In 2011, pop-singer Rihanna released a video clip for
her single Man Down, in which she plays a regretful fugitive after
shooting down her rapist in a busy train station.
Contextualising her Barbadian vocals and the
electro-reggae beat, the clip depicts Rihanna as the local
sweetheart about town, who, in lacy white apparel, strolls through
sun-filtered lanes, rides bikes and kisses her elders, plaits
swinging and coconuts in hand.
Later, after rejecting his advances, Rihanna is
raped by her former dancefloor partner outside a house party. After
deliberation, she shoots him dead. Her lyrical exploration of
remorse raises questions about consent, rape and revenge.
In response to North American parent groups who
criticised the video clip for its sexually violent content,
feminist writers argued that Rihannas portrayal of rape, which
causes isolation and self-annihilation among survivors,
emphasises female moral agency; ignoring a womans refusal to
sex should be punished.
Not a Rihanna fan, I didnt discover Man Down until
the beginning of a recent trip to Sri Lanka, where, on the southern
coast, I was drinking with a group of multinational acquaintances
in their guesthouse, where it played full-bore.
Here, I listened as their host a trim, blonde-tipped
Sri Lankan in his early 30s explained a complex of his: with a wife
and two toddlers at home, it was difficult to maintain promising
holiday flings with his foreign guests; the distance between Europe
and Sri Lanka was simply too great.
It seemed a curious problem for a married man from,
in comparison to the liberal sex and drinking cultures of his
western guests, a conservative social backdrop. Did he think Id
approve of his behaviour? I resisted judgement. He was hospitable
and well-liked by his guests, an all-round nice guy.
That was until some days later, when I ran into one
of those guests at the beach. She told me that this host had,
following the nights heavy partying at a local surf hostel, let
himself into one of his female guests rooms while she slept,
climbed into her bed and tried to kiss her.
Of course, s...