Not sexy: Rihanna and Shakira pose as lesbians for a music video - but where are they on LGBT rights?

This is an empty, cynical performance by two straight women


The assertion that ‘sex sells’ isn’t revolutionary, particularly when it comes to music videos. From Madonna’s ‘Justify My Love’ to Miley Cyrus’ groan-inducing ‘Wrecking Ball’, sexy videos made by female pop artists are pretty much expected. The problem here (apart from it being an extraordinarily tired formula) is that you have to keep cranking up the steam-o-meter to draw views. The video for Shakira’s new single featuring Rihanna does this by posing the two women as lovers, and judging by the number of views, it seems to be working.

If there were more positive depictions of same sex couples in the mainstream media, I think the video for ‘Can’t Remember to Forget You’ would be less offensive. As things stand, Rihanna and Shakira’s latest offering devalues lesbian relationships and reduces them to a fun thing to do to get people watching.

While they are grinding and stroking each other’s thighs, both women look outwards to the camera and audience, rather than at each other. They repeatedly sing “I’d do anything for that boy”, clearly placing a male presence at the centre of the performance.

This kind of faux lesbian pairing isn’t new either. Remember Britney and Madonna’s kiss at the VMAs in 2003? Or Britney and Rihanna’s lip locking at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards? These are performance kisses, staged in front of huge audiences. They do not signify real intimacy or feeling or anything that actually occurs in a lesbian relationship, apart from the window dressing of a kiss. Rihanna and Shakira’s antics are merely part of the overwhelming tide of sexy music videos from female pop artists, a practice so dull in its homogeny that it no longer really shocks or excites for longer than the song’s duration.

Lesbian relationships should not be used as a form of entertainment, for the consumption and titillation of an audience. It is difficult enough for women in relationships with other women to openly show each other affection in public because they are so often harassed by sexualized remarks and cat calls. If massive stars like Rihanna and Shakira are going to depict lesbianism as a steamy performance, lesbians will continue to be treated like entertainment when out and about with their partners. If you’re a queer woman, you don’t kiss your girlfriend to make the boys stare.

I would also be more forgiving of the lesbian posturing in the video if Shakira or Rihanna would stand up for LGBTQ rights in their home countries of Barbados and Columbia. There’s a great deal of public ill-will still present towards homosexual couples in Columbia because of machismo attitudes in Latino culture. And although the law is rarely enforced, homosexual acts are illegal in Barbados and carry the death penalty. The influence of both artists could legitimately be used to promote tolerance and equality and it is disappointing that they have failed to rise to this challenge, while at the same time they have donned lesbianism like a fun costume in order to enhance the appeal of a single.

A Columbian councillor has started a petition urging the National Television Authority to ban the video. Marco Fidel Ramirez reckons Shakira and Rihanna’s Sapphic antics “damage the moral character of the youth of Bogota, Columbia and Latin America”. This is unpleasant and homophobic, and utterly irrelevant. The video isn’t a “shameless case for lesbianism”, as Ramirez claims, because it doesn’t depict lesbianism. It depicts empty, cynical performance by two straight women.

Read more
Sinead O'Connor is right. Miley Cyrus is succeeding, but in a heartbreaking way
Harriet Williamson: Lesbophobia is alive and well

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

If children are obese then blame food manufacturers, not Zoella

Jane Merrick
Amos Yee arrives with his father at the State courts in Singapore on March 31  

Singapore's arrest of a 16-year-old YouTuber is all you need to know about Lee Kuan Yew's legacy

Noah Sin
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor