I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It

So to be fair, most of the lesbians I’ve seen referring to this songs on their blog do so either sarcastically or at least in a mildly disapproving tone.  But, that said, I’m a little annoyed at the bloggers who have heralded this song as some sort of a grand gesture or a sign that our culture has embraced homosexuality and doesn’t need legal change as a result.  Okay, that particular reaction was only one blogger:

Anyway, for the record, I’m not turned on at all by the prospect of two girls making out–it’s not my scene–but I do love the fact that this is a big hit among teens, those voters-in-waiting. There is a reason for the generation gap in attitudes about same-sex marriage and LGBT rights: culture. Which is all a way of saying that “I Kissed a Girl” has gotten me thinking, yet again, about the intersection between law, culture, and norms. Can the law ever really change norms in a positive way? And if we were to compare their impact, can we really say that Lawrence v. Texas (outlawing the criminalization of same-sex sex), or Goodridge v. Dept of Public Health or In re Marriage Cases (Lockyer) (finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and California) have had more of an impact on the everyday lives of LGBT folks (their interaction with employers, co-workers, relatives, neighbors, etc.) than Will & Grace, Ellen, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and “I Kissed a Girl”?

What?  WHAT?

Oh God, I hope thats sarcasm.  I don’t really think he thinks that pop culture makes legal change unnecessary, but I do think he views it as a positive step and a sign that young people accept homosexuality.  Uh.

No, see, what it’s saying is that women can feel free to be “edgy” and “controversial” by making out with another woman when they’re drunk.  “I hope my boyfriend doesn’t mind it,” tee hee, watch me be my own woman.  I’m not saying that women shouldn’t experiment (though I stay far, far away from those who do) and I’m not saying that there’s necessarily anything wrong with straight girls kissing other straight girls or queer girls.  What’s wrong is confusing this with acceptance of queer culture.  There’s nothing queer about this situation.  It’s only a baby step away from the traditional woman-as-object using lesbianism to titilate the men bit.  Yes, Perry indicates that the subject in her song is doing something that her boyfriend doesn’t know about, but it’s still all about the boyfriend.  It’s still clearly a straight woman experimenting.  This has zippo to do with lesbian culture or lesbian acceptance.

Case in point?  Let’s come up with a new song, “I Kissed a Boy,” by I don’t know, Justin Timberlake or someone.  I don’t think it’d get the same popular reaction.  The fact is, girls kissing is not seen as threatening to heteronormativity.  This doesn’t mean that the country is ready to give lesbians rights.  This doesn’t mean that if we take the kissing girls out of the structure Perry is using and put them in a long-term relationship that society will support them.  

Ironically enough, this song came on in a bar Saturday night (why I never go to undergrad bars unless forced) while several men were trying very desperately to grope and/or rub against my ass.  I decided to change the lyrics to “I fucked a girl and I like it – I think my girlfriend liked it, too.”  I doubt it’ll catch on.

About Avory

Avory Faucette is a queer feminist activist, writer, and public speaker. Zie graduated from the University of Iowa with a JD in 2009, focusing on international human rights and gender/sexuality issues in the law. Hir current work focuses on queer identity, policy, and marginalized identities under the queer umbrella. As a genderqueer person, zie comments frequently on non-binary identity, transgender and genderqueer issues, and media coverage of these populations. Zie also speaks at colleges, universities, and events on transgender and queer issues and conducts trainings on related topics.

Posted on July 29, 2008, in lesbian and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I like this post, very much. I was talking to my mom today about politics and how many politicians still would block gay couples from adopting. She just had this look on her face like “really? I doubt it. I mean, no one else cares!”
    Apparently, even in texas, even in the very county GWB is from, it’s somehow easy to forget that we have very little in ways of legal protection. Pop culture makes it easier for people to say, “uh, yes, these people should have legal protection, but we assume they already have it, so we don’t care anymore”.
    Anyway, nice blog. I’ve quite enjoyed it. Mind if I link to you?

  2. alesbianandascholar

    Athena – Certainly! Link away! And yes, I think the one thing I’ve learned in recent years is that by now, people just sort of assume we have our rights, so if anyone’s going to fight for them it has to be us.

  3. Nice article. I recently got in a discussion with someone who was very anti-gay, particularly gay marriage, and she insisted that homosexuals have all of the same rights through other means.

    I personally think that lesbians have had less persecution over the years, but we are also viewed with less legitimacy by the general public now. For example, would Will & Grace been such a hit if it had been a straight man and a lesbian? It irks me as I often see the issues of homosexuality debated about while only discussing gay men.

