May 13, 2011

Alien Sex

Posted in Myths, Popular Culture, Rape Culture at 9:45 pm by sacetalks

Sex sells music. That’s a fundamental truth you can take to the bank.

But, how does music sell sex? What does music tell its consumers about what is sexy? What does music tell its consumers about a man’s sexuality and a woman’s sexuality?

When I first heard Katy Perry’s song “E.T.” featuring Kanye West, I loved it. The beat hooked me along with Katy Perry’s digitally enhanced voice. Yet, when I finally paid attention to the lyrics and thought about what they meant, my love turned sour.

The first thing I noticed about the lyrics is the glorification of male sexual prowess. With such winning lines as, “Your touch magnetizing” and “Wanna feel your powers,” the listening audience understands that Katy Perry is addressing another person who has exceptional sexual skills. In Heteronormative World, where sex is always sold as heterosexual even when it’s not (re: Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”), we can easily assume Katy is referring to a man. To the listening heterosexual male, this means him. Still, anyone could see themselves in the role if they wanted.

Male sexual performance is being sold as heterosexual, powerful and awesome! If Katy Perry and Kanye West say so, this is the kind of sexuality that all women (presumed heterosexual) expect from good male lovers. Boys, grab your, *ahem*, pens and take notes:

–          You should be so out of this world good in bed, you’re like an alien, k? Like, supernatural, extraterrestrial, so futuristically advanced your DNA makes you superior to other men and all women.  When you infect a woman with your loving, it’s actually poisonous to her primitive DNA and will cause immanent paralysis.

–          But, that’s okay. You’re supposed to stun and hopefully render your female lover unconscious with your powerful and dangerous laser. It’s so sexy she’ll sing about it!

–          A woman wants to be controlled. See, women love a dangerous man they can’t tell is an angel or a devil. It hypnotizes then into passivity. To be a good heterosexual male you have to take charge to the point of abduction, but pretend that you’re protecting her.

–          Also, tell the woman you’re infecting that you tell her what to do. If she protests, keep repeating, “I tell ya what to do, I tell ya what to do, what to do, what to do.”

(Modified from the lyrics to “E.T.”)

The song’s message: Men should perform their sexuality in terms of dominance, aggression and violence towards women. For those men who do not fit the above outline for heterosexuality, good luck “getting a girl.” For those men who do not think of themselves as heterosexual, well, you don’t apply.

People might get confused that Katy Perry is responsible for this messaging. We cannot blame one person for a song that condones and normalizes male sexual violence towards women. We can, however, hold accountable all participating members of the music economy and wider rape culture for fabricating a male heterosexuality that reaches its ideal performance in sexual violence.

Those responsible for Katy Perry’s “E.T.” also produce, market and sell female sexuality in addition to male heterosexuality. Waving a hypnotizing medallion back and forth, they suggest to female listeners, “you will choose to be an object for male heterosexuality and you’ll love it.” Despite the possibility that Katy Perry’s public relations people would spin this female sexuality as empowerment, it is first and foremost created for the male gaze according to the terms set by patriarchy. While heterosexual men and boys circle jerk to Katy Perry’s image, women are told that female heterosexuality is dressing provocatively to impress and attract heterosexual men. Be like Katy and you’ll get a boyfriend. In the song, female sexuality is predicated on and for the dominant male heterosexuality.

Don’t believe my analysis? Well, let’s look at the lyrics of “E.T.” one more time. Girls, if you want to learn from Katy and Kanye, hear are your tips to be a good, sexy female. Your tips come second because your sexuality comes second. Listen:

–          Your sexual pleasure is dependent on what your man can do for you. He’ll use his magic, bath his Ape in your Milk Way and probe you. You’ll love it so much you faint.

–          Look for a man that makes you afraid. It’s the dangerous ones that have the most magic in their touch

–          The only power you have in a sexual encounter with a man is to demand he perform. You can demand he kiss you, but you cannot be the one doing the kissing.

