Saturday, May 31, 2008


The current #2 song on the iTunes singles chart is the new song "I Kissed a Girl" by up-and-comer Katy Perry (visit her Myspace page here). Now one might think that a song like this is one that the lesbian community can get behind. But, as popular gay blogger Dorothy Snarker comments, "Like everything else it’s all about the context. Are these two drunk girls surrounded by cheering frat boys? Yeah, no thanks. Or are these two women who are genuinely interested in each other." So one really needs to examine the lyrics of Katy Perry's song to determine precisely what kind of song this is. And as it turns out, Katy's song seems to be what AfterEllen writer Malinda Lo christens as a theme song for straight girls who get drunk "and make out with their straight girlfriends while they're out at a club (or in a hot tub) with their boyfriends."

At first the song doesn't seem so bad. It is catchy and upbeat and as Malindo Lo remarks, "The chorus, 'I kissed a girl and I liked it,' repeats often enough that it gives the song a kind of (fake) Gay Pride feel." Lo continues by analyzing the lyrics of the song:

This was never the way I planned
Not my intention
I got so brave, drink in hand
Lost my discretion
It's not what I'm used to
Just wanna try you on
I'm curious for you
Caught my attention

I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry Chapstick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my boyfriend don't mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight
I kissed a girl and I liked it

No, I don't even know your name
It doesn't matter
You're my experimental game
Just human nature
It's not what good girls do
Not how they should behave
My head gets so confused
Hard to obey

As she says, the song is stereotypically bicurious. In the song Katy alludes to having a boyfriend, as though it isn't cheating to kiss someone else if that someone else is a girl. She furthermore says that "it's not what good girls do" and implies that she's only doing this because she's drunk. Like Lo states, it is implied that "kissing another girl is only something you'd do after you lose control of your decision-making faculties."

Just recently Katy released a music video for the song which pretty much confirms that this song is designed more for male titillation than for supporting the right of girls to kiss girls.

On top of all the girls lounging around in their fishnet stockings and lingerie, having pillow
fights, there is also not even any actual kissing going on. As Dorothy Snarker comments, this seems to be a strange omission.

Another popular song of Katy's is "Ur So Gay" which is described as "a bitchy
kiss-off to an ex-boyfriend, in which Katy derides him as a Hemingway-reading vegetarian who drives an electrical car, concluding, 'You're so gay and you don't even like boys.'" Some could argue that these songs of Katy's and her video are meant to be campy (play on stereotypes in a fun way). But Malinda Lo asserts, "I don't think 23-year-old Katy Perry has the right, yet, to make gay jokes. She needs to wear a lot more sequins and way higher heels for about a dozen more years. I mean, she's using a homophobic slur repeatedly, going so far as to explain that the word is actually meant as a slur and not as a description of homosexuality." It's not right for a young, straight woman to capitalize on the gay "lifestyle" by essentially poking fun at it.

Dorothy Snarker compared Katy's "I Kissed a Girl" to another song by the same name, the 1995 hit by Jill Sobule. Jill's song, unlike Katy's, actually portrays kissing a girl as somewhat of a sexual awakening. It could be used as a coming-out type song. It starts out with two friends discussing how their relationships with their boyfriends are not satisfying and then segues into the two girls realizing an attraction for one another. Then:

And we laughed at the world

They can have their di
And we'll have our pearls
I kissed a girl

I kissed a girl, her lips were sweet
She was just like kissing me
I kissed a girl, won't change the world

But I'm so glad I kissed a girl

Now that's more along the lines of a song that lesbians can get behind. Unfortunately songs like Jill's are not being promoted at the moment. Instead we get Katy's immensely popular bicurious anthem. And Katy is just the type of artist that is all the rage right now -- pretty (she looks sort of like the lovechild of Zooey Deschanel and Emily Blunt), fashionable (in a very hipster way) and what seems to be an authentically talented musician. I just hope that in the future she steers clear of further exploitation of lesbian sexuality.

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