“Had no example of a love, that was even remotely real
How can you understand something that you never had
Ooh baby if you let me, I can help you out with all of that

Girl let me love you
And I will love you
Until you learn to love yourself
Girl let me love you
And all your trouble
Don't be afraid, girl let me help
Girl let me love you
And I will love you
Until you learn to love yourself
Girl let me love you
A heart of numbness, gets brought to life
I'll take you there”
– Let Me Love You by Ne-Yo

The first time I heard Ne-Yo’s song Let Me Love You I thought “Aw how sweet! This poor girl was never shown what real love is and this guy wants to be an example of real love to her.” As a person who did not see an example of real love until the age of fifteen or sixteen, I could identify with the girl in the song. 

I am twenty-four years old and the idea of a relationship has been known to scare the life out of me. Just the mere thought of what it would be like to love someone feels like I am being surrounded by a thick black fog. At times I’ve thought “I wouldn’t even know what love was if it smacked me in the face”.

You see, I grew up with a very skewed view of love, one professionals would label as emotionally abusive. I was once told by a counselor that a person who has lived in an abusive relationship needs to be in a healthy relationship for at least five years before they are able to believe not everyone is like their abuser. I have lived here, in the great state of Tennessee, for almost six year and have had stable friendships for the last three years. It makes sense then that I am just now starting to believe people can love without ulterior motives.

Back to the song: When I heard Let Me Love You I thought: It would be so nice if a guy would just love me because he loved me. No ulterior motives; just loving me for who I am, the good and the bad, all of it. 

Like most songs I grow to love, I decided to see if Ne-Yo had blessed us with a music video. He has. It was not the kind of song I thought it was…

Here’s the short, non-graphic version of the video:

The song starts out with some pretty sweet reflective shots of Ne-Yo on a mirror-like, dance floor and a pretty girl, in a white dress, standing on the beach. Add some slick choreography and you have the potential for an awesome music video. Then, up flashes a scene of NeYo and the same girl, in bed, engaging in what can be only described as foreplay. This song just made a one-eighty and my field-production/film training started to kick into gear. 

Aside from the obvious equation of “Love” with sex; there are subliminal messages in this video. In college I took additional film classes which focused on the art of storytelling. We learned the importance of using every element of film-production (including movement and camera angles) to tell your story. So when the camera focused on Ne-Yo’s “man-parts” while he is singing the line “let me help”, I know it is not just a coincidence. You see in film production everything is intentional; from sets and lighting to wardrobe (or lack there-of) and everything in between. Camera angles and movements are always planned in advance to send not only overt but also covert messages supporting the main message or story. A director’s job is to find the key message in a script and center each element on that one message, right down to the smallest detail.

So the message of Ne-Yo’s song, if based on his acting, camera angles and other elements in Let Me Love You is “Love” = sex.  

Here’s the thing: After years of counseling and having some pretty amazing examples of real love I know this one thing: Love does not equal sex.

Since love does not equal sex then what exactly is love? The best way to explain that is to show you by example:

I have become unofficially adopted a wonderful family here in Tennessee. Recently my “new mom”, as I affectionately call her, and I had a long conversation about what real love is and looks like. After months of being been extremely depressed and confused I hit rock bottom. I felt like I was in a tail spin; life was out of control and I was tired of fighting. While processing through the hurt and confusion, my Tennessee mom said something about love I will never forget. She told me real love says, “I want the best for you even if it means letting go of what I want”. She was talking about her children. She continued to tell me loving her children means letting them live the life they are meant to live even if that means she does not get to see them as often as she would like. What I saw in her eyes, as she spoke of letting them live their dreams, was the softest and kindest of love I have ever seen. Her love for her children is so deep and real holding them back from living their lives does not even enter the equation.

While listening to her describe the love she has for her children my heart began to ache. This was the kind of love I wanted. Growing up, I thought love meant telling the person what you needed from them and then accepting the fulfillment of those needs. This was either done by out-right statements or manipulation; either way you ended up with what you needed/wanted. As I look around at the new examples I have in my life, I see that I was wrong. Real love means looking the other person square in the face and saying “What is best for you? How can I support you?” and then doing everything possible to support that person even if it means not getting what I want.

Now that I know what real love is I am getting better at spotting the false-kinds-of-love. So I’m offended when I see a music video like Ne-Yo’s. I am offended (and if I am honest a little bit angry) because I know that pre-marital sex means the possibility of pregnancy, single parenting, STD (some of which can lead to death) and countless forms of emotional damage. Real love does not put another person in any kind of harm’s way, so if I guy is going to equate pre-marital sex with love then I know he does not love me. If he loved me, he would never ask me to put myself into a situation will harm me, as pre-marital sex does.

What that music video says to me is: the only way for you to know I love you is for you to have sex with me. And now that I know that this isn’t true, I see it for what it is: Selfish which disgusts me to the very core of my being.

Real love says I want the best for you even it means I don’t get what I want. And that is the kind of love I not only want to receive but also to give.  So next time a guy or girl says to you “Babe if you love me you will give me what I want” (sex or anything else) do yourself a favor and RUN. Run fast and hard and do not look back.