As soon as I heard Rihanna’s “Man Down,” I was in love.

I dug how it sounded less like the techno-pop sound she seems to be cultivating these days, and more like her original work that harkened back to her roots in the Caribbean. Full of reggae riddims and the sing-songy nature of an old school roots track, “Man Down” seemed to capture not only the anger of a woman scorn but the beauty of her birthplace.

Yesterday, the video for “Man Down” hit the airwaves, and again, I was in love. Shot in Jamaica, the video is visually stunning, capturing both the beauty and liveliness of the Jamaican people and the grittiness of downtown Kingston.

The video literally starts off with a bang, with Rihanna shooting and killing a man in the middle of town. It then rewinds to the previous day to give the viewer the back-story on the man’s demise.

And here’s where things get interesting.

Instead of merely grinding to the mellow beat in poom-poom shorts, Rihanna tells a story. A story many women will be able to relate to.

In the video, Rihanna seductively dances with a man in a club, turns down his advances, and then leaves the club. Unable to let her go, the man follows her as she leaves and rapes her.

The scene is startling and brutal, but sheds light on a common issue. Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted, and each year over 213,000 people (mostly women) are assaulted. Moreover, most victims of sexual assault are attacked by someone known—even vaguely—by them.

After watching the video, I scanned the comments as I often do. One Clutch commenter, Bop, wasn’t feeling the video and didn’t think Rihanna should be approaching such a “serious issue” in her video.

Bop wrote:

“Rape is a serious issue and in turn should be addressed by people who are respectable. I dont wanna see crotch twerking, non singing, fake ass Rhianna, trying to ‘send a message’ (if that’s what she was doing) to anyone about a serious issue.”

While Bop is correct, rape is an extremely serious issue, I think someone like Rihanna, who is comfortable with her sexuality, is the perfect person to highlight such an issue. Just as Fay, another commenter, pointed out, “nobody asks to be raped, rape is about lack of consent (power), not about the level of sexiness or ‘Whorishness’ that someone possesses, ultimately tempting men.”

The idea that rape is something that only happens to chaste women and those women who dress a certain way invite men to attack them is absurd. It’s the same line of thinking a Canadian judge applied when he sentenced a man to house arrest instead of confining him to three years in prison. In his ruling, the judge mentioned the victim’s clothing and said that the way she acted and dressed indicated that “sex was in the air.”

Against the backdrop of this judge’s ignorant remarks and the recent verdict that two NYPD officers were acquitted of raping an intoxicated woman, we have Rihanna’s video adding yet another dimension to the conversation about violence against women.

Maybe RiRi’s video will finally drive home the point that no matter how a woman is dressed, no means no.

What did you think about the storyline of Rihanna’s video, “Man Down”? Do you think it’ll further the discussion about sexual violence?

Let’s talk about it!


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