I’ve heard “I Kissed a Girl,” and I REALLY don’t like it

Anyone who listens to the radio or is remotely up to date with today’s music has unfortunately grown accustomed to lyrics that offend, degrade, or sexualize women. Nonetheless, nothing prepared me for Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” when I heard it on the radio last summer. It’s been nearly a year since I first heard the song, but when it came onto the radio a few days ago, it disgusted me just as much as it had the first time it unhappily met my ears, and I felt compelled to speak out.


Wow, where to begin?

Is it enough that Perry created an entire song about the deplorable commonality of lesbian action for the sake of male enjoyment? This alone makes me sad for the women and girls who hear this song and who, like others, think that female sexuality is not something to be owned by the woman herself, but that is at the disposal and for the benefit of male viewers.

Kissing a girl — like kissing boy — ought to be a shared experience amongst the individuals involved. Yet for many women of all sexual orientations, kissing a girl is done for the pleasure and excitement of the heterosexual gaze.

It is common knowledge — or common myth? — that all men drool over the idea of watching lipstick lesbians touching each other or viewing the highly coveted threesome. Visual creatures or not, a song in which a girl gushes over her illicit kiss with another girl is undoubtedly designed to alter some male blood flow. Perry sings “I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it.” The implication is that her boyfriend only minded if he wasn’t there to witness it.

Not only am I incensed over the way in which this girl-on-girl kiss is promoted as an object of straight male lust, it also sends a powerful message about lesbian relationships in general. “It felt so wrong” Perry coos, “It’s not what/Good girls do/Not how they should behave.” Good girls don’t kiss other girls or when they do it’s wrong? Yikes.

This song celebrates female sexuality only in so far as it is experienced by the male outsider. It is only okay that she kissed a girl because she expressly calls it experimentation. Perry describes it to avid male listeners and sends the message that it’s “so wrong,” which is meant to add to the excitement anyway.

The video takes this message even further. Just a few seconds of the three-minute video makes it clear that Perry is selling sex to a male audience. It’s hard to think how much more you can objectify women than by making them faceless lingerie-clad bodies moving mindlessly in the background.

Perry does not acknowledge her fellow females nor interact with them in any way. Meanwhile, her lyrics describe her female sexual interaction; an interesting contrast, the meaning of which is far from transparent. Is Perry provocative enough to lip sync about kissing a girl but not quite bold enough to take that on screen? Or does this just add to the tease to hear her describe a girl’s “soft lips” while touching her own body and not another’s?

With a video that basically just shows Perry dancing provocatively surrounded by anonymous women (and a “pussy” cat on her lap?) combined with appalling lyrics, “I Kissed a Girl” is an over-the-top insult to and infantilization of the gay community as well as a despicably direct message to men and women alike that female sexuality is a plaything of men.

When are women finally going to be told, “Your sexuality and your body belong to you and you alone and nothing about that is wrong?”


6 thoughts on “I’ve heard “I Kissed a Girl,” and I REALLY don’t like it

  1. Thank you for writing this! I mentioned this sort of criticism about the song to my friends and got the usual “oh just loosen up” response. But it’s a seriously terrible message that needs to be dissected and questioned.

  2. I get that response all the time! Like, why am I spending my time worrying about the lyrics in some silly pop song? But even if not everyone realizes that it’s a big deal, it DOES matter and it DOES need to be talked about! And I figure, I can handle getting the “oh just loosen up” response. What I can’t handle is that horrible songs like this are considered normal!

  3. Marisa–you are awesome!

    “When are women finally going to be told, “Your sexuality and your body belong to you and you alone and nothing about that is wrong?””

    –> They are being told now, by YOU. Rock on.

  4. Ok, so — I’m not really sure how I feel about this song or its implications, but I for some reason feel the urge to play the part of devil’s advocate.
    Whether you’re gay or straight, one of the biggest turn-ons is turning your partner on. Maybe she/he likes to see you in sexy underwear, maybe he/she thinks you’re hot first thing in the morning, maybe he/she gets off on seeing you with another person — of either sex. As long as all parties are consenting, I don’t feel certain that it is degrading to homosexuality to dabble in it because it turns you on — even if what turns you on about it is that it turns someone ELSE on. It seems like if you get into proscribing certain activities that get couples hot (whether they are gay, straight, bi, whatever), you’re on an awfully slippery slope.
    As far as the lyric about good girls, behaving, etc., that’s a little weird, but I think also tongue-in-cheek — for some reason the concept of “naughtiness” is closely tied with sexuality in general. She’s asking to get spanked, though the tone of the song is in NO way apologetic or remorseful. Whatever. Some people get a thrill from dressing up as a “naughty” Catholic schoolgirl, the implications of which seem much more problematic to me but that’s a pretty widely accepted fetish. It would be a little more clear-cut wrong to me if Katy Perry said she felt gross or filthy or something.
    I’ve never seen the video and it sounds completely lame.
    Anyway. Honestly, I’m not trying to defend Katie Perry because she in general seems annoying and desperate for attention. And I’m not defending the song because I don’t actually have a set opinion about it — just wanted to bring up a counterpoint that materialized in my head as I was reading your post. 🙂

  5. Those are really great points and what is a conversation without a devil’s advocate?

    I agree to a certain extent. I think sexual freedom is important and I am in no way trying to limit people’s consensual options because sexually must be individualized and inclusive.

    If a threesome turns you and your partner on, or even talking about it, go for it. Have fun and be safe. But my goal was to explore a different phenomenon: not the mutually respectful and enjoyable choices made by partners but rather the message sent to women that exploiting their own sexuality is a way of getting not just sexual attention from men, but validation, love and self-worth.

    I think any choices – whether sexual or otherwise – that deviate from the realm of pleasure and enjoyment and into desperate or ill-conceived efforts at self-esteem boosting are dangerous and for a variety of reasons, this seems to happen far more to women than to men.

    Consider the fact that boys routinely discuss amongst themselves or even with adults the importance and normalcy of masturbation and sexual pleasure. Yet, for girls masturbation continues to be extraordinarily taboo. In a recent Oprah episode about how to talk to your teens about sex, the audience gasped in horror at the suggestion by a sex therapist that it is not only healthy but IMPORTANT to discuss pleasure with your daughters.

    Or what of the phenomenon of oral sex among young kids? It is shocking enough that kids at such a young age consider oral sex not only safe and normal, but technically “not sex.” But additionally, while it is normal for girls to give oral sex to boys, it doesn’t seem to be reciprocated. Yet another example of how women are taught that their sexuality is for the benefit of others.

    It is a slippery slope and it is important not to demonize certain sexual acts or preferences (so long as they are safe and consensual) yet I think it is also important to make sure we give girls and women a positive message about their own sexuality. I think it would benefit a lot of women – and potentially help them resist exploitation – if they felt empowered about their own sexuality.

    Katy Perry may very well feel empowered. Although i read an interview with her in Seventeen magazine recently where she discussed, not her sexual experimentation or acceptance of variety, but the numerous times she has fallen in love (only) with boys – and done desperate and unhealthy things to keep them (like lying about a pregnancy scare). Her interview seemed to speak of the insecurity and powerlessness of so many women, not to mention illustrates that her choice of lyrics were impersonal at best and exploitative at worst.

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