Katy Perry Plays Make Believe

Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” has been in my head a lot lately.

Not just because it’s catchy, not just because there’s something I like about the song, but also because the song has been bugging me.

On the surface, Perry’s song seems to be acknowledging and condoning alternate female sexualities, as well as singing the praises of traditional femininity, with lyrics like, “I kissed a girl / and I liked it” and “Us girls we are so magical / Soft skin, red lips, so kissable / Hard to resist so touchable / Too good to deny it”.

But other lines quickly quash any question about Perry’s sexuality: “I kissed a girl / just to try it / I hope my boyfriend / won’t mind it / It felt so wrong / It felt so right / Don’t mean I’m in love tonight”; “It’s [the kiss] not what / I’m used to”; and “It’s not what / Good girls do / Not how they should behave”. The last scene in the music video reinforces this idea that “good girls” don’t kiss other girls, with Perry waking up in bed next to her aforementioned boyfriend.

In popular culture, kissing a woman is only permissible and sanctioned if a woman is already an avowed heterosexual. This drags up the male fantasy of lesbian women that perform on each other to please him instead of each other. For examples, just watch a few minutes of a Girls Gone Wild commercial.

So we have faux homosexuality that plays into the male gaze with a video full of women in fishnets and underwear, gyrating and having giggly pillow fights, all while not actually kissing each other. The absence of any kissing, while nice because that’s one less titillation for the Male Gaze, drives the point home that this song and dance is really just about a male fantasy, having nothing to do with the desires of women.

The icing on the cake comes from Perry’s own objectification of a female subject: “Just wanna try you on / I’m curious for you” and “No, I don’t even know your name / It doesn’t matter / You’re my experimental game / Just human nature”. Now we’re free to dehumanize and sexualize each other into pieces of meat to be sampled, instead of waiting around for a man to do it! And we can pretend it’s just human nature, too. Free season passes for everybody! Yippee!

This attitude underscores an aggressive masculinity that runs through the song, its beat, and Perry’s singing: “and I liked it” is sung with such defiance. It poses as third-wave feminism with a “girly” but loud-and-proud protagonist, but is really just good, old-fashioned woman-using.

I suppose I shouldn’t expect much from the same woman who sings a song entitled, “Ur So Gay” that feminizes and demonizes men who drive electric cars and don’t eat meat. But I wanted to find something positive in this song that gets suck in my head and kind of gives me a boost of testosterone-filled attitude. I guess I’ll have to stick this in the “guilty pleasures” file.

Full disclosure: I’m coming at this from a heterosexual perspective. I’d love to hear queer voices on Perry’s song.

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83 comments for “Katy Perry Plays Make Believe

  1. Caro
    June 30, 2008 at 10:17 am

    I agree with your reading of the song — that it’s about the “making out with a girl at a club to get guys attention” sort of kissing, and is not really sexually subversive at all. And it’s vastly inferior to Jill Sobule’s song “I Kissed a Girl”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpI7znS8Fuc

  2. Daomadan
    June 30, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I’m bi so I come at it from the perspective that she’s using some stereotypes (“I’m curious for you” and “You’re my experimental game”) that have traditionally been used to denigrate bisexual women: that we can’t form real relationships with women because we’re just playing around or doing it for male attention. I agree with the way you’re interpreted the song. I might just be more keyed in to interpreteing the lyrics that way, but I see them as problematic and doing a disservice to queer-identified women. It’s really been making the rounds amongst some of my straight friends who don’t see or realize the problems with the lyrics and think it’s all in fun, but I sure won’t be putting it on my iTunes anytime soon.

  3. June 30, 2008 at 10:45 am

    I have a similar take on it, except that I’m not a fan of the term “alternate/alternative sexuality” to indicate queerness.

  4. B.D.
    June 30, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Your interpretation is right on the money. I agree with Daomadan as well and think she brings up good points about being bi and her interpretation of it. I’m bi as well and I heard similar things in the song. Jill Sobule’s song of the same name was far superior. Hm, thus far I’ve agreed with everyone…very unusual for me. ;-)

  5. June 30, 2008 at 11:03 am

    So it’s not a cover of Jill Sobule’s song?

  6. Natmusk
    June 30, 2008 at 11:22 am

    I agree with everyone else. When I first heard the song on the radio I was delighted until I really listened to the words. I also went to her myspace page to see if any of her other songs were redeemable. I am always on the look out for spunky, independent girl artists like Katy Rose or Anna Nalik. Unfortunately (for her) the UR so gay song clinched my decision not to buy her album.

  7. CBrachyrhynchos
    June 30, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Yeah, I agree with the previous posters. And personally, I think the song is a bit of stupid crap anyway, even before I got to the opening vocals I found the way the song was produced to be offensively mediocre. Did Perry write it?

  8. bushfire
    June 30, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    It’s definitely “stupid crap”. Actually I was discussing this song with a carful of lesbians last night because it came on the radio. We said the same things you did, Fatemeh. Basically, straight women are all over pretending to be lesbians as long as they simultaneously prove that they are straight. The references to femininity in that song are proof that she is hetero (because “feminine” women are straight, and if she weren’t feminine, then it wouldn’t be ok). It’s just a song about what already exists in society, there is nothing new or alternative about it.

  9. aroundthebend213
    June 30, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    I didn’t interpret the end scene as her waking up with her bf, but her concluding an evening of sexual experimentation and “not behaving” by waking up with that other sexual object for white straight women, the black man.

  10. June 30, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Hmm. I’ve never heard this song or seen this video, but I’m personally concerned that Katy Perry has stolen Zoe Deschanel’s face.

  11. June 30, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    I think everyone’s pointed out the problems with the faux-transgressive mock-queerness that’s all over this song, ooh ooh look what a shocking thing, girls kissing. If you were trying to be really charitable, some of these lines are so ridiculous that you could interpret them as parody. But I think that’s pushing it.

