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?”