in need of his defense.

  2. Wellsie says:

    Every once in awhile this kid says something smart. Good on ya, Donut Girl!

  3. Nev says:

    Word Ariana WORD!!!!!

    Don’t test.

  4. Aang says:

    Her donut licking and bratty attitude gives one enough reason to dislike her. The way she dresses does not even factor in, nor should it.

  5. Lucy says:

    When she’s spot-on, she’s spot-on. Team Ari on this one.

  6. Lalu says:

    What that guy said was gross and he was wrong.
    I will say though… As someone that has dressed a certain way since 1993, when I was about 16, and heard all kinds of comments… You are definitely dressing this way for a reason and that is for certain types of attention and to be seen as sexy etc. I am not saying the comments are ok… But, what are you selling? Cause you can get on stage and sing a song without wearing the equivalent of a swim suit. I wore super short skirts and heels and yeh, heard some outrageous things. I don’t remember ever being outraged by it. Because it wasn’t like that when I just dressed like all my friends did. I knew I was in control of how I was perceived.
    I of all people think women should be able to dress however they wish and not be harassed etc. but because we don’t live in a perfect world, things happen. I don’t get the “surprise” when someone steps over the line with a comment.
    Our male counterparts aren’t parading around in their underwear for attention. Why are we? I just think it’s disingenuous to act like you don’t understand where some of this is coming from.

    • Snowflake says:

      Where it is coming from is the outdated notion that if a woman wears skimpy clothing, she’s a slut. You can talk to and treat her anyway you want. She’s not a “good” girl. No matter what a person is wearing, that doesn’t mean they want to be hit on. This good girl/bad girl stuff needs to stop, not women need to watch what they wear and expect harassment if they do. They shouldn’t be harassed period. Men need to be straightened out.

      • Tiny Martian says:

        While I agree in part with both comments, what complicates things is that this isn’t just a female issue. Men who create sexy images for themselves either on film, on stage, or in photographs also get harassed by women. So this isn’t really a gender issue for me, but more of a question regarding the choices people make in intentionally crafting images for themselves in order to be financially successful and popular with the masses. And I feel that there are a whole lot of people out there who are up for selling their sexuality as a commodity, simply because sex is an easy sell. The tricky part with that is, where do you draw the line? And the answer to that question will likely vary greatly from person to person, making it difficult for the consumer to gauge.

      • Lalu says:

        I don’t think that women that dress a certain way are sluts or “bad girls”. I used to embarrass my friends with some of the clothes I wore and I was not looking for sex etc. And I was the opposite of what people think of when they use the word slut.
        But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t about a power trip or attention. I certainly had every right to get offended by some things I heard, but I was kind of digging for male attention. The wrong kind of attention. I dressed that way to be desired or else I would have had on jeans and a tshirt like my friends. I can pretend it was something different but that would be a lie.
        When I met my husband I wore the shortest shorts and the reddest lipstick. He was totally attracted to me because of that to begin with. And I was totally trying to get attention.
        I didn’t mean to come off like I think women should be harassed because of how they dress. I do not. I just think it’s weird when people who obviously use sex to sell something act surprised that someone thought of sex when they saw it. If you’re clearly using sex to sell your “art”, you are the one that did that. No one made you act that way. Adele is in the post above… You can be an artist with using sex to sell yourself.
        I truly hope this doesn’t offend anyone. I am not for women being mistreated for any reason.

      • jenn12 says:

        @Lalu, no, I see what you’re saying. You look at Carrie Fisher who stood up and said, I didn’t want to wear that bikini, I was a slave to it. Or Sinead O’Connor, who tried to nicely say that you become a slave to what is expected of you: selling your appearance, your sexuality. Sex positive is great, but when you’re backed by major labels, those men are perfectly happy to have you use your appearance as a selling point. That’s where our admiration for strong women comes in, and why Riot Grrl (my own personal music, which was, we are equal, and the music is what matters) was such a strong movement. I have any woman’s back who is spoken to like a piece of meat, or treated as though she’s lesser-than, though. No one deserves to be treated like an object, or talked to as though she’s beneath anyone.

      • isabelle says:

        Its not jsut men, actually think women are jsut as guilty if not more so for “slut shaming” over clothing. Women need to be straightened out as women.

