The original song by the Arrows talks about seeing a seventeen-year-old girl by the record machine. Is objectifying (and ultimately taking home) a seventeen-year-old creepier coming from a group of guys than from Joan Jett? Equally creepy? Or is it not creepy at all?
Shmoop decided to take the legal route to answer this one, and found that age of consent in Britain was 16 at the time of "I Love Rock N' Roll"'s release (and still is). Legally speaking, Joan Jett is pretty safe. Legality aside, this less-than-innocent little line still raises a few interesting issues. The difference between law and ethics is one key question (ethics often drive laws, but laws in turn can define ethics—after all, the English age of consent when English colonists came to the Americas was twelve, but that doesn't make it right). Traditional gender roles is another interesting issue: is it right for women to be the ones to initiate a relationship, or is that only a job for the men?
This line is pure rock star cockiness.
Back in her all-girl band days, Joan Jett saw that women weren't being taken seriously in rock and roll, so she put together a new band – this time with men. Jett showed the world that she could rock as hard as any man, and paved the way for other women to follow. But this song was originally written by men (with the lines "Till she was with me, yeah me"), so Jett is literally reversing the situation of a confident man picking up a young woman in order to make the song her own. In other words, she's embodying a male ideal. What does this mean for Jett's legacy? How does the fact that she played the role of a man in order to be a powerful woman complicate the story of women in rock and roll?