From Anna Dot to Stella Donnelly, here are 5 songs about consent that struck the right chord

When the world is burning, it’s easy to use music as escapism from an uncomfortable reality.

We’re here to share the opposite: songs like Anna Dot’s and Stella Donnelly that break the comfortable illusion that everything is just fine. If current events in Australia haven’t yet convinced you that there is something inherently wrong with the way women are treated in our society, these five artists just might.

Whether recounting their own harrowing experiences or speaking up as allies, these five singer-songwriters have found the perfect balance of rage and reverence, valiance and vulnerability, to tell stories about consent.

Body Language – Anna Dot 

In this eerie tune about a one-night stand gone awry, Anna Dot talks about consent and the unease of revoking it once it’s been given. Her second verse opens with the protagonist desperate to leave an intimate situation but pressured into staying and silently enduring the encounter:

Another day, ‘nother round, I didn’t make any sound,

and though I didn’t say so, I wanted to go, 

you said that you were so close

The climax of the song raises questions about the influence of pornography on our unrealistic expectations of sex and outdated gender norms that force women into a submissive role in sexual relationships: “Baby, it’s just how we’ve both been taught.”

While we are starting to have valuable conversations about “only yes means yes,” this song is a powerful reminder that there is still a long way to go.

Wolves – Jensen McRae

Jensen McRae recounts her experiences of narrowly escaping assault during her teenage years.

The men she encounters see themselves as the good guys, though she likens them to “wolves.”

The song’s chorus is heartbreaking as McRae explains how these experiences have shaped her into a fearful and cautious woman, causing her to lose a fun and carefree side of herself.

Now I bury my smile and show no interest, 

now I carry myself a little different, 

now I avoid the woods, 

now I know the wolves.

The epilogue finds her guilt-stricken for not speaking up when she sees another girl talking to a “wolf,” highlighting how deeply societal pressure not to intervene is ingrained.

Greasy Spoon – Sam Fender

Sam Fender is known for his sociopolitical lyrics that raise awareness about issues ranging from classism and poverty to mental health and male suicide.

“Greasy Spoon” is charged with agitation and hopelessness as Fender chronicles a day in the life of a working-class woman who faces catcalling and repeated abuse.

She comes home, I hear her moan, 

The walls are paper thin. 

His friends come round, they pass her round, 

her head goes round the bend.

The anthemic chorus “I am a woman” serves as a statement of allyship and humanization of victims. It is followed by “I am your mother, I am your sister, I am your daughter” before returning to “I am a woman.” Regardless of who this woman is to you, she deserves your respect.

Vodka Girl – Joy Kelley

It’s easy to mistake “Vodka Girl” for an ordinary indie pop track about falling in love and coming of age. However, once you tune into the lyrics, this song will leave you with a heavy heart.

Joy Kelley delivers the harrowing story of her assault with a nonchalant tone, as if to remind us that this type of story is nothing new or novel.

In the chorus, Kelley mourns her lost innocence, having had to grow up too fast.

Might not have been that young

Might have been over 18

But I still had a couple childhood years left in me 

In a bridge that feels equal parts cathartic and gut wrenching, Kelley admits that this experience will haunt her for life:

Am I a product of his sin

‘Cause I pay for it every day I live

Boys will be boys – Stella Donnelly

Written during a time when victim-blaming was the default reaction to accounts of rape, and released at the height of the #MeToo movement, this scathing lullaby serves as an anthem to empower victims of sexual assault, call out perpetrators, and hold up a mirror to society to question our treatment of survivors.

Why was she all alone, wearing her shirt that low? 

They said “boys will be boys”, deaf to the word “no”.

In reaction to this song, Donnelly has often been subtitled a “political songstress”, something she’s commented on as feeling like an attempt to pigeonhole her and dismiss her poignant lyrics.

Check out more music from Anna Dot here.