    • Otaku Fairy says:

      Your own personal experience may be that you only ever wore short skirts (or an other clothing that’s seen as sexy) when you wanted ‘a certain kind of attenion’ (I’m guessing you mean when you wanted the gender you’re attracted to to find you attractive), but that’s definitely not the case for all or most women. Reasons for wearing something ‘immodest’ or ‘modest’ are different for different women and the motives at different times aren’t always the same as they were another time. You also may have only overheard men make certain times of comments when you were dressed that way, but that’s also definitely not true for the whole sex. Plenty of guys have made those kinds of comments about women while they were in just casual blouses and jeans, in bathing suits at a pool or beach, in sweaters, sweats, a hijab, or just dressed up in a way that’s very girly and pretty, but not particularly sexy or skin-baring. Ariana’s anger or discomfort doesn’t seem to be directed at the idea that straight/bi/pan men will find women attractive and sexy, it seems to be directed at the idea that it’s okay to refer to women as objects and the dangerous idea that a woman’s not being modest makes her an object and is liscence to disrespect (or at least makes disrespect natural and understandable in some way.) By the way, you said you’re in control of how you’re perceived. That’s not really true when it comes to sexism or racism (or homophobia either.) The way a person reacts to and treats other people when it comes to those issues is a reflection on them, their standards, the beliefs they internalize and the kind of society that they grew up in, not something that just naturally can’t be helped when they see someone of a certain gender or race dressing a certain way. I’m not talking about attraction here, I’m talking about disrespect.

      • Birdix says:

        Thanks, Otaka. I’m an introverted person in a curvy, attention-getting body, and despite disguising it as best I can, have often felt like my body was advertising promises I didn’t feel like delivering (especially to strangers). Love what you say here.

      • Lalu says:

        Otaku… You made a lot of good points. And I have to concede that you are right.
        Sometimes I project a bit!
        My experiences certainly aren’t the same as everyone else.
        I was hesitant to even get into this conversation because I don’t ever want to seem like I am excusing bad behavior.
        I think I take a bit of issue with these women that are obviously using sex to sell something and then not understanding the reaction.
        Your comment was well thought out and correct though. I hope mine wasn’t offensive.

    • Aren says:

      Maybe you dressed a certain way to get male attention, and look ‘sexy’ but not everyone dresses like that for the same reason. Besides, girls not dressing ´sexy´have gotten raped, lesbians have gotten raped my males, what’s the excuse there?

      Even if she’s selling sex, and even if she went onstage naked, she’s not a “that”, and she’s right in being outraged.
      We seem to think that “we’re asking for it” and should be okay when males become aggressive, because it’s “their nature” and they’re only doing what we allowed, but this isn’t true. Nobody wants negative attention, and everybody deserves respect, no matter what they’re wearing.

      Bieber has posed naked, he does parade around half naked for attention, didn’t Hiddleston did a photo session wearing only underwear? Yet nobody is questioning his talent or intelligence.

      It’s not disingenuous to react to sexism, we do know where this comes from, but that doesn’t mean we should allow it.

    • Veronica says:

      You have a right to dress for a man’s (or woman’s) attention and still expect courtesy and respect. Being sexy is not the same as being an object. Men walk around shirtless all the time and never have to worry about being reduced to a body. A woman’s sexuality does not act in contradiction to her intelligence, individuality, and humanity.

    • Jo says:

      Completely agree with you and I’m glad you wrote this.

      We all have an idea of what we are conveying when we present our external appearance in a certain way. She’s being naive or ignorant if she doesn’t understand how her ‘art’ is impacting on people’s impression of her.

  7. Eva says:

    Yes Ariana!

    Also to everyone using the “but you like the attention if you dress sexily” excuse: there are nice, polite and flattering ways to let someone know you think they look nice. It doesn’t have to be creepy and disrespectful.

  8. Ninks says:

    She’s 100% right. She often says very smart things about feminism, but I can’t warm up to her – the doughnut licking ruined it.

    Not arguing with her, but there’s a certain section of pop starlets who only ever seem to express their sexuality. They only perform in knickers and bra, and dress like fantasy sexy schoolgirls. There’s other ways to express your sexuality than dressing in lingerie all the time. It annoys me. Express your right to wear jeans and flat shoes once in a while.

    • Otaku Fairy says:

      It seems like all of the famous women I’ve seen catch flack for immodest dressing over the past decade or so has gone out or performed in jeans, elegant dresses and gowns, wacky outfits, or other things that are considered ‘modest’ or ‘not sexy’ many many times, but people just have an issue with their regular immodest ways of dressing. People don’t have a problem or seem to find much controversy in women wearing things that meet the standard of Western, non-religious modesty.

  9. Inkblotter says:

    No, this guy shouldn’t have said what he did, but just as big an issue is Ariana’s Lolita persona. They’re both equally gross

  10. Hfsni says:

    I get the argument etc. But i really dont think what that guy said was thatttt bad sure it was distasteful but guys say that all the time.

  11. Bettyrose says:

    The issue here is not that he called her sexy. He spoke about her in the third person while she was right there and then referred to her as “that” as in “you hitting that.” Women who don’t dress provacatively also get treated that way. This has zero to do with sexuality and everything to do with viewing women as property.

  12. Jaded says:

    This fan was basically reiterating her boyfriends fowl lyrics about women, perhaps she should date men who speak about women in a more positive way and than she wouldn’t be exposed to such vile comments.