    What I don’t have a problem with is her aggressive “I liked it,” which seems to be one of the only genuine facets, the acknowledgments that yes, it was pleasurable even if it’s too dangerous to do anything but stay ensconced in het privilege. I don’t really have a problem with queer women sexualizing and objectifying each other, at least during a hot night out. (c.f. other post on objectification for what I mean) In fact I think that’s kind of definition: hot night out for a lot of queer women, and it is part of human nature if you ask me.

  12. CM
    June 30, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    And then, of course, are the lyrics to another song on her album:

    If you want me, a cherry on top, the pick of the peck,
    The crème de la crop.
    If you want me you better do better than that tonight.
    Oh, Oh.
    If you want me, it takes more than a wink,
    And more than a twink and more than you think.
    If you want me you’re gunna have to break the bank, tonight.
    Cuz some don’t have the patience, some call me high-maintenance
    But you pay the bill, cuz, that’s the deal.

    If you wanna ride, just name your price don’t play cheap, with your heart
    Don’t make a bet if you can’t write the check, for me, for me.
    Cuz I can be bought, but you’ll pay the cost
    If you can afford me

    If you want me, I’m not a piece of ass, a one night stand, a storage ship
    I think you better walk by, tonight
    Oh, no.
    If you want me, then stop begging I don’t put out for charity
    If you want me there’s no discount price tonight
    But I don’t need your dollar bills I just want something real
    Cuz, nothing’s free, except a lovin’ me

    If you wanna ride, just name your price don’t play cheap, with your heart
    Don’t make a bet if you can’t write the check, for me, for me.
    Cuz I can be bought, but you’ll pay the cost
    If you can afford me

    If you want me, a cherry on top,
    The pick of the peck, the crème de la crop

    If you wanna ride, just name your price don’t play cheap, with your heart
    Don’t make a bet if you can’t write the check, for me, for me.
    Cuz I can be bought, but you’ll pay the cost
    If you can afford –

    If you wanna ride, just name your price don’t play cheap, with your heart
    Don’t make a bet if you can’t write the check, for me, for me.
    Cuz I can be bought, but you’ll pay the cost
    If you can afford me

    Fantastic, eh?

  13. CM
    June 30, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    That song is called “If You Can Afford Me” btw.

  14. Daomadan
    June 30, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Her UR So Gay song is another “great” hit.

    I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf
    While jacking off listening to Mozart
    You bitch and moan about LA
    Wishing you were in the rain reading Hemingway
    You don’t eat meat
    And drive electrical cars
    You’re so indie rock it’s almost an art
    You need SPF 45 just to stay alive

    You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys
    No you don’t even like
    No you don’t even like
    No you don’t even like boys
    You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys
    No you don’t even like
    No you don’t even like
    No you don’t even like…

  15. Ben
    June 30, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    She was the daughter of two pastors and was originally a gospel singer but she says she heard a Queen record in her teens and “and the heavens opened and saved me. From then on, they have been my biggest influence”. Not really sure if or when it fits in, but I thought it was interesting.


  16. Kathe
    June 30, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    I much prefer Jill Sobule’s song “I kissed a girl”

    Jenny came over and told me ’bout Fred
    ” He’s such a hairy behemoth, ” she said
    ” Dumb as a box of hammers
    But he’s such a handsome guy. ”
    And I opened up and told her ’bout Larry
    And yesterday how he asked me to marry

    I’m not giving him an answer yet
    I think I can do better

    So we laughed
    Compared notes
    We had a drink, we had a smoke
    She took off her over coat
    I kissed a girl

    So she called home to say she’d be late
    He said he’d worried but now he feels safe
    ” I’m glad you’re with your girlfriend, tell her hi for me ”
    So I looked at you, you had guilt in your eyes
    But it only lasted a little while
    And then I felt your hand above my knee

    And we laughed at the world
    They can have their diamonds
    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

    And we laughed at the world
    They can have their diamonds
    And we’ll have our pearls
    I kissed a girl

    For the first time
    I kissed a girl
    And I may do it again
    I kissed a girl
    I kissed a girl

    I kissed a girl her lips were sweet
    She was just like kissing me
    But better

    I kissed a girl
    Won’t change the world
    But I’m so glad
    I kissed a girl
    For the first time
    I kissed a girl

  17. June 30, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    As someone who has been on the receiving end of straight girls who were “curious” and just wanted to “try me on,” I can say it’s just as shitty as a guy with the same intentions.

    Queer people are queer, which means that we can actually fall for experimenters. It’s not an experiment for us.

    Toying with people ain’t cool, no matter what genders are involved.

    I also agree with previous commenters’ statements about the biphobia inducing effects of songs like this.

    All around, a thumbs down.

  18. Parapluie
    June 30, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    This song is interesting considering she used to do Christian music and both of her parents are apparently pastors.

    Maybe it’s a finger in their face? Or perhaps (and more likely, I think) she realized that doing Christian music didn’t bring in the dough and some slutty, faux-lesbian novelty song would.

  19. Dani
    June 30, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    This song makes me want to bang my head against a wall because it reinforces all sorts of stereotypes that bisexual women don’t seriously love other women, they just use and fuck around with them.

    This post also makes me want to bang my head against a wall because the song is so clearly about bisexuality, yet the author never uses the word bisexual, instead using terms like lesbian and homosexuality. Even in feminist spaces, while discussing a song about bisexuality, the bisexuality gets completely replaced, ignored, and overlooked so we can talk about lesbians or girl on girl without ever using that pesky word bisexual.

  20. June 30, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    It’s so funny that you posted about this. I listened to this song for the first time in the car yesterday and instantly disliked it exactly for the lyrics. I am curious as to what others thought too (haven’t read the comments yet.) It’s a less toxic (admittedly far less) version of Tila Tequila bringing bisexuality into mass culture. I have never seen her show, I am just remembering her accepting some award and yelling, “Lesbians Rock. Come make out with me, you bitches.” or some version. Awk.ward.