–          Sex for you is about a man taking something. You want this.

–          You want to be abducted. You want to be a victim of violence.

(Modified from the lyrics to “E.T.”)

At which point we come to the lyric that caused my feelings towards this song to spin feverishly towards anger. While the entire song sells heterosexual violent male dominance and female subjugation as fantastic/fun/sexy sexualities you’ll want to perform yourself, the particular line, “Wanna be a victim,” explicitly names it. It makes sexual assault sexy and reinforces the statement, “rape is a complement.” According to these lyrics, perfected male heterosexuality is achieved when a man becomes a rapist and perfected female heterosexuality is achieved when a woman becomes a rape victim… Anger, disgust, betrayal, shame, despair felt at this reinforced reality.

Why do we buy into songs with these kinds of lyrics? Because these oppressive lyrics reflect and reinforce the oppressive systems of heteronormativity, patriarchy and rape culture we and the song are already a part of. “E.T.” is just one of many moments in our lives where things are the way they are because that’s the way they are and the fact that I’m raising such a big stink about it is uncalled for.

Not only does sex sell music, music sells sex. People (men) in power (with money) are selling patriarchal, heteronormative sexuality by packaging it in the form of music. If a transgender  person, a gay person, or anyone who does not identify in terms of sexual and gender binaries, ends up buying the music, that’s a happy expansion of the market. The music industry produces male sexual violence and female sexual victimization for their listeners in an alluring package of bass, melody and semi-nudity.

Can I buy something else, please?

by Meagan Simon

“E.T.” by Katy Perry feat. Kanye West

[Kanye West]
I got a dirty mind
I got filthy ways
I’m tryna Bath my Ape in your Milky Way
I’m a legend, I’m irreverent
I be reverand
I be so fa-a-ar up, we don’t give a f-f-f-f-ck
Welcome to the danger zone
Step into the fantasy
You are not invited to the otherside of sanity
They calling me an alien
A big headed astronaut
Maybe it’s because your boy Yeezy get ass a lot

[Katy Perry]
You’re so hypnotizing
Could you be the devil
Could you be an angel

Your touch magnetizing
Feels like I am floating
Leaves my body glowing

They say be afraid
You’re not like the others
Futuristic lover
Different DNA
They don’t understand you

Your from a whole other world
A different dimension
You open my eyes
And I’m ready to go
Lead me into the light

Kiss me, ki-ki-kiss me
Infect me with your love and
Fill me with your poison

Take me, ta-ta-take me
Wanna be a victim
Ready for abduction

Boy, you’re an alien
Your touch so foreign
It’s supernatural
Extraterrestrial

Your so supersonic
Wanna feel your powers
Stun me with your lasers
Your kiss is cosmic
Every move is magic

Your from a whole other world
A different dimension
You open my eyes
And I’m ready to go
Lead me into the light

Kiss me, ki-ki-kiss me
Infect me with your love and
Fill me with your poison

Take me, ta-ta-take me
Wanna be a victim
Ready for abduction

Boy, you’re an alien
Your touch so foreign
It’s supernatural
Extraterrestrial

[Kanye West]
I know a bar out in Mars
Where they driving spaceships instead of cars
Cop a Prada spacesuit about the stars
Getting stupid ass straight out the jar
Pockets on Shrek, Rockets on deck
Tell me what’s next, alien sex
I’ma disrobe you, than I’mma probe you
See I abducted you, so I tell ya what to do
I tell ya what to do, what to do, what to do

[Katy Perry]
Kiss me, ki-ki-kiss me
Infect me with your love and
Fill me with your poison

Take me, ta-ta-take me
Wanna be a victim
Ready for abduction

Boy, you’re an alien
Your touch so foreign
It’s supernatural
Extraterrestrial

Extraterrestrial
Extraterrestrial

Boy, you’re an alien
Your touch so foreign
It’s supernatural
Extraterrestrial