Trigger Warning: Discussion of Sexual Violence Against Queer Women Mentioned Later In This Article.
This week Elle’s Trish Bendix published an interview with Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui during which Jauregui speaks about her collaboration on the song “Strangers” with Halsey. During this interview, Jauregui highlights that, although there are plenty of artists writing queer music and creating queer music videos, the music created by queer musicians such as The Internet’s Syd and actress/singer Hayley Kiyoko do not achieve the same amount of success as songs like Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl and Demi Lovato’s Cool for the Summer. The article goes on to explain that both I Kissed a Girl and Cool for the Summer “…used naughtiness and titillating imagery of cherries to let listeners know they were flirting with bisexuality, but still plausibly straight”. Jauregui explains that these types of songs “sexualize women in relationships with each other” and appeal far more to straight men than they do to queer women.
As was easily predictable, the article caused quite a stir and “Stan Twitter” was up in arms over their idols being critiqued.
Lauren Jauregui is really cancelled pic.twitter.com/dg45rydMQR
— َ (@arronofsky) June 1, 2017
The calls for Jauregui to be “cancelled” were met with praise of the comments Lauren Jauregui made during the interview, praise for the queer anthem she and Halsey collaborated on, and further critique on the lack of complexity queer women’s relationships are afforded in the media.
How is she cancelled? For making a point about over-sexualization of LGBTQ+ women? Damn you all are reaching for some reason to be mad LMAO
— ashbel ? (@spelIweavers) June 2, 2017
Notice that Lauren never said they fetishized women as a whole, but that the songs fetishized queer relationships between women.
— spencer (@acefaace) June 1, 2017
Blinded by adoration for their idols, their own unresolved queerphobia, or a combination of both, many were missing the larger picture, which is that the hyper-sexualization of relationships between queer women adds to the stigma around bisexuality and womanhood, serves as a basis for the violence queer women endure, and no one’s “fave” is exempt from being critiqued for participating in or enabling the invalidation of or violence against queer women.
Katy Perry and Demi Lovato are just two of many artists who actively queerbait or “tease” audiences with detectably queer subtext in their music and media projects without ever actually following through after the initial “tease”. Many artists do this to generate buzz about a single they’re releasing or to increase their sexually appeal. As Lauren Jauregui eloquently explained in her interview with Elle, the reduction of an entire identity to sexual appeal is harmful to the queer community.
Because lesbian and bisexual women are constantly represented as being the source of straight men’s sexual pleasure in much of the media the general public consumes, queer womanhood is not conceptualized in the same way heterosexuals and heteroromantics are. Heterosexuality is not questioned. Heterosexuality does not cause debate. Heterosexual relationships are inherently seen as beautiful, as romantic, as complex, as worth fighting for, as normal. There has never been a time during which a female heterosexual person has been made to feel ashamed about bringing home their partner because he is a man. Meanwhile, much of our media presents relationships between women as kinky, as illegitimate, as a phase, and as a quick way to spice up the plot line of our favorite television show. This translates to queer women having to learn that