  21. Bitter Scribe
    June 30, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    This line from UR So Gay utterly puzzled me:

    Wishing you were in the rain reading Hemingway

    If she was taunting a guy for being feminine, why would she attack him for reading Hemingway, surely the most macho major writer of the 20th century? Does she consider all literature somehow poofty? Or couldn’t she think of anything else to rhyme with the preceding line?

    I’m probably devoting way more attention to this than it deserves.

  22. CM
    June 30, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Dani, I think you are being far too sensitive. It’s NOT a song about bisexuality.

  23. Fatemeh
    June 30, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Butch Fatale, thanks for the point about queerness vs “alternative sexualities.” Duly noted!

  24. June 30, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    What I don’t have a problem with is her aggressive “I liked it,” which seems to be one of the only genuine facets, the acknowledgments that yes, it was pleasurable even if it’s too dangerous to do anything but stay ensconced in het privilege.

    I am pleasantly surprised that I agree with everyone on here (as far as I can see)! That almost never happens. By the way, the quote above. Right on. It’s the only part I liked about the song. Although I don’t think the singer makes a comment about it being “too dangerous” beyond the titillation. I do think it’s the critic who makes the observation you do (which I think is very accurate.)

  25. Daomadan
    June 30, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    CM: I think calling out other comment posters for being “too sensitive” isn’t a good thing, especially on a feminist blog where we’re used to hearing from anti-feminists: “You’re over-reacting/too sensitive/etc.”

    I say, preach on Dani! (Which makes me think of cute Dani on Tila’s horrible reality show. Dani was the best part of that entire train wreck!)

  26. BR
    June 30, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Silly fauxmosexuals! I know the song is politically wrong on pretty much every level and yet honestly (perhaps as a result), I find it oddly hilarious. But I’m also the kind of person who is endlessly titillated by Lindsay Lohan/Samantha Ronson tabloid coverage.

    But of course I also (obviously) agree with what everyone here is saying.

  27. June 30, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    I agree with Daomadan re: “too sensitive” not being a good response.


    “This post also makes me want to bang my head against a wall because the song is so clearly about bisexuality”

    Is it? Doesn’t sound like any kind of bisexuality I’m familiar with from people who identify as bisexuals. In fact, it’s exactly as you say: just a false stereotype of bisexuality, not anything like the real thing. Experimenting with kissing girls to be titillating and risque — what does it have to do with bisexuality?

    Does she consider all literature somehow poofty?

    Yes. To quote a (cutting room floor) line from Cruel Intentions, “books are for fags!!”

  28. Patricia
    June 30, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Jill, I share your shock and horror over Kelly Perry’s theft of Zooey Deschanel’s face. Especially since, judging from the aforementioned lyrics, Ms. Perry has proven herself to be less than worthy of it (I really like Ms. Deschanel). As for the song, it’s awful. I don’t think it’s a “bi” point of view at all, as it demeans the girl who was unlucky enough to brush lips with Ms. Perry.

  29. June 30, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    hah, i literally had this exact conversation a few days ago with a bunch of queers: we decided that this song and others of its ilk (like Ray Lavender’s “my girl’s got a girlfriend” or Pittsburgh Slim’s “i like when girls kiss girls”) are heinous and totally appropriative of queer girls & womens’ sexualities, but that regardless of that we would reclaim them for ourselves, play them at queer dance parties, and act out actual queer objectification (in that hot way holly referred to) while consciously realizing the appropriative nature of the song.

    whew. the things you gotta do to reclaim queer sexualities in this world.

    also, we decided that if that was too much work for us, we’d just listen to some scream club

  30. Daomadan
    June 30, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    “This post also makes me want to bang my head against a wall because the song is so clearly about bisexuality”

    Is it? Doesn’t sound like any kind of bisexuality I’m familiar with from people who identify as bisexuals. In fact, it’s exactly as you say: just a false stereotype of bisexuality, not anything like the real thing. Experimenting with kissing girls to be titillating and risque — what does it have to do with bisexuality?

    While I don’t think the song is about bisexuality, I do agree with Dani that there is no mention of bisexuality by the author of this post when it could be mentioned in sentences such as: “So we have faux homosexuality [and bisexuality] that plays into the male gaze with a video full of women in fishnets and underwear,…”

    That’s what I was getting from most of Dani’s post.

  31. CM
    June 30, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Daomadan, I see your point, but I still don’t think this song is at ALLLLLL about bisexuality. It’s about titillating men (and the audience), and nothing more. I’m not sure what the poster would have been able to do to make Dani happy. *shrug*

  32. CM
    June 30, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Daomadan: Honestly? I think that’s far-reaching, but okay.

  33. June 30, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    I am so glad you posted about this. I don’t listen to the radio, but the other day a few friends of mine played the song for me, telling me that I would love it because it’s about girls kissing and I’m a bi woman. They were wrong.

    I’d have to say I agree that this song isn’t about bisexuality, but I also understand how easy it would be to assume that because the song is basically a big freakin’ bisexual stereotype.

    I prefer the term Heteroflexible to refer to girls who get drunk and kiss other girls for attention. That’s what I called myself when I used to participate in such antics.

    As for the objectification in the song, it did really bother me. Mostly because I think there’s a big difference between straight girls objectifying other women and queer women objectifying each other. I won’t attempt to make the argument that objectifying other queer women is ok, but having been on the receiving end of both types, it feels a lot different.

    And I agree with basically everything everyone else said.

  34. Daomadan
    June 30, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    CM: Did you see where I said, “I don’t think this song is about bisexuality”? I’m not going to speak for Dani, but I was just giving my interpretation of their comment.

    I still don’t think it’s right to tell people that they’re being “too sensitive.”

  35. June 30, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    For some queer girls objectifying queer girls, check out Team Gina’s Butch/Femme.

    No, I am not affiliated with that band, but whenever I get tired of this fake queerness, Scream Club and Team Gina are where I go. For male queerness, I head straight on over to Ssion and Jonny McGovern music videos.

