Recently, a music video emerged that was so heinously tone-deaf to misogyny and rape culture that we might have all dismissed it as failed satire were it not associated with the most tasteless pop group of the last decade, LMFAO. Grammy-winning production duo Play-N-Skillz recruited LMFAO’s Redfoo, Lil Jon, and someone named Enertia McFly for a song that, based on its title alone, could be cultural critique in the hands of a more intellectual group of collaborators: “Literally I Can’t.”
We’ve all heard this nonsensical phrase tossed around, along with similar ones like, “I can’t even”; they’re annoying, sure. But the ire directed at the gross stereotype of women who use the phrase “literally, I can’t,” both in the song and in its accompanying clip, is so extreme that it would be redundant to detail everything that’s wrong here. The problems are completely and utterly obvious, so much so that it’s incredible these musicians’ managers didn’t advise them against participating in such an offensive affair.
The basic premise is as follows: members of the Literally I Can’t (LIC) sorority roll up to a party for a fraternity named Shut the Fuck Up (STFU). The hosts kindly ask these pearl-clutching sorority girls to participate in girl-on-girl action, among other rated-R activities, to be filmed for the brothers’ social media accounts (and possibly a porn site). When some of these women decline drinks and the sexual promiscuity their male hosts hope will follow, the frat turns on them. “You got a big ol’ butt, I can tell by the way you walkin’/ But, you an annoying slut, because you’re talking,” Redfoo raps. “Shhh, I set you on the pole, I didn’t need your opinion/ I’m sipping on this drink, trying to see what you got, not trying to hear what you think.”*
Directing hatred towards a commonly despised female archetype — the prim sorority pledge — is a transparently ineffective way to hide the group’s disdain for women and promote an environment that turns the other cheek to booze-fueled sexual abuse. The video’s imagery is a nightmare for any woman who’s ever felt unsafe at an off-campus rager. So, instead of watching it, why not consider the following statistics about sexual assault on college campuses? Five bucks says they, too, will have you saying, “Literally, I can’t.”
Literally, I can’t with the fact that one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college.
Literally, I can’t with the fact that 55 percent of sexual assaults happened at a party.
Literally, I can’t with the fact that 95 percent of campus sexual assaults go unreported.
Literally, I can’t with the fact that fraternity men are more likely to commit rape than other college men.
Literally, I can’t with the fact that, among male offenders who rape women, 64 percent were using alcohol and/or drugs prior to the attack.
Literally, I can’t with the fact that about six times as many sexual assaults occur in on-campus residence halls than off-campus.
Literally, I can’t with the fact that girls ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
Literally, I can’t with the fact that universities permanently kicked out only ten to 25 percent of students found responsible for sexual assault.
Literally, I can’t with the fact that anonymous reporting, which encourages victims to come forward, is an option at only half of the nation’s schools.
Literally I can’t with the fact that fewer than one-third of college sexual assault policies state that a survivor’s dress and past sexual history may not be discussed during disciplinary proceedings.
* Correction: Redfoo’s lawyer has contacted Flavorwire to inform us that the author of this post misheard a few lyrics from “Literally I Can’t”: The line we quoted as “But, you an annoying slut” is actually “but you annoying me,” while what sounded like, “Shhh… I set you on the pole; I didn’t need your opinion” is, according to Redfoo’s legal representation, “I said jump on the poll, I didn’t mean your opinion.” (Is this, perhaps, an encouragement of young women’s participation in the electoral process?) Though we are evidently not the only publication to have misheard the lyrics to “Literally I Can’t” and been subsequently contacted by Redfoo’s lawyer, Flavorwire regrets the error.
Additional reporting by Angela Lashbrook