12 Iconic Rock Songs That Are Horribly Misogynistic (or Worse!)


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Times change, and social mores change with them. When that happens, a lot of things that used to seem perfectly normal – such as classic rock songs with less-than-evolved views – become objectionable, and excusing it by saying “boys will be boys” just doesn’t do the trick.


What follows are twelve iconic rock songs that have remained popular for decades but have lyrics that no record producer in 2024 would green-light. If we’ve inadvertently ruined your enjoyment of some of these songs by making you aware of the lyrics, we apologize.

Image Credit: PICRYL.

1. ‘Under My Thumb’ by The Rolling Stones (1966)

The Rolling Stones could be a category unto themselves when it comes to misogynistic lyrics. One of their most famously objectionable songs is “Under My Thumb” from 1966, and despite being within striking distance of its 60th birthday the lyrics still have the power to offend audiences today. While it’s hard to pick the single most offensive couplet from this song, we’re going to cite, “Under my thumb is a Siamese cat of a girl… she’s the sweetest pet in the world.”

Image Credit: The Rolling Stones by Gorup de Besanez (CC BY-SA).

2. ‘One in a Million’ by Guns N’ Roses (1988)

Guns N’ Roses were never the most politically correct band in the world, but many people agree that their 1988 song “One in a Million” didn’t just cross a line, but pole-vaulted over it. The lyrics are so rancid in their homophobia, racism, and xenophobia that we can’t even repeat them here, so you’ll just have to take our word for it. But on the plus side, the song is so busy impugning Black people, immigrants, and gay people that it never gets around to being misogynist.

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

3. ‘Brown Sugar’ by The Rolling Stones (1971)

This one is painful because the music to this Rolling Stones song is great, and between the riffs and the beat, it’s pretty irresistible. But those lyrics! They depict slavery in the United States as a risqué bit of mischief resulting in many naughty trysts between chattel slaves and the people who enslaved them. The band finally removed the song from their set list during their 2021 tour, a full 50 years after the song’s release.

Image Credit: The Rolling Stones by SolarScott (CC BY).

4. ‘Run for Your Life’ by The Beatles (1965)

Between songs like “All You Need Is Love” and “Octopus’ Garden,” the Beatles developed a reputation as songsmiths so inoffensive you could play their music for your toddler to no ill effect. Still, there are a few problematic nuggets in their catalog, such as “Run For Your Life” from 1965, in which John Lennon expresses some alarmingly stalker-ish sentiments, such as, “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.” For Lennon to refer to his significant other as “little girl” is not exactly peak feminism either.

Image Credit: The Beatles by Eric Koch (CC BY-SA).

5. ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ by Queen (1978)

On the one hand, you can see Queen’s 1978 masterpiece “Fat Bottomed Girls” as a celebration of the plus-size body type. However, it’s easy to see why some people would be offended by such lyrics as, “Left alone with big fat Fanny, she was such a naughty nanny, heap big woman, you made a bad boy out of me.” At the same time, the lyrics credit the amply proportioned woman with the earth’s rotation when Freddie Mercury sings, “Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin’ world go round,” so on a misogyny scale of one to ten, we’re only giving this one a four.

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

6. ‘My Sharona’ by The Knack (1979)

The first time a lot of people heard “My Sharona” in 1979, its herky-jerky, robotic guitar riff made it an instant classic. Unfortunately, the lyrics are pretty openly pervy, as demonstrated by the chorus snippet that goes, “I always get it up for the touch of the younger kind,” which brings to mind an outlook that someone like R. Kelly might share. Songwriter Doug Feiger said that he wrote it at age 25 about a real girl named Sharona who was 17 at the time, but he wrote it from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy, a claim automatically refuted by the song’s lyrics.

Image Credit: The Knack by A.Currell/ Flickr (CC BY-NC).

7. ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police (1983)

“Every Breath You Take” was the biggest hit of the Police’s career, and it’s remained popular through the years as both a love song and a slow-dance number. If Sting, who wrote it, had just kept his mouth shut, it would forever be known as a kind of unremarkable love song, but he explained that was not the case, and it’s actually sung from the point of view of a stalker. “I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control,” he said.

Image Credit: The Police by Scott Ableman (CC BY-NC-ND).

8. ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ by Lou Reed (1972)

The most successful song of Lou Reed’s career, “Walk on the Wild Side” is a counterculture anthem that describes people no one was really singing about at the time, such as trans women and male prostitutes. While it’s not misogynistic, transphobic, or racist, it does use certain terms that went way out of fashion decades ago. He likely never meant any harm by it, but hearing those words will cause severe-to-moderate cringing by anyone born after 1960. 

Image Credit: Lou Reed by Brett Jordan (CC BY).

9. ‘Centerfold’ by The J. Geils Band (1981)

“Centerfold” was the biggest hit of the J. Geils Band’s career, and the melody, hooks, and “na na na na na na” vocal section are pretty hard to beat. It depicts a man whose high school crush has re-entered his life via the centerfold of a “girlie magazine,” a subject that can cause automatic ire to much of the listening audience. While the lyrics don’t get into anything too outrageously offensive, some people felt that the way the song ends, with the narrator hoping to abscond with his love to a motel, could have been a bit more enlightened.

Image Credit: J. Geils Band by Marcel Antonisse/ Wikimedia Commons (CC BY).

10. ‘Used to Love Her’ by Guns N’ Roses (1988)

Guns N’ Roses never saw a list of offensive songs that they didn’t want to be included in, and “Used to Love Her” certainly deserves its place on such a list. While songs in which people sing about no longer loving their romantic partner have existed since time immemorial, this one goes the extra step of saying, “I used to love her, but I had to kill her, I had to put her six feet under, and I can still hear her complain.” Hasn’t he ever heard of couples therapy? Critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine specifically called the song out for its “misogyny” and he wasn’t wrong.

Image Credit: Ed Vill / Wikimedia Commons.

11. ‘Money for Nothing’ by Dire Straits (1985)

“Money for Nothing” was a huge hit for Dire Straits. The song is sung from the perspective of a blue-collar worker who perceives rock musicians as people who make obscene amounts of money without working a real job. Several epithets are deployed by this character throughout the song’s lyrics, and the impact of those words on women and gay people was something the band clearly didn’t think through when they wrote the song. Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler has since spent a lot of time explaining the meaning of the song to people, and as any political consultant will tell you, if you’re explaining, you’re losing.

Image Credit: Amazon.

12. ‘Some Girls’ by The Rolling Stones (1978)

Guns N’ Roses may have wanted to be the most offensive band on earth, but they would have to wrestle it out of the hands of the all-time repeat offenders, the Rolling Stones. “Some Girls,” for example, is a bottomlessly offensive song that first characterizes women as gold diggers who are only after Mick Jagger’s money. The lyrics then go into a whole section in which Sir Mick runs down all the different ethnic types of women (French, Italian, American, Chinese, Black, etc.) and reduces them to stereotypes that are both racist and sexist! We can’t print any of them here, but trust us on this one.

Image Credit: Øderud / Wikimedia Commons.

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