  36. Lea
    June 30, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Well, hmm. 34 comments all essentially agreeing about the tone/point/underlying meaning of the song, and I’m on the other side.

    When I first heard the song I actually took it as satire – that she was sort of mocking the Girls Gone Wild type of situation and that type of female. The whole idea that “it’s fun and wild but I’d never actually be serious about it because I’m a “normal” “good” girl and so of course I want dick” that gets thrown around in GGW commercials and lame-ass pseudo-lesbian porn made by straight dudes. I honestly didn’t see it as insulting or just trying to appeal to men – I saw it as a send-up. That’s not to say I think all of you are wrong for seeing it the way you do – it’s subjective, really. And that’s also not to say I think it’s a great song…being what I call “technically bisexual but 95% gay” it doesn’t appeal to me because I don’t agree with a lot of the lines.

    And yeah – Jill Sobule’s song was waaaayyyy better – I still like to blast that one and sing along at top volume in my horribly off-key voice :)

  37. CBrachyrhynchos
    June 30, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Ehh, like any literary work, the meaning of a song is intersubjective between the composed words and the experiences of the audience. It’s rather pointless to argue about what a song is “really” about. But this song echoes a lot of criticism of bisexuality I’ve been hearing since the early 90s.

  38. Jha
    June 30, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    d00d. I heard this song at a local club last night which is a “no-labels” bar (meaning that it’s safe for a wide variety of people, technically, but implies that it’s where gays and lesbians can come to dance, pick up and be safe without fear of het hostility) and I was thinking, “on the surface it’s catchy and cool, but MAN are these lyrics objectifying and awful.” I was just starting to put my finger on why, and this post helped me a lot.

  39. E
    June 30, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Holly, I agree that the lyrics don’t have much to do with actual, reality-based bisexuals, but the thing that’s getting “tried on” and belittled here is bisexuality, not homosexuality. The boyfriend is so omnipresent in this song that there’s no way of interpreting it as the singer pretending to be a lesbian, so what we’re dealing with is fake bisexuality. Or a trivializing, stereotypical depiction of actual bisexuality, since after all, “[She] liked it.” Which makes it strange that the original post didn’t use the word bisexual in it once.

  40. skirt
    June 30, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    I agree with most everyone – I can’t refer to this song without also feeling compelled to refer to the fact that it is MADE of ASSHOLE. As a highfemme (and someone whose attractions have little to do with gender), I am basically never read as anything other than straight unless I am in a group of queers and even then, I could be the odd tourist for all anyone knows. This song brings plenty of baggage I do not need.

    And I agree, the post erases the biphobia of the song by not mentioning the word bisexual. And yes, I do feel bisexuality is the target of the song, not homos. The bisexual girl is the one who isn’t real, the one who has to deal with asshole boys AND girls telling her she doesn’t exist, and this song only furthers that disappearance, as does a post where we aren’t mentioned. In fact, my standards are so low I barely even *notice* my own erasure anymore.

    And finally, the line “it’s not what good girls do” made me snort. Really, kissing? I mean, I travel in safe, mostly queer-positive or neutral bubbles, but the idea that just “innocently” kissing another girl in a bar isn’t what good girls do is laughable, precisely because of the my-boyfriend’s-watching phenomenon. I mean, aside from having dinner on the table when he gets home, it’s practically a requirement for how the modern woman pleases her man! Now, kissing another girl with intent is where it gets interesting, and breaking out the harnesses and lube is where it gets dangerous. But just kissing?

  41. June 30, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    I saw this video on myspace a few weeks ago and I got the same feeling of objectification. I had wanted to like it b/c of the nearly defiant tone it took, but listening to the lyrics I just can’t. I can’t even guilty pleasure it.

    I also thought…”Um, Zoe?”

  42. Fatemeh
    June 30, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Great points about biphobia and bisexuality references in the song; thanks for pointing that out. Sometimes I get trapped in stupid binaries like hetero/homosexual! ARGH!

    Lea, I also like the idea of the song as satire of this “phenomenon,” but in the context of her other songs (especially the “Ur So Gay” one), I have a hard time seeing it that way.

  43. prairielily
    June 30, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    I heard this song in the car one day, and was relatively entertained by “I liked it,” even though it’s really not my kind of music. Partway through it, I started feeling a little wary of the constant boyfriend/not a good girl references, but when I heard the experimental game line, I was done. I changed the station.

    I think it’s derogatory to bisexual women as well. It really does promote the stereotype of the bi girl/woman who fools around with women here and there but in the end, will always go back to her heteronormative relationship.

  44. miwome
    June 30, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    As a young woman with almost exclusively straight experience and some homosexual leanings (never really had the opportunity), I found the song offensive from the get-go. What, so all lesbians are bad girls? Girls are only attractive and kissable if they’re soft and lipsticky and uberfemme? The boyfriend’s approval is the dominaant fear here, rather than the protagonist’s own comfort and desires? Fuck all that.

    As someone who did in fact kiss a girl and whose boyfriend definitely did mind it (circumstances are not worth going into) the specifics of the song made me personally uncomfortable. By contnuing the meme that this kind of experience is meaningless and no big deal for young women I think it sets a lot of people up for a fall–you don’t realize that it really might matter to you and that it might have consequences in the rest of your life until you go ahead and do it. Not to say that hooking up or homosexual experiences are bad in themselves at all–rather that this kind of framing 1) devalues them as legitimate sexual experiences and 2) in doing so sets some people up for potentially damaging experiences.

    It is, unfortunately, a very catchy song.

  45. That Angry Kid
    June 30, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    I have this song on my Ipod. There. I said it. I hate myself for it, but it is catchy, and I originally just listened to it for the ‘I liked it’ and the beat.

    And then I looked at the lyrics. Ugh. Seriously, as a bisexual who has been told over and over and over /repeat ad nauseum/ that “it’s just a phase” “You’re not really bi” “Why don’t you find a nice boyfriend?” and so on, this is like getting shot in the foot.

