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Feminine Affection: An Analysis of Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl"

Updated on July 4, 2015
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I have a B.A. in English with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. I've been a Goth since age fourteen, and a Pagan since age fifteen.

Katy Perry Wordmark
Katy Perry Wordmark | Source

Are you a fan of Katy Perry?

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Katy Perry's single "I Kissed a Girl" was released in 2008 off her first album One of the Boys. It was an instant hit, but unfortunately brought expected controversy because of society's perspective on female sexual expression. I wasn't a fan of Perry's until we analyzed the video in one of my women's studies classes, a few years ago. My professor's comments completely changed my opinion of Katy, her song, and video.

As with any literary analysis, there is a distinction between Katy and the narrator. Any musician can sing a song they did not write and/or a song about something they did not experience which makes them a performer of what the narrator is saying; therefore, I will specify between Katy and the narrator in "I Kissed a Girl."

Whether you the reader are a fan or despise Katy, I would like to analyze her work to show why the song and video are worthy of a closer examination.

Do you think "I Kissed a Girl" objectifies women?

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"Us girls we are so magical
Soft skin, red lips, so kissable
Hard to resist so touchable
Too good to deny it
Ain't no big deal, it's innocent"

Many argue the song objectifies women.

Wait, there is objectification of women in the music industry? Alert the media!

Watch any hip-hop music video and take note of the women in "skimpy" clothes. Then, report back! Unlike in these situations, as the artist, Katy was not coerced into wearing or doing what she does in the video. It's part of her art. She is making a positive statement about women with this video. Katy is celebrating the beauty of women; she isn't making them into objects. When a woman chooses to express her sensuality, of her own free will, the audience often points the finger, telling her it's wrong to do so, but shouldn't the question really be about if it was her choice or not?

Lips Stamp
Lips Stamp | Source

"...It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight
I kissed a girl and I liked it
I liked it"

In any gender studies course, there will be a discussion asking, "Why is it when a woman sleeps with several partners, she is given negative labels such as 'slut,' 'whore,' 'tramp,' etc., but men are given positive titles such as 'pimp,' 'stud,' and 'bachelor?'" The double standard is ever present. Women are looked down upon for exploring their sexuality freely while men gain more respect with each new partner. In "I Kissed a Girl," the narrator has freed herself from the gendered social restrictions as a woman.

Do you think the song is about infidelity?

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"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..."

Some argue the song refers to infidelity.

We know the line "I hope my boyfriend don't mind it" means that she is probably trying to be sneaky in what she is doing or at least that she does not have permission from her boyfriend, so it makes listeners feel badly for the guy; however, the video turns her description into a dream. When she awakens, she is next to her boyfriend. Anyone is free to argue either side, since both could find valid points; however, going by the indications from the music video, I have no other choice but to side with a lack of cheating.

When she sings about human nature, she implies that when we have significant others we will always be attracted to other people. Cheating is the act or intention to destroy that previously established relationship by taking that significant other for granted. Since the narrator never says that kissing a girl will end of her relationship, it's clear the song is not promoting infidelity.

Do you think "I Kissed a Girl" is homophobic?

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Some think it's homophobic.

One critic was Zach Rosen. He wrote an article on his interview with Katy because his readers think she is homophobic and objectifies women. Many thought "I Kissed a Girl" is about kissing women as a way to attract men, but as Katy states in the article, it's about how women are more intimate in friendships with each other than men are in their friendships. Hopefully, this analysis article has made it clear that, in the lyrics and video, approval of her boyfriend or any guy is unnecessary. Likewise, her other hit song at the time called "Ur So Gay" apparently made a lot of gay viewers misconstrue her messages to imply that she thinks gay men aren't masculine. In reality, she was poking fun at her metrosexual ex-boyfriend, and has found her gay male friends to be more masculine than some of the men she has dated.

[Music: Katy Perry: The New Gay Interview]

I love a good literary argument as much as the next former English major, but in cases like these it confuses me why there is still gender inequality to fight. Songs with good intent, like this one, should be celebrated rather than policed. Then again, policing is what society often does to female artists. Look at other feminist performers such as Madonna. People continue to debate whether she is immoral or a role model because she refuses to tread lightly to avoid controversy, as though anyone worth admiring would live their lives according to social rules.

The negative attention this song has received makes me think Madonna's "Human Nature" would make a good response. After all, the narrator has been told not to talk about sexuality, but responds with intelligence and confidence in her arguments, asking questions such as "Would it sound better if I were a man?" I would go into more detail as to why that song and video are so strong and important in women's literature, but that is for another day. For now, all I can do is hope my words have inspired someone to look at Katy's song and video in a more positive light.

© 2015 social thoughts


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