Yesterday my nine year old declared that the song ‘Talk Dirty to Me’ is his favourite. I didn’t know the song, but of course found the title challenging. With his 7 year old brother in the car, I asked him if he knew what the phrase ‘talk dirty to me’ means. He said he didn’t but maybe it was about saying swear words.
I explained that the phrase is about sex or about talking about sex. I spoke about how a lot of people think sex is wrong or ‘dirty’ even though it’s not. I spoke about how the way people talk about sex makes it sound like it’s good and bad at the same time. I mentioned that a lot of songs are about sex and not always in good ways.
Did I say enough? Explain enough? Like so many conversations on the huge topic of sex and sexuality, this one was quick. I managed to also say that it’s tricky as the parent because he’s a kid and likes songs that are about sex (even though that’s not why he likes them) and that sex is an adult activity.
My kid and his friends like to listen to Virgin Radio and other top 40 stations these days. And he’s always been the guy who learns all the words to songs. This morning I looked up the song Talk Dirty by Jason DeRulo. Lyrically and musically, I have no idea why anyone would call it their favourite. My kids are likely to have many favourites that are in conflict with my own aesthetic. While I’m sure I’ll sometimes find it annoying and downright wrong, it’s really a good thing.
Aside from being not to my liking, the song is problematic on so many levels though. I don’t need to undertake a full critique here. What’s important to me is that I 1) realize that the messages conveyed in popular music impact my kids, and 2) have a strategy for managing that.
I’ll be talking to him again (I think without his brother present) about this song, and so many other songs, and about the messages communicated by musical artists. Over the years, my kids and I may debate artistic license, creative expression and the power of this medium. In the meantime, I’ll be letting him know that when this song comes on the radio, I’ll be changing the station. It’s not because I’m the music police. I won’t demand he not listen to certain songs but I don’t want to hear it myself, and I can make sure he knows why.
We are a long way from Baby Beluga now.
A selection of the song lyrics that my 9 year old sings. Sigh.
I’m that flight that you get on, international
First class seat on my lap, girl
Cause I know what the girl them need
New York to Haiti
I got lipstick stamps on my passport
You make it hard to leave
Been around the world
Don’t speak the language
But your booty don’t need explaining
All I really need to understand is
When you talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me
Get jazzy on it
Close to genius
Sold out arenas, you can suck my penis
Get with arenas, guns on deck
Chest to chest, tongue on neck
International oral sex
Every picture I take I pose a threat
Boat or jet, what’d you expect
Her pussy so good I bought her a pet
Anyway, everyday I’m trying to get to it
Got her saved in my phone under “Big Booty”
How do you talk to your kids about sexually explict material that reaches them?
I mentioned to my son that I wrote about his favourite song. He corrected me. This song isn’t his favourite. He was talking about a friend. I suppose that’s a relief. And, we’ll be talking about it further regardless.