    What annoys me is the almost smarmy tone of the song, like, “Hey boys, I’m up for chicks, too! Wanna screw me, eh?” Which is just depressing. Do girls really have to do stuff like that to get accepted? /Well, yes, but it’s just sad…/

    I think we have to step back and look at the big picture, too; Tila Tequila and all the other mindless bi-objectification nonsense, well, this is just an offshoot of that. Grr. We /society, as in the patriarchy/, need to look at this, and say, “Wow, we’re a bunch of arses who objectify a giant part of human sexuality, aren’t we?”

    But of course we won’t, because to be a patriarch, you must be an arse. Section B paragraph 2 line C.

    Also, this could be kind of a shout-out to those ‘kissing circles’ where the girls make out for the guys, but really, same thing.

  46. June 30, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    I recognize every reason why this song is totally offensive, as a lesbian and as a feminist. It is also scarily catchy. But part of me is saying “Okay, you kissed a girl and you liked it!” Queer women don’t have a monopoly on kissing other girls on the dance floor. I never read this song as being about a girl who was bisexual/queer, or a girl who was leading a queer girl on, I kind of read it as a song from the point of view of a straight girl (it’s made abundantly clear, although interestingly he’s not there, as she hopes he “won’t mind it”) who likes to make out with other straight girls because she gets turned on by the taboo. I know a ton of girls who do this, girls who do this in all-female environments, without the male gaze that a lot of people are assuming is the point in straight female interactions with other women. And if this is the case, if the enjoyment of the act between the two women is real, regardless of where that enjoyment is coming from, then I think it’s sort of hypocritical to condemn it.

    And I’m seeing a lot of negativity attached to “experimentation” and I actually don’t think there’s anything wrong with experimenting as long as both parties are clear about their intentions and there’s mutual respect involved. Unfortunately that’s not the case most of the time.

  47. Ashley
    June 30, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    I guess I have a different take on the song than most people here.

    To me it seemed like a girl who is confused – she’s got a boyfriend, but she apparently likes kissing girls. So, where does that put her? I also don’t think it’s in any way about using someone – not every kiss has to be meaningful and romantic. Sometimes they are just for fun – especially in the setting of drunken parties.

  48. Sue
    June 30, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    I abhor this song! Even though my daughter loves it. As a true bisexual, I hate all the attention-whores that pose as bisexual women these days. I’m so glad the bisexuality is more accepted, except when I stop to realize, it’s just the fact that it’s heterosexual society that just now openly accepts girls together, as another way of exploiting attention-whore women. Well, exploiting, really, cuz they know exactly what they are doing. It makes us true bisexuals and lesbians feel icky when girls make out ONLY in the hopes of turning the guys on! It’s bullshit! And beyond sad!

  49. Joshuwa
    June 30, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    The uproar that this song is causing is pretty funny to me. If you have seen any interviews with Katy Perry (not Kelly) explaining the song, then you will know that it isn’t supposed to be too serious. It is just supposed to be a fun song about experimentation. Also, “UR so Gay” is not meant to degrade homosexuality. I’m gay and I’m certainly not offended. Unfortunately there are too many people with too much time on their hands and they have nothing better to do than pick things apart. What an exhausting life that must be. Also, some of you are posting incorrect lyrics of other songs on her album, substituting some of the real words with others that make the song seem offensive. If she were singing “I kissed a girl and now I think homosexuals are gross” or “I kissed a girl ’cause I know my boyfriend likes it”, then maybe there would be something to fuss about. As it is, I think all the negative reaction is much ado about nothing.

  50. July 1, 2008 at 10:56 am

    I like the song, the drums sound so 1980s.

    I have no problem with two “masculine”-looking lesbians kissing each other and I have no problem with two men kissing each other. Enough said.

    A little sidebar: you have Tila Tequila, who will make her choice of who she wants to be with in her Season 2 finale tonight.

  51. Daomadan
    July 1, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Joshuwa. Thanks for using every strawman argument out there.

  52. Eric B
    July 1, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    1. I can’t wait to see a drag queen do this song. The irony would be great.

    2. I wish I hadn’t come late to this discussion. Judging on her history, her views are in line with many who have left the evangelical fold. They have skewed views of the “secular” world and it informs her lyrics.

    The “ur so gay” song, for example. That was apparently written for an ex-boyfriend of hers. She finds gay as an appropriate diminutive subjectification, and tries to associate it with effete and/or cosmopolitan and not mean it as an insult. It’s the same bifurcated thinking that comes from the prototypical evangelical mind.

    Further, we look at “I kissed a girl” and see both an affirmation of the evangelical worldview while simultaneously taking a defiant step against it. Her description of “it felt so wrong, it felt so right” speaks to the difficulty of overcoming deficient morality systems that stand in the way. It’s also exactly how I felt the first time I kissed a man.

    It is easy to find this song contemptible from a self-actualized BLTG citizen, but it’s a brave step away from the world she has known.

  53. Discontented_Clownfish
    July 1, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    I strongly dislike this song since I view it as trivializing bisexuality by playing into the “girl kisses girl for attention of guys” stereotype. I am really glad I read the comments though – THANK YOU to everyone who mentioned Jill Sobule’s song. I had never heard it before and totally love it!

  54. JenLovesPonies
    July 1, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Sue, can you stop assuming that women “pose” as bisexuals? Can’t we, on a feminist blog, assume that women are smart enough to know their sexuality, and don’t need it judged by you?

    As a TRUE bisexual, I realize that sometimes straight women kiss other women- and that’s ok. “Straight” doesn’t have to confine you in a little box. I myself have kissed straight women in non-male spaces. Its ok.

  55. July 2, 2008 at 5:37 am

    I guess I don;t see what all the outrage is about. The singer isn;t tryign to pretend a sexuality she doesn’t have and isn’t trying to trick anyone or “pass”. The song is about an experiment in sexuality that is also honestly posed (the part of the lyrics where the character “talks to” the other girl make the circumstances and intentions clear).

