What I Did With “Do What U Want”

As someone with an unabashed love for pop music there was only one thing to do when I found out that Lady Gaga had collaborated with R. Kelly on the infectious earworm that is “Do What U Want”: listen to it as much as humanly possible. Apologies to the more sensitive for the image featured in the video.

It wasn’t long after posting it to Facebook that my CWR co-writer commented with a clearly sarcasm-laced “Great.” to which I reiterated to her what I just said above about my unabashed love for pop music. Then, of course, she made a comment about the lyrics being worthy of kitten-filled high school inspiration posters and I was forced to look them up.

The vast majority of the song consists of the following words [and still manages to be less repetitive than Gaga’s “Edge of Glory”]:

[Pre-Chorus: Lady Gaga]
So do what you want
What you want with my body
Do what you want
Don’t stop, let’s party
Do what you want
What you want with my body
Do what you want
What you want with my body

Write what you want
Say what you want about me
If you’re wondering
Know that I’m not sorry
Do what you want
What you want with my body
What you want with my body

[Chorus: Lady Gaga]
You can’t have my heart, and
You won’t use my mind but
Do what you want (with my body)
Do what you want (with my body)
You can’t stop my voice, cause
You don’t own my life but
Do what you want (with my body)
Do what you want (with my body)

After which I was, of course, forced to think about them, such as they are.

As someone with an unabashed love for pop music and the tendency to try finding the silver lining in all media I did what I could while reading over the lyrics. I noted that the the latter part of the pre-chorus highlights not caring what others say, which certainly has its merits. That noted bit of good advice aside, I then turned my full attention to the dichotomy the song creates between the physical and the metaphysical.

The song addresses someone and asks them multiple times over to “Do what you want with my body,” but also stresses that “You can’t have my heart, and / You won’t use my mind.” There’s definitely the indication that one is more deserving of value than the other with the insinuation that the singer’s “voice” and “life” are tied up within the latter.

A Christian Perspective

This is literally the first image that comes up when you do a Google image search for “Christan perspective.” If you look really closely you can see Heaven up in the clouds.

At which point I had to ask myself, “Evan, you’re a pretty God-fearing individual, isn’t it your general opinion that the state of someone’s soul is infinitely more important than their physical shell?” To which I had to respond: “Uh, yeah, I guess you could say that. There are also a decent amount of early church heretics who took that idea to its logical extreme.”

There are the Gnostics, whose belief that the physical world was “lower” than, or separate from, the holy upper world has caused them to be accused by early Christian Fathers as giving themselves over fully to their physical appetites. The Nestorians were into the idea that Jesus’ human and divine persons were fully independent from one another instead of being one and the same, naturally. The Cathars thought anything physical was fully evil to the point where they refrained from reproduction so . . . that’s certainly something else.

I was going to present general non-heretical Christian belief by quoting scripture like Matthew 18:8-9 but really it boils down to this: don’t sin. The Bible more or less clear about what is and what isn’t sin, and fornication is definitely on that list.

But then I had to go and ask myself, “But Evan, what if you didn’t ascribe to a Judeo-Christian worldview?” To which I had to respond: “Ehhhh.”

The Secular Perspective

The number one image when typing “secular perspective” into Google image search.

The number one reason I can think of not to do whatever you want with any number of people’s bodies is disease, which was something one of my past biology teachers did everything he could to impress in our minds. Visual aids were not necessary, his verbal descriptions were more than enough.

There’s the idea that wanton
physical engagements will inevitably result in feelings, a premise so ripe for storytelling that it inspired two movies that premiered in the exact same year.

But of course that can easily be refuted by people who have actually been in sex-only relationships, so that’s out as well.

I suppose one argument would be that a person who repeats, a grand total of 23 times, “do what you want with my body” can’t possibly have any self-respect. That one would have made me pause for a second to build up more around it were it not for this tumblr post I read recently:

Which is- fair. That’s not really something I can argue with. Dictionary.com
even backs pxxies up by defining the word as “proper esteem or regard for the dignity of one’s character.”

In general, as long as you’re not hurting anyone there shouldn’t be a problem, provided that you’re acting of your own accord with others who are likewise consenting adults. Makes sense to me.

So, In Response to “Great”

If we’re going to view that word in the context of how infuriatingly catch a track is then yes, “Do What U Want” is great. If we’re looking through the lens of secular morality then, again, it really isn’t a thing. Finally, if we are choosing to opt for more of a Judeo-Christian model of viewing things then no, this song is not at all okay. Unless the singer and the person she’s addressing are married, in which case I suppose this is great in that sense too.

I’m particularly interested in what any of you have to say about this particular song, regardless of what worldview you choose to approach it from. I will also have you know that I listened to “Do What U Want” over a dozen times while writing this.

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7 responses to “What I Did With “Do What U Want”

  1. This is the first CWR post in my memory that had a soundtrack while I read.

    Also, it seems you missed another perfectly good opportunity to explore the Bible’s stance on various sexual matters, instead opting for the “it says ‘fornication’ is bad, and this is fornication, right?” The Bible talks a lot about adultery, bigamy, homosexuality, and many other specific sexual situations, but “fornication” is a blanket term for sexual sins, not a reference to Lady Gaga’s sexual habits specifically. Fornication is not “on the list” so much as it IS a list of sexual sins.