  13. Lingling says:

    I had it drilled into me that you dress how you want to be seen. In college I dressed very sexy because I wanted that kind of attention, then I dressed professionally because I wanted to be taken seriously, now I wear a bunch of star wars shirts and leggings because I work from home and take care of my kids.

    In my mind it’s a case of “if you wear a red shirt and kakies to target people are going to think you work there”

    No, women shouldn’t be treated like objects, the only thing that offended me was the person talking about her like she wasn’t there “that”…. “you hit that”. That’s the disgusting part.

    But you can’t really wear less than a swimsuit and sing about having so much sex you’re walking side to side then scream and cry about being sexually viewed. It’s possibly, an outdated opinion, but I stand by it as mine.

    • Aren says:

      One thing is being sexual and another being an object.
      Some people think sex workers are objects because they’re selling sex, but no amount of sexuality, forced or consensual, should strip away people’s humanity.

    • Arwen says:

      She is undeniably selling an image. But the fact that there are people out there who can’t understand the difference between an image for her music and the reality that she is an actual person is terrifying.

      Let’s start putting the responsibility of people’s responses, be it men making sexual comments about women, or creepy fans being inappropriate, back on the original person who started the behavior. Not the recipient.

    • Grant says:

      You absolutely can sing about having so much sex you walk side to side and then complain about being viewed as an object when some random speaks about you as such. In the third person. Right in front of you. Ariana is 100% on this and I love that she used her platform to get this message across to her literal millions of followers.

  14. EMAu says:

    I don’t know what to laugh at, the idea she has about her work/videos being ‘art’ or her idea of artful expression of sexuality, when she just comes across as cheap.

  15. Mel says:

    I absolutely agree with her. No question. As a teacher with teenagers I keep telling them that it’s not an open invitation or a buffet they can help themselves to. It does happen that girls and women *gasp* dress for themselves and not the male eye.
    Having said that, after observing that she is capable of reasoning and making sense, I wish she had a long hard talk with her management about them selling “sexy child” It’s beyond gross at this point. She does NOT come off as a sexy woman and if she doesn’t realize it herself, there has to be someone on her team who is very much aware of that. Either you sexualize or you infantilize but for God’s sake please stop doing both! “Lolita” is not just a book with maybe a cool little message!

  16. jenn12 says:

    I’ve never liked her, particularly after she smeared saliva all over food out there for people to buy, and felt no remorse. But maybe she’s growing up. No one deserves to be talked about like a piece of meat, as though they’re not even there.

  17. Aren says:

    What happened to her is as depressing as the comments on most sites about this issue.

    People saying she dresses ‘like one’ she deserves to be treated that way, that because she sells sex she shouldn’t complain, and a bunch of insults that try to establish that women don’t own their sexuality, and that women deserve no respect if they try to make rules when it comes to how they use their bodies.

  18. kimbers says:

    This coin will keep spinning til the end of time…every generation deals with the “just because i dress slutty doesnt make me a ho” mom’s are really the best soldier for this battle IMO. They can make it known that women, no matter what they wear, are to be respected. Judge by the actions, not by the clothes…donut licker is right in this case.

    As for men objectification? Women look like fools squealing for men, it’s disgusting and funny to watch at the same time.

  19. Otaku Fairy says:

    I like the fact that she understands that sexy and sexual don’t automatically equal objectification. A lot of people don’t realize that there’s a difference between actual sexual objectification- when a person (or group of people) being portrayed or treated as either a one-dimensional subhuman thing that exists for somebody else’s desires and whose rights, agency, and wishes aren’t relevant, or as something that loses its value the more people see it and touch it- vs. sexual desire, fantasy, attraction, and a person choosing to behave in a sexual way or do something that’s considered sexy, and people being ok with or enjoying those but not being ok with the former. But then when you ask a person questions like: “Have you ever experienced sexual desires, fantasies, sexual relationships, or attraction to other human beings without dehumanizing them or disrespecting them because of your lust?” or “Have you ever done something sexual, behaved in a sexual way, or done anything that’s considered sexy without treating or viewing yourself as some one-dimensional subhuman thing devoid of rights or agency existing for someone else’s pleasure?” or “Are you less in value or less deserving of respect than some 16-year-old virgin who’s never been seen or touched?”, it starts to click with people that objectification is something different.
    It’s also always a positive when a celebrity or public figure calls out victim-blaming, because it’s a big problem that too many public figures have ended up promoting instead of calling out.

    • astana says:

      I see you don’t even take the holidays off from this. Do you honestly believe the stuff you say?