    What, frankly, is the problem then with the idea of females who are honest with each other and consenting experimenting with alternative sexual expression? Do they have to pass some bisexual final exam for approval before they are allowed to kiss another girl?

    I am also not sure how the sex life of another human can trivialize anyone elses sexuality. Are you bisexual / lesbian because it is your sexuality? Or is it a political statement? Because the only way that “fake” lesbians could water down or trivialize “real” lesbians is if it was supposed to be a statement of rebellion, not a sexual orientation.

  56. July 2, 2008 at 6:44 am

    The first time I saw the video I actually thought it was some sort of commercial/in between segments filler on Spike TV type thing – it never occurred to me that it was an actual song that one could potentially buy in a record store until the credits at the end. Agreed with the commenter at the beginning that the other “I Kissed A Girl” was a much better song. This is dumb and annoying and not the slightest bit queer. Also, she can’t sing.

    Ironically given that I’m bi it’s not the stereotype reinforcing aspect that annoys me here, it’s the blatant “pretend to be into girls to make the boys happy” aspect. It’s pandering. It seems like what would happen if you set a Girls Gone Wild video to (boring, repetative, badly produced) music.

  57. She
    July 2, 2008 at 8:33 am

    1,600,000 youtube hits. Don’t hate – appreciate.

    Does feminism equate to censorship of views
    not aligned with said blog or thread?

    Is feminism automatically lesbianism?

    Faux feminism, faux liberalism, faux outrage.

    See how long this post stays ‘posted’.

  58. Brighteyes79
    July 3, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    This song is also a guilty pleasure for me. I hate that she does make bi women look like they just want to mess with your feelings. I myself am bi, and have been in monogamous relationships with women as well as men. I am very girly, and was very attracted to very girly girls as well, so I have had girls of this nature that screwed with your feelings just thinking they wanted to impress someone by kissing you. Hate the message, love the song.

  59. July 4, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Chalk up another offended bisexual.

    Holly’s quoting one of my favorite lines from Cruel Intentions made my night, though.

    Also: “You’re so indie rock it’s almost an art” is really bad line. I have no idea why it sticks in my craw so much but it’s just…even more obvious, meaningless and less clever than the other crappy lines?

  60. fsc
    July 10, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Sounding like one of the masses, I concur with the vast majority of posters about the MANY objectionable qualities of this song. I would, though, like to add a few other thoughts.

    First, CScarlet so aptly wrote, “It is also scarily catchy.” I am not certain it could be said better. It is. It also has a great beat and neat things have been done with the lower range. If it were possible to ignore the lyrics (which I cannot once I had read and considered them), it would make a terrific workout song. I wonder if someone else could take the music and do alternative lyrics.

    Second, the song has fostered some thoughtful and impressive discussions. From this thread to ones elsewhere on the WEB and the radio, NPR in particular (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92342734), it has been a springboard for dialogue, dialogue on topics which are too often marginalized. While I tend to doubt that was Perry’s intent, the word spoken is an arrow let fly. This might just become a teachable moment.

  61. jv
    July 14, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Hollah back posters! I agree with this interpretation fully. Seriously. For real? I kissed a girl? I’ve been searching for a voice of reason in all the f*cked up garbage of “catchy tune” and “she’s just really “edgy” and “pushes the envelope” when she talks about kissing a girl. It’s really sad that certain people can’t see it. Thank you for delivering Fatemah.

  62. jv
    July 14, 2008 at 12:34 am

    sorry……I spelled your name wrong. Apologies Fatemeh

  63. Tortilla
    July 14, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Has anybody else here ever heard God-Des and She’s skit “I’m a Lesbian, Too!” The first time I really listened to the lyrics to this song, that skit was the first thing I thought of. (I’ve tried to find a place to listen to it for free to no avail…Although the CD it’s on is totally worth owning!)

  64. Tortilla
    July 14, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Um, the God-des and She CD is totally worth owning, I mean. Not craptastic Katy Perry’s CD. :P

  65. Harry
    July 18, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Katy Perry is about as edgy as Hannah Montana. She contributes as much to edginess as The Pussycat Dolls, when both perform they look like choreographed Vegas acts. Lame fake controversy.

    It’s funny how men are entranced by faux lesbianism involving beautiful femme women but the thought of that kind of experimentation for themselves is ‘hysterically’ abhorrent to them.

  66. Miss Mielche
    July 23, 2008 at 5:40 am

    As always, Fatemeh, it is hard to disagree with you. Watching the clip is a truly depressing experience.

    But am I the only one who interprets the last scene as the whole thing being a dream? She is in her cotton underwear and seems to be waking up from a dream.

    To me, it makes it even worse – her (secret and “experimental”) dreams are both lame and tame!
    I see it as a way of saying “don’t worry – I’m still the good girl, it was only a dream.”

  67. Robert
    July 24, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Long time listener, first time caller. Just wanted to voice my support for Fatemeh’s analysis of this ‘song’. I think that the song is false, homophobic and downright stupid. The reviews of the album have been farily low (allmusic.com has it a 2 out of 5), people see through the schtick and aren’t going to buy it.

    Banditas Rule!

  68. Anna
    July 24, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    the song is an offensive, degrading, badly produced piece of pop trash. which is to say that it has camp value, and I’d probably shake to it if I was drunk and they played it at the gay club. At least it’s gotten Katy Perry some attention, which is probably all she wants anyway.

  69. July 25, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    I’m bi. I don’t think this song is very feminist, but I don’t think it’s the fall of Rome, either. It’s a stupid pop song, it’s danceable, it’s throwaway, and it’ll be out of people’s heads next month. Most pop songs are awful, misogynist trash, which is why they’re pop.

    I don’t necessarily think Katy Perry is trying to speak for bi women; I think she’s speaking of experimenting sexually, which–let’s face it–lots of women, as well as lots of men, do. Sexuality is very fluid, unless you don’t want it to be. But not everyone ascribes to the one-or-the-other mentality, and when coming around to who you are sexually, a lot of girls kiss girls and boys kiss boys.