    Okay, end rant. I would also like to link to this article, if I may. Thanks!

  4. alesbianandascholar

    LQ – That’s an argument I hear a lot, the sort of “but you already have rights!” line. I think there’s a perception that other than the things you hear about in the news like marriage and the military, there are no areas where queer people are still at risk. As for lesbians vs. gay men, I think a big part of it is that we are considered less threatening, and yes, less legitimate. For some reason, lesbians are not so much of an “in your face” threat to “normal” sexuality as gay men are, and so they were more targeted historically and also are what people think of today when they think of the gay movement. I think when lesbians try to really *put* themselves out there and make themselves visible, society tries to somehow push them back into the mold. Definitely feel free to link, my general linking policy is an open one!

  5. I think you’re totally right on point here about the song, but I also think that some of those other examples – Buffy and Ellen – actually have done positive things for bringing lesbian issues into the mainstream and making them SEEN. I think straight girls making out (especially for the benefit of men) does nothing positive, but examples of lesbians in the media who are just being normal people can’t be anything but good. I think.

  6. This was the most exciting MTV has ever been in my
    opinion:
    the 2003 MTV Movie Awards (see YouTube) or click:

  7. alesbianandascholar

    Rebecca – You’re right. I wasn’t so much referring to the other examples (though I think Will & Grace was ridiculous). I don’t love how they killed off Tara on Buffy, because it’s such a stereotypical “the lesbian always dies” thing, but I loved their relationship when it was happening.

    t.a.t.u fan – Ha, yeah, that was awesome. I remember seeing it, actually, I think after the fact, and being really thrilled about all the chicks making out. It’s too bad t.a.t.u aren’t really lesbians, but they certainly were fun while they lasted!

  8. Great article. One one hand lesbians aren’t deemed as threatening to society as gay men but on the other we are only accepted in certain social circles. Oh, by the way, I accidently discovered your blog while trying to promote my own. I’ll have to bookmark it.

  9. thank you for writing this. I am so sick of hearing lesbians praise this song. I mean, I know we’re desperate for queer representation in mainstream media, but I agree — there’s nothing queer about this song, and the idea that a song that simply reinforces the same lesbianism-as-male-fantasy or edgy-straight-girl-experience could be more effective than real legal protection boggles my mind. not to mention how “thrilled” the song has left my bi-girl friends. oy. …yes, I much prefer your lyric, personally.

  10. I agree- I heard this type of titillation called “performative bisexuality” and it drives me insane!
    This isn’t a lesbian, or a bi girl; there’s nothing genuine about it. It’s a silly drunk girl experimenting and it does nothing for queer rights. I personally get very annoyed because my sexuality isn’t a tool for some dude’s wanking pleasure. It isn’t yours, it has nothing to do with you, stop inserting your male gaze into my life! …er, sorry. Didn’t mean to rant.
    Great post!

  11. Hi Judith—

    I write for Suite101’s Women’s Health, and I found your blog on a Suite forum where people were giving out there blog addresses. Very interesting site and topics.

    I have to say as a straight woman, I find this “I Kissed a Girl” song pretty insulting for both lesbians and straight women. When I first heard of the song, being a late 30-something and out of the pop loop, I thought of an older song that was called the same thing (by Jane Siberry.) Cute song and not insulting to either sexual persuasion (I don’t think.) So I checked out the video and behold, some stupid girl is kissing another girl, probably because it’s “cool” and it makes men look. Whatever. So I was thinking how it makes straight women look like idiots……Funny to see lesbians think the same thing!

    Sincerely,

    Jen

  12. A blunder on my part: the song “I Kissed a Girl” was also done by Jill Sobule, not Jane Siberry: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SclQZ4W2VZ0

    Either way, less offensive for everyone.

    Jen

  13. Thank you for posting this! I’ve been ranting about the sexualization of lesbian/bisexual women versus the emasculation of homosexual/bisexual/queer men in…well…almost every society on earth. Everyone I’ve talked to seems to think I’m crazy, but it’s nice to know that someone thinks similarly. It goes a long was in demonstrating that most societies are still operating under certain heterosexual-male rules. That is, heterosexuality being more compulsory for men than for women. This may be a leap but I would also link this to the supposed rarity of bisexual men (which I generally identify as) compared to bisexual women Also, one can notice that more women (who have boyfriends) on dating sites are looking to meet other women in order to have threesomes.

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