      • Otaku Fairy says:

        @astana (Hmm. Interesting. Over 1,000 kilometers too far northeast to be able to see the Caspian Sea outside your bedroom window, and probably can’t see the Altai mountains but maybe you’re in just the right part of Kazakhstan to be able to see the Ishim River). ;) I see you still visit celebrity gossip/news/entertainment sites during the holidays as well. 52 comments, and not 1, not 2, but 3 of them are yours, you Busy, Busy Bee, you.
        “Do you honestly believe the stuff you say?” Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I can honestly tell you that I have personally experienced desires, fantasies, relationships, and attractions of the sexual nature with people multiple people all without it driving me to dehumanize and disrespect them. You haven’t? :( :(

    • Snowflake says:

      You always have really good points. Thought provoking posts. I enjoy it. Don’t be bothered by you know who :-)

  20. Llc says:

    Dressing sexy in no way means that a person is “asking for it” or is deserving of disrespect. That said, being the sexy little Lolita is part of her act and, in that respect, she most certainly is asking for a certain type of attention (attention, nothing else). Also, I don’t buy into the being sexy is an art thing. It’s human. People use their sexiness in different ways to achive different ends.

  21. Katherine says:

    “expressing sexuality in art is not an invitation for disrespect” respect, girl

  22. Jennet says:

    Call me what you will, but a few years ago it was Spring and I was walking with my boyfriend at night, wearing jeans and a sweater. A group of guys drove by and out the window and they yelled, “Your girlfriend has a nice ass!”

    I giggled, looked at my boyfriend with a smug look and took it as a compliment. What gets me is walking past a group of construction workers. It’s changed but I remember dreading the walk past and only went if there was no other way. The cat calls and looks were embarassing. I don’t know why I’m okay or flattered by certain remarks/gestures and uncomfortable by others.

    On that note, am I the only one eye rolling at her calling her work “Art”? I like her music to bob along to, but when I think of edgy, risk taking, avant garde artistic endeavours, I just don’t think of her image which seems to follow a prescribed look of what it means to be successful in Pop Music these days.

  23. Lalu says:

    Like Mariah would say “I don’t know her”. I had just seen some pics etc. Looked up some lyrics because of what another poster said. Yeh, I can’t imagine why a guy would think it was okay to talk like that in front of her. What a double standard. D bicycle? Did I read that right? Gross.

  24. Tatdaisie says:

    She’s right but I still can’t help but roll my eyes. The problem with Grande and a lot of other very young starlets is that their expression of sexuality always come off as disingenuous. They always seem like they’re playing dress-up and it makes me think that this is less the expression of sexuality by a confident woman and more the resulting of a marketing decision by a team of old men sitting around a table at a record label. It took me ages to figure out why people like Pink (who is unapologetically, in-your-face sexual) didn’t annoy me when others (like pre-Kevin Federline Britney) did. It’s because I don’t buy it. Plenty of young women are confident in their sexuality but I would say many aren’t and all this Lolita-esque, come-hither imaging just seems like bullshit posturing made for men to enjoy while trying to convince young women it makes them feel good about themselves.

  25. Veronica says:

    While I agree with her that sexual behavior should not reduce a woman’s value to an object, I have to admit I find the Lolita-esque aspects of her public persona to be pretty problematic.

  26. ASH says:

    “Art” seems pretty generous. Nonetheless, I agree with the sentiment. I guess even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

  27. Naddie says:

    I can only agree. The only thing that invitates disrespect is disrespect by itself. Nothing can make what this guy did right, period. Having said that and changing the subject a little bit, the public is allowed to like or dislike her art, and I think it is not only a cheap way to portray sexuality, as it is done to death by every pop star in this exact cheap, obvious way. It doesn’t give me the right to call her names, tho.

  28. virginfangirl says:

    It has more to do than just how she dresses. When she performs it’s like watching porn. She is selling herself as a sex object. And her actions make it difficult for women who don’t to be respected. Now what that man said was wrong though. Just because she’s acting like a sex object, doesn’t give him the right to as well.

  29. karen says:

    Does anyone here have thoughts on being “mooed” (as though I am a cow)? I’m six feet tall and overweight by around 35 pounds. Two years ago I had spine surgery that left me sedentary for four months, which was when I gained the weight. Since then my range of motion and mobility are limited, and I’ve battled chronic pain and depression. My age (47) likely factors in too regarding the difficulty I’m having losing the weight. I’ve been mooed at (as though I’m a cow), twice: once I was wearing a shift dress, black leggings and oxfords, the other time a plain white t-shirt, straight-legged jeans and sneakers.
    It hurts me to be objectified as an animal. My weight bothers so many people, esp family. I’m writing here after I was triggered this morning receiving an email from my sister about the 14-day Cabbagge Soup Diet. No Happy New Year message, just the implied: you are fat, lose weight. Thanks.

  30. Karen says:

    @virginfangirl I appreciate your kindness. Thank you so much. I wish you a happy new year as well.