    I don’t know. I might be biased because I think she’s pretty cute for a pop singer. At least it’s not that damn “Umbrella” song again.

  70. DerekSpade
    July 28, 2008 at 1:30 am

    This song absolutely is subversive. You all got the surface content (obvious) that sometimes straight girls will make out with other girls to get guys’ attention. I think the song assumes you know the stereotype. Girls make out with girls to get attention from guys. Pretty simple, and I see how it could be offensive, not just to homosexuals but also to men! The song has a pretty low view of men.

    The subversive element is in the marketplace. Girls make out with girls to get attention from guys, but this girl makes songs about girls kissing girls to get attention from guys to get money from guys. Can’t you see the brilliance in that? Using male fascination with bisexual girls to take their money. That’s what makes the catchy beat so great. The song is designed to do nothing but separate men and their money.

    As for Ur So Gay, I loved it. The song has nothing to do with homosexuality at all. It’s making fun of Hipsters (H&M sweater, indie rock fascination, “ironic” smiling clouds). The line “ur so gay” is spelled that way because that’s how Hipsters would write it, the bad grammar being intentional and ironic. Hipsters fairly commonly call things “gay” not because they’re homophobes (I know plenty of gay Hipsters) but because they’re trying to be ironic in using such a low-brow insult while pretending to be intellectually superior to the rest of the population.

    It’s actually because of Ur So Gay that I took another look at I Kissed a Girl (I hated it at first) and started to wonder if there was something more to the song. I could of course be wrong, this is a lot of speculation, but I think Katy Perry is really quite brilliant.

  71. Paul Harvey
    August 3, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Im not going to be dragged into what the song is or isn’t about…why don’t you ask the writer instead of speculating. Im not suggesting that your interpretation is inaccurate either but as someone who has a degree in English with Language and Linguistics i am well versed in the tripe that literary commentators spout when considering what an author/song writer/poet meant with this line or that.

    However, after closing the blog with the line, “I’m coming at this from a heterosexual perspective. I’d love to hear queer voices on Perry’s song,” perhaps you should think about what you are saying before blogging it, and take a long hard look in the mirror before casting judgement on what someone else meant or intended by a line or lines in a song!!!!

    Heterosexual v Queer???? Where’s the parity there?

  72. KaeLyn
    August 3, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    Wow…this is an old thread. But I feel compelled to comment! Remember when Will and Grace first came out? And the queer community was all in a twist arguing whether it was positive or negative media attention? Now Will and Grace is a called a turning point in queer media history.

    While I have had this same debate with my queer, feminist buds about Katy Perry…about whether we love the song or hate it, there is something here not being talked about.

    Queerness, even if it IS a ridiculous version of bisexual experimentation, is being celebrated in mainstream media. Do Tila Tequila and Katy Perry offend me on some level for all of the reasons above? Yes. Did I end up watching Tila Tequila on an all afternoon marathon one day, all the while critiquing the gendered “blue and pink” and ridiculous sexualization of women-on-women sex from the male gaze AND enjoying myself? Totally. The fact that teengage girls are singing along to this tune is enough for me. Ur so gay does offend me, deeply, as I HATE “gay” being used as a signifier for “stupid, lame, etc,” but after looking at the lyrics, I understand more what she is trying to convey. Still think that it perpetuates homophobia. And I still think I kissed a girl perpetuates stereotypes about bisexuals, but this is a step in the right direction, if you look at the larger picture.

    If just one teenage girl hears her own coming out story in this song, or realizes it’s OK to act on her attraction to women, I’m happy. If it opens to door for queer topics and, eventually, queer artists to become mainstream, I’m ecstatic.

    A great use of these song against Degrassi footage (which is one of the first shows marketed to teens that truly addresses coming out).

  73. Mandy
    August 3, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Coming from a girl with a Christian background (that being Katy Perry, not me) the song takes on a different connotation. I agree with your “analysis” of the song. I thought it was fun and upbeat until I read the words and learned more about her.

    I think its just to get her attention. Or her boyfriend’s attention. Either way, I don’t take it seriously.

  74. August 4, 2008 at 3:10 am

    Again, it’s just another piece of pop culture from the male point of view – add it to the 99.9% of other points of view we’re presented with in the media and life in general. It doesn’t matter if a woman wrote it (I don’t know if Perry did), but either way, this post hits the nail on the head. It’s a shame because I love the music, but the lyrics irk me.

    I am straight, and frankly I really hate that point of view that all women are “thisclose” to being bi-sexual or gay, but men are so clearly defined as one or the other; basically, we’re pliable playthings and they’re not. I’d really love an equivalent of this song about a guy that is all about a woman doing what she wants because she wants to do it, and has none of that “teasing” crap to it. Can’t see that happening in the near future though.

  75. B
    August 4, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    I don’t know what to think about this song. On the one hand, the lines you cite and the video itself are pretty damning. On the other, I am sorely tempted to seek irony, mockery of the stereotype the song seems to embody, or some kind of social commentary in that song. I’m tempted because no matter how clearly negative this song is, I LIKE it (and I’m bisexual!). Several of my best girl friends are bisexual, too, and they also love it. Even my super-aware, feminist straight friends like it. Maybe the way she blatantly, defiantly declares her like for kissing a girl makes me feel empowered regardless of everything else she says. Maybe the juxtaposition of that defiance and acknowledgments of guilt keys into the struggle between knowing what you’re doing is right and being scared of judgment that many queer women feel. Maybe it’s just the peppy beat and snarky singing voice. I don’t honestly know. But this song has me hooked.

  76. Ophelia
    August 5, 2008 at 1:02 am

    Listening to her songs, I feel like Perry’s being a lot more ironic than you give her credit for. Her brash, powerful, almost teasing voice signifies to me that she’s playing with the signifiers in her music. It seems like it’s all one big half-serious, inflated stereotype joke.

