When Do Tits Become Art? YouTube Reinstates Timberlake’s Topless Video…

(Warning… NSFW!)

When Justin Timberlake premiered the video for his new single, ‘Tunnel Vision,’ it was quickly yanked from YouTube for violating explicit content policies. The NSFW video could be described as a virtual tit-fest, with endless shots of naked and topless, pouting, female models writhing like lap dancers in mood lighting.


A few days later the video is back on the site. Why?

“While our guidelines generally prohibit nudity, we make exceptions when it is presented in an educational, documentary or artistic context, and take care to add appropriate warnings and age restrictions,” a YouTube representative said in a statement, via E! Online.


As ‘Tunnel Vision’ can hardly be considered a documentary or particularly educational (unless you’re a pre-teen boy, perhaps), whoever makes these YouTube decisions thinks it’s artistic.  Which begs the question: why is this video “artistic” while Robin Thicke’s controversial ‘Blurred Lines‘ is deemed too explicit to be viewed by YouTube users?

After all, both videos feature semi-naked models – in Tunnel Vision’s case, fully nude ones, as well – while all the males are fully clothed.

Being from Sweden, I don’t necessarily consider showing female naked bodies “dirty”, sexy – or even sexist. The difference is if it’s exploitative, objectifying and/or degrading to women.  So let’s examine the evidence:

‘Blurred Lines’ feature young female models prancing around middle-aged Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I., pretend-playing a banjo, using an exercise bike and, er, holding a goat.  The difference between the “clean” and the “explicit” version is, basically, that all these actions are performed topless.  The girls’ expressionless eyes look so dead, they almost look drugged, while the suited-up men ogle them.  At one point Thicke is even about to push a giant surgical needle into the bare behind of one of them.


Meanwhile, it appears that Timberlake is trying to out-do Thicke in the nudity department.  Perhaps he saw ‘Blurred Lines’ shoot to the top of the charts and thought “this boob thing works”. Having a video banned creates controversy, yet it doesn’t prevent it from being accessible to all, as Vevo doesn’t seem to have the same guidelines as YouTube (posting an age restriction only makes it more attractive to young boys).


What makes ‘Tunnel Vision’ artistic and ‘Blurred Lines’ not?  That there’s back lighting in ‘Tunnel Vision’? That Timberlake’s face is projected onto these naked women’s breasts? That, unlike Thicke and co., he’s not touching them? I don’t get it. They’re both like the old-school car shows where women in bikinis draped themselves over cars to help sell them – only in these videos topless/naked women are objects used to peddle records.

And that’s what puzzles me even more. Not only are these artists old enough to know better, and young enough to not be acting like dirty old perverts – aren’t the biggest consumers of pop music girls, young women and gay men?

This is why pop songwriters have long lived by the ethos: “If you write for a female, write what females would like to say.  If you write for a boy/man, write what females would like males to say”.


Bearing this in mind, shouldn’t Thicke and Timberlake have been naked – or at least topless? Then we could see if Thicke’s claim that he has a big dick is true or not.

Judging by the reaction of a friend’s 14-year-old daughter to Thicke’s video – “what the fuck is this garbage?!” – it’s clearly not geared towards her demographic.  Perhaps the Daily Mash’s joking article on the subject holds more than a seed of truth: pop music is now aimed at middle-aged perverts.

16 Responses

  1. Visitor

    “When Do Tits Become Art?”
    Most historians agree that it started about 22,000 BCE and then really took off in the Renaissance.
    I know what you’re saying, but any half decent attempt to bring YouTube — and Apple, who still thinks James Joyce is porn — into this century should be welcomed by artists.

    • Otherwise Occupied
      Otherwise Occupied

      Yes, any attempt to bring attention to the most ignored of female anatomy should be welcomed.
      Actually I think tits becoming art happened before the transition to sculpture. If we look at tribal dances, they as well provide significant exposure of female breasts, it seems reasonable to assume that this practice dates back to something we can reasonably refer to as a mating dance. So I would say that breasts becoming art might actually predate Homo Sapien.
      Even as a “boob man,” I really do think it is about time we saw some equality. Objectification of women based on sexual role needs to be balanced with objectification of women based on financial role. This is the same as objectification of men based on financial role needs to be balanced by objectification of men for sexual role. So until Thicke has the guts to prove his boast, he doesn’t have any right to claim art.
      I demand to be objectified for my beer belly and, wait this isn’t working. I’ll show you mine if, err, not right either. I demand equality, there that sounds better. Or maybe I’ll just go back to finding gold di-, “women who appreciate my financial objectification” and appreciate them for their ti-, “objectification of sexual role.”

