On February 24, 2016, I’ll be hosting a pre-release party on Periscope and Snapchat for my first EP, Sex Rock. Everyone who tunes in will also be sent a private link to a digital naked swag bag hosted on my naked pay site, OnaGram.com. Given that I’m the only female musician that I know of who has such a site in tandem with her music career, and that I’ve already faced considerable negativity from the music industry, art world, friends, family, and mainstream press for this decision, I feel it’s time to give my reasoning.
It really has to do with what I consider to be a paradox at the heart of feminism that is limiting the creative opportunities of women and the consumer opportunities of men. In order to understand this paradox, one merely needs to look at the history of rock-n-roll and its relationship to female musicians like Madonna, Britney, Beyonce, Lana, Rihanna, Miley, and more. While some might think that these Queens of Pop are part of a trend of sexual liberation, I actually think it’s more complicated. Yes, they’ve busted open some doors for women, but the fact is, what these ladies are allowed to do represents a mere sliver of what male performers are allowed to do. Further, because of the same biases, the opportunities for male music fans are severely limited compared to the opportunities for female fans. Let me explain.
While it might be hard to imagine now, when Elvis started shaking his pelvis on American TV, the world exploded. As Time Magazine put it, Elvis “was all about sex…the sneer, the gyration, the raised eyebrow…everything American parents wanted to suppress in the mid-1950s. Wanted to—but couldn’t.” Now, when we say that Elvis (or any of the male music stars that followed him, including the Beatles, Prince, Bruno Mars, and One Direction) is all about sex, what we’re really saying is that he aroused women and empowered men. Women thought Elvis was sexy, and men felt sexy acting like Elvis. But the core elicitation of arousal was between a male performer and a female audience.
Now, of course, women are making music too, and yet something is different. For all of the pole dancing, nipple slipping, and straight up sex talking of the Queens of Pop, it’s super important to note one simple fact: these women are not “eliciting arousal” from their audiences because their fans are predominantly women (please note: all genders in this article are cis and straight, and all listener trends are based on Spotify data). So why are they so popular? Because what they’re doing for their mostly female audience is what Elvis did for his male audience members: sexually empowering, not sexually arousing, them.
Female fans are sexually empowered by female performers and sexually aroused by male performers, and the things those performers do for their female fans are the meat and potatoes of pop media coverage. But what about male fans? Sure, they’re sexually empowered by acts like Linkin Park, Lil’ Wayne, and Daft Punk, and that fandom is covered in the mainstream press, but what about being sexually aroused? For that, men don’t turn to music performers, they turn to porn stars, a massive fandom environment that definitely isn’t covered by popular media.
In other words, female music stars don’t elicit arousal like male music stars do because they, unlike men, are barred by industry and cultural prejudices from participating in the core rock-n-roll relationship: the elicitation by the performer of sexual arousal in the audience. Let me put that another way. If a female performer seeking a male audience wanted to equal the sexual arousal power of the sharply dressed Beatles singing “I want to hold your hand” to a female audience, she’d have to sing “I want to suck your cock” either fully or mostly naked to a male audience. Problem is, if she did that, she’d get no press, no label, no sales, no tour, and she’d have to just stick to the only market where her attitude is remunerated: porn.
And here’s where the “paradox at the heart of feminism” comes in. See, on the one hand, feminists are pushing for women to have equal pay in the workplace and to smash glass ceilings so they can gain economic power. On the other hand, a good number of feminists are against women maximally exploiting their sex appeal (which for women ultimately means getting naked with the intent to elicit masturbation), because they claim it’s demeaning. But the fact is, men maximally exploit their sex appeal all the time by being rich, dressing well, and acting sensitive and educated. That’s sexy to women. What’s sexy to men? Something a bit less clothed. So, yeah, men have it easier. They can be supremely sexy just by being safe for work. But because women can’t be—because they have to go further in a different direction to sexually arouse men—they are constantly ignored or slut-shamed.
If feminists and the mainstream media really want to empower women, they need to accept a few things. First, there is a direct correlation in the entertainment industry between sex and power. Second, what makes men sexy to women is completely different from what makes women sexy to men, and nothing is going to change that (i.e., we need to stop thinking we can change men’s minds about what is sexy). Most importantly, women need to be supported, just like men are, in being fully sexually realized and in doing whatever elicits the most sexual arousal from their fans, and the media needs to cover them just as much as they cover men, even if it means featuring women who engage in NSFW content.
I want to be free and sexual. I want to arouse my fans. And I don’t want to be slut-shamed or ignored for it. I don’t want PR agencies to tell me they won’t represent me because “no indie journalist will take you seriously.” I don’t want the art world to keep telling me that if I use my sex appeal in my art, “it’s not art.” And I don’t want the mainstream media to suppress me because my art is NSFW. Rather, I want to be able to stand tall and proud while being supremely sexy just like male rock stars get to, and I want to be given a fair chance in my profession and the press even if my creative expression is NSFW. Men deserve the right to have the same level of arousal-eliciting fandom as women, and women deserve the opportunity to be able to give it to them and reap the benefits just like men. That is true progress and equality.
And that’s why I’m a naked rock star. Just like Timberlake can elicit arousal from his female audience by putting on his dashing suit and singing about love, I can elicit arousal from my male audience by taking off my bathing suit and singing about sex. If Pharrell were to show his thing, he’d be shunned by his fans for doing something disgusting. If I show my thing, I’m loved by my fans for doing something arousing. Or, as I think of it, I’m a Female Elvis.
Long live rock-n-roll.