British Students Ban “Blurred Lines” From Their Own Universities

Over the past fortnight, five prestigious institutions in the
U.K. have banned Robin Thicke’s saucy RB ditty
Blurred Lines
from playing anywhere on their premises, on the
basis that its overly sexual lyrics might encourage bad behaviour
in men.

Which institutions, I hear you ask? Stuffy churches, perhaps,
aghast that a song would promote casual sex? Islamic groups, maybe,
believing that lines like “I know you want it” are not suitable for
young ears, especially female ones? Or maybe it was killjoy police
forces, not exactly renowned for their ability to chill out, which
forbade the playing of Thicke’s tune?

Nope, it was student unions. Five student representative
bodies—at the
Universities of Edinburgh, West Scotland, Leeds, Derby and
—have banned Blurred Lines in all the premises in which
they have dominion, including student bars and dancehalls, on the
basis that it “undermines and degrades women” and “promotes an
unhealthy attitude toward sex and consent”.

Once upon a time, students’ political leaders kicked against
authoritarianism; now they enforce it.

In the space of a generation, they’ve gone from demanding the
right of young adults on campus to listen to, dance to, read and
watch what they want, to placing a paternalistic hand over
students’ ears and eyes lest they hear something a bit raunchy.

Blurred Lines, a massive global hit sung by Thicke with Pharrell
Williams and the rapper T.I., has been the subject of controversy
since it was released in March. The modern breed of sexless,
censorious feminist has been particularly vocal in slamming both
the song and its accompanying video, which features the three
singers, fully clothed, cavorting with some very attractive models
wearing only flesh-colored thongs. Blurred Lines is “creepy” and “a
bit rapey,”
says one observer

Now, British student unions have taken this shrill reaction to
what is just a pretty good and perfectly harmless pop song to its
logical conclusion. The student union at Edinburgh kicked things
off on 12 September by banning Blurred Lines from every student
building. It did this as part of its policy to
“End Rape Culture and Lad Banter”
on campus.

It’s hard to work out what is most shocking about the Edinburgh
union’s ban-happy antics: the fact that it thinks nothing of
behaving like a nun at a convent-school disco and switching off any
song that mentions the sex act, or the fact that it has an actual
policy to “end lad banter”—that is, to prevent young men from
speaking in a certain gruff, licentious fashion. Quite when student
leaders switched from fighting for students to fighting against
them, and against their apparently demonic thought and speech
patterns, is a mystery.

The Edinburgh union said Blurred Lines “trivializes rape,” and
in doing so it contributes to “a culturally permissible attitude to
rape.” Really? Are the minds of male students so malleable, so
putty-like, that a single encounter with lyrics like “You’re an
animal, baby, it’s in your nature” and “Let me liberate you” might
be enough to push them towards committing rape?

Behind the Edinburgh union’s pseudo-radical, feminism-justified
banning of Blurred Lines there lurks the old, highly discredited
spectre of media effects theory—the idea that media images and
words pollute people’s minds and make them behave in all sorts of
sordid and even criminal ways. Just as Britain’s stuffy old censors
of the pre-1960s period
refused to let the public read D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s
on the basis that it might make them immoral and
depraved, so today’s youthful, rosy-cheeked student censors refuse
to allow their charges to hear Blurred Lines on the basis that it
could turn them bestial.

The instinct behind the Edinburgh union’s banning of Blurred
Lines is the same one that has motored every act of censorship in
history: a paternalistic urge to keep the little people’s base
motives in check by protecting them from sexy, blasphemous, or
shocking imagery.

Other student unions have followed Edinburgh’s authoritarian
lead. The union at Leeds University banned Blurred Lines on the
basis that it “degrades women.” Kingston University in London has
banned it due to
“the disrespectful nature of the lyrics.”
If universities only
play songs with respectful lyrics, what will happen to gangsta rap,
the Sex Pistols, the Velvet Underground, death metal, or any other
musical genre that broaches the old chestnuts of sex, drugs and

Student leaders’ intolerant war on Blurred Lines fits a
depressing pattern in modern British university life. In the UK, as
in other parts of the Western world, students have become
extraordinarily censorious in recent years, seeking to obliterate
from campuses any song, book, newspaper or person that has the
temerity to offend their sensibilities.

Various British student unions have banned
Eminem’s songs
(they’re homophobic and misogynistic,
apparently); the tabloid newspaper, The
(because it has a naked woman on Page 3, and men and
women over the age of 18 can’t possibly be exposed to tits); and
right-wing or Zionist speakers—numerous unions have “No Platform”
, which means they forbid inviting far-right or Zionist
spokespeople to take part in debates on campus.

We seem to have nurtured a spectacularly narcissistic
generation, many of whom seem truly to believe that it is perfectly
natural and reasonable to demand the squishing of anything that
offends them. This is the grisly end product of the self-esteem
culture: having educated young people to believe that their
self-esteem is sacrosanct, and that anything which dents it is
evil, we cannot now be surprised that they believe they have the
right to erect a moral, censorship-powered forcefield around
themselves and their peers in order to ward off any idea or image
or song that makes them feel bad.

Universities, or at least some of them, were once hotbeds of
radicalism, sites of feverish and excitable political debate in
which any idea was permissible, especially if it railed against
adult society. Not now. Today, universities in Britain and
elsewhere have become breeding grounds for nanny staters and
nudgers, training courses for the blue pen-wielding authoritarians
of the future. That’s the most worrying thing about the student
reps currently bashing Blurred Lines—one day, these joyless,
casually censorious, fun-allergic misanthropes will be running