    I’m actually not suggesting that it should have been explored here, but hey, future post idea?

  2. Hey that’s me! Wow, can’t believe my sarcasm prompted a whole post. Overall I can see your perspective, but I disagree with your conclusion. From what I understand you are saying that from a secular perspective it really isn’t a problem to tell people to “do what you want with my body”?

    But my issue with the line is that it says “do what YOU want with MY body” because it precludes collaberation in sexuality. Maybe there is a different, non-sexual reading of this song, but for now let’s focus on the sexual reading.

    You see there is this big push right now in feminism (example of secular morality) to emphasize how important it is for men to understand female sexuality. In this song Lady GaGa is completely opting out of having any say in her own sexual experience. Honestly, I would have less issue with the line if it was “let’s do what we want with our bodies” because then it would at least include consulting both parties. By completely giving her body up to the other party she essentially saying “yes, please use me as your masturbation aid, I only care about YOUR pleasure in this experience”.

    You see I don’t think the morality in this is necessarily a dichotomy between the secular and christian world. A lot of secular people still want their children to have a mutually respectful and enjoyable sexual experience even if it is with multiple people. But telling someone they can do what they want with your body does not connote respect or enjoyment to the person on the receiving end. In fact it sounds more like someone saying “so, I’m going to take a little nap over here, but you can go ahead and do what you want with my body”. The reality is sex does involve your mind (if it is going to be good) so her removing her mind from the equation doesn’t mean “no strings attached” it just means she isn’t going to be getting any pleasure from it.

    Anyways, I’m going to drop a bomb here by suggesting you check out the cliteracy movement.

    The point of this movement is to emphasize that both parties are supposed to enjoy sex so I think it serves as evidence that even in a secular moral context it matters how you tell people to treat your body.

  3. I think it’s important not to lose focus on the REAL issue here, which is that this song reminds me WAY too much of “We Don’t Want Your Body” by Stars (released in 2010!). http://youtu.be/kgocyn8Jw-E?t=1m15s

    But also I think Kat made a lot of sense there. Well put.

  4. This isn’t going to be nearly as well-stated as Kat’s response, but I wholeheartedly agree, and would add: I hate this song for those reasons and others. I pressed play simply to fuel my hate fire as I write. I think my issue with it is the objectification. Yeah, I know, that likely wasn’t her intent. I get that. Also, “objectification” is pretty much the equivalent of a Sunday school answer for feminists. I can live with that, because I’m hearing an intelligent woman draw back and accept her own body as something separate from herself and available for use. She can keep her emotions, she can keep her mind, but her body? Somehow separate. It’s hard for me to follow that argument. Things that happen to your body happen to YOU. Likewise, the way you treat someone else affects THEM. I don’t think anyone can will that relationship out of existence. Furthermore, I don’t buy into the lie that choosing to treat your body like an object is somehow empowering (didn’t Gordon write a blog about 3rd wave feminism? THAT). We don’t need another song that says women want men to use their bodies, or one that tells women they should separate their body from their emotions. Whether you want to believe it or not, people weren’t made that way. We don’t need another song that glorifies unhealthy relationships.

  5. On the one hand, Christian scholars, Lewis and Zacharias among them, have made some interesting points about the very close relationship between our bodies and the rest of us–soul, heart, spirit, mind and what have you. It’s why we close our eyes or kneel to pray, and why we need to eat and not be drunk etc. to think straight and make good choices. Various behavioral issues come from physical issues–hormonal imbalances and what not.
    After reading through the rest of the song’s lyrics, I’m a little bit confused. Gaga seems to refer to specific circumstances–be it an acquaintance or the press writing bad things about her–at first. Basically “sticks and stones.” Then it takes a turn for the sexual, especially when R. Kelly joins in. His contribution is scattered and lacks unity, and not really worth much mention, except in summing it up as, “Ok, fine. I will.”
    What worries me the most is Gaga’s, “If you let me go/I’d fall apart/If you break my heart/so just take my body/and don’t stop this party.” Everything I’ve learned in life tells me that partying is not the way to deal with fear of abandonment. The speaker knows this because she doesn’t want the partying to stop–when it does, she has to cope with the fact. And all it is is coping. Which I read as,”I don’t think I can trust you not to leave me, so override my senses while I give you the chance.” All of that is of course my reading into it.

    On the other hand, the chorus by itself has a slightly different tone–more a tone of “In spite of what you do, I still have who I am; I have a voice, a heart.” While the things people do affect who you are, they don’t negate your being or your expression of it. To me, it sounds more like a stand against oppression than submission to it. In a way, at least.
    It’s a message I’ve heard given to people in prison or captivity: you still have your voice, your identity, no matter what happens to you. And if your identity is founded in things beyond your immediate surroundings, then I can see some validity in it.

  6. I’ll throw this link into the mix for the sake of discussion, since we all seem hellbent on critiquing Lady Gaga’s choice of sexual expression: https://culturewarreporters.com/2013/09/17/shame-day-slut-shaming-miley/

    • The fact that the source you refer to as a counterpoint is another post on this blog is a) really cool and b) almost makes me feel like this is a discussion among rabbis refuting each other with verses from the Torah. That latter bit may or may not be kind of [very] blasphemous.

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