      • Visitor

        “I think tits becoming art happened before the transition to sculpture. If we look at tribal dances, they as well provide significant exposure of female breasts, it seems reasonable to assume that this practice dates back to something we can reasonably refer to as a mating dance.”
        OK, you got me there.

  2. GGG

    You better hope Yves’ mom doesn’t walk into his room while he’s reading this article…

  3. theRealDeal

    RE: “pop music is now aimed at middle-aged perverts.”
    You want to know why?? Because THESE ARE THE ONLY folks PAYING these days.

    Any ‘young’ person complaining about anything music… you loose your choice to voice when you cease to be a customer.
    There is a big difference between consumer and customer: I will cater to Customers all day… consumers can F-off…

    • Visitor

      “There is a big difference between consumer and customer: I will cater to Customers all day… consumers can F-off…”
      Spot on!
      Fans — i.e. paying customers — deserve every single drop of blood, sweat and other precious bodily fluids it takes to create music.
      At any rate, I’m still puzzled as to why an artist such as Helienne wish to censor art..

      • Helienne

        I don’t believe in censoring art – though I think it could be debated if these videos belong in that category – but I do believe artists who demean, exploit and objectify women in order to flog records should feel ashamed of themselves. It’s tasteless and irresponsible

        • Visitor

          “I don’t believe in censoring art – though I think it could be debated if these videos belong in that category”
          The problem is the word though.
          All the bigots, all the new born Christians, all the Muslim/Atheist/Communist/Liberal/Homophoebic/NewAge fanatics on the face of our planet have their own though’s and but’s.
          Why add one more?
          There are better ways to criticize artists who exploit other people than to attack one of the first cautious attempts to modify YouTube’s old fashioned — and seriously crippling — morality. A morality I don’t think you care much for…

          • joe

            seems like most of European based artists will never be allowed to launch video like that, due to EU regulations

          • GGG

            lol You are easily the most egotistically pompous person I’ve ever interacted with. You basically just picked out generalized terms that cover everyone on the planet. Except precious old Visitor, the grand artist, the greatest human being to ever walk the earth!
            Seriously, dude. You write shitty, soulless pop music for a living. Get over yourself.

  4. GGG

    Aimed at middle age perverts…or the entire straight male population of the internet…
    It’s a video that is essentially shown exclusively online. Views = $$. Show tits, get more views. I have comedy friends who’s latest sketch blew up to multi-million views. Nobody is even trying to deny a lot of that is due to the name of the sketch and the thumbnail, which is of a hot girl in a bikini. In fact, they did that on purpose.

  5. Visitor

    What rock are you living under? How can you not be aware of all the new,coordinated anti-piracy initiatives happening around the globe. Let’s look at the facts:

    HADOPI pt.II in France!

    The Japs are arresting and imprisoning throngs of infringers!

    The Russians are………….oooops, wrong thread! 🙂

  6. Econ

    If each stream of the video generates money, it matters not one bit whether or not the streamer had the sound muted.

  7. Caroline from Radar Music Vide
    Caroline from Radar Music Vide

    sex sells
    music videos are mainly paid for and promoted by men
    music videos are almost exclusively made by men
    sexual fantasies in music video are usually the same male fantasy
    sexual narratives in music video haven’t changed for years
    those old-fashioned, male-oriented fantasies objectify women – ie make women seem like a commodity rather than human beings
    most teenage boys and girls (ie learning about who they are in the world) are avid consumers of music video
    Sexism in music videos is tiresome, unimaginative and a drag on our human potential.
    What to do about it?
    More articles like this.
    More saying the way it is is pretty crap.
    More adventurous music video commissioning
    We’re looking at ways to encourage more women to become music video directors. Mentoring, consciousness-raising etc.
    connecting labels and artists to music video directors worldwide


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