    When she belts out that she “liked it,” that seem like a defiance of the expectation that she shouldn’t feel anything, that she should just be kissing girls because the boys like it. I think the idea that that she was personally, independently wanting to kiss a girl is supported by her explaining that she “got so brave, drink in hand,” which means to me that she wanted to do it before and for her own reasons. She’s “curious,” and girls “caught [her]attention.” Also, she doesn’t hope her boyfriend likes it, she hopes he “doesn’t mind it,” and she sounds much more like she’s implying “and if he doesn’t he can screw off” rather than “if he doesn’t I’ll beg forgiveness.” Katy Perry is in control of her own sexuality, and shes asserting whatever she damn well pleases with that.

    Part of that total power trip she’s on is that she’s also instrumentalizing the girl she’s with. But take a look at the situation – drunk, possibly straight girls kissing at a party. The assumption is that it’s a casual encounter, and I don’t think experimentation is wrong in that instance. I think she’s right that it doesn’t have to be “in love tonight.” Yes, it sucks to be hit on by some attention whore seeking male titillation, but given Perry’s character is at least interested in girls, it seems like a more honest experimentation than that. A kiss is just a kiss, not a life commitment or even a date.

    The most concerning parts are when she calls the girl she kisses an “experimental game” and talks about trying her on. But it’s certainly descriptive of the way a lot of party girls treat each other. I think those parts are either a snapshot of the darker underbelly of experimentation, or an assertion of Perry’s character’s power. Yes, it’s masculine, dominating, individualized power. But it’s also heady, and sometimes a girl has to claim that domineering side of herself, even if only in a song (so as to not actually mislead and hurt people).

    P.S. I agree completely with DerekSpade about the Ur So Gay song being clearly about hipsters, with no offense meant to gays.

    P.P.S. Full disclosure: I’m bisexual, and this isn’t just an apologia for a song I like. It’s a genuine opinion.

  77. Thomas Lawrence
    August 12, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Much as I’m disappointed that this song isn’t more progressive than it turned out to be, I think there are positives to be seen here.

    “I kissed a girl, and I liked it”.. the focus here is on her own pleasure, rather than the pleasure of the observing male. They boyfriend is mentioned, yes, but it’s not clear that the whole thing is being performed for his benefit (it’s merely wondered as to whether he would “mind”), while there’s plenty of lyrics to support the protagonist’s own enjoyment as being paramount.

    The lyrics about it “not what good girls do” have to be seen, I think, in context with the hetero-normative moral paradigms of Middle America (remember Katy Perry’s religious origins here). Agaisnt such a background, expressing bi-curious thoughts is indeed transgressive – and the song comes out of that background, rather than expressing an endorsement of that background. Similar arguments apply to the objectifying language: “don’t even know your name”, “experimental game” etc.

    The overall impression, for me, is that here’s a song about someone from a heteronormative background with bi-curious leanings, who had an experience which was transgressive to the moral norms which surrounded them, but was nonetheless enjoyable.

    No, it’s not the progressive song about lesbian relationships that might have been hoped for – but it’s the cheeky defiance of “I liked it” which sticks in my mind.

    (“Ur So Gay” is indeed about hipsters, but I still don’t approve of “gay” being used to mean “hipsterish and effeminate”, and especially so as a perjorative. Similarly to “I Kissed A girl”, I’m sure it’s all meant in fun, but in that case the use of language does annoy me sufficiently to make me dislike the record.)

  78. A
    August 14, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    I’m a bisexual woman, and I don’t see anything wrong with the song. I mostly agree with Ophelia’s take on it, except that I don’t find any fault with the “experimentation.”

  79. September 29, 2008 at 10:01 am

    I dunno. I can definitely see the anti-gay perspective in it, but at the same time, I can see a very different perspective that land decidedly in the camp of support for queers. (I’m speaking from the perspective of a bisexual woman with a preference leaning towards femmes, if it makes any difference.)

    On one hand, you have what everyone else has pointed out. On the other, in this society, especially for someone who grew up the daughter of fairly conservative Christian parents, no, a girl kissing a girl would NOT be “what good girls do.” I grew up in a very strict Lutheran household and it took me years to wrestle with that very issue when I started realizing that I really liked the female form and not just on an artistic merit. Most people, in fact, are taught to believe that only sinners, or ‘bad girls’ kiss other girls.

    It’s a woman exploring her sexuality, seeing if her attraction to females is more than a passing interest. The alcohol may have given her the guts to do it, but it doesn’t say that the urge hadn’t been there before. Just that it acted as dutch courage, as the saying goes. And come on, that happens all the time in any ‘first move’, regardless of if we’re talking about a queer or a straight match up.

    I assume from the tone of the song and the fact that she’s got a drink in hand that she’s probably at a club, or a bar for this little tryst. It’s not uncommon in either queer or straight interactions to go to a bar for a one-night stand. So chances are, whatever partner she picked up wasn’t looking for anything than a one-night thing, either. If she’s using this opportunity to see if she’s truly sexually attracted to women and her partner isn’t looking to fall in love either, then so be it. If she were leading on someone who was genuinely interested, I’d have a problem, but the tone of the song and the setting it presents says this girl she kissed probably wasn’t genuinely interested beyond a good lay.

    And if we are indeed talking about a one-night stand, how often do straight people have one-night affairs without ever knowing their partner’s name? It’s not any more immoral for what Katy’s ‘character’ within this song is doing than it would be if it were a typical male/female dynamic in the song. (I’m not going into the morality of that kind of arrangement, because that’s not really my business and I say, as long as everyone’s consenting, more power to you.)

    Now, with her waking up in bed with her boyfriend and smiling like that? Well, you could interpret it as her waking up and happily snuggling back ‘where she belongs, with her opposite-sex partner’, or you could see a very “cat with cream on its whiskers” smug smile of a lady with a very dirty secret. She had an affair. More than that, she had an affair that society tells her is doubly wrong because it was with another woman, and oh, she loved every bit of it.

    I know this article is so old and probably hasn’t been commented on in ages, but I just thought I’d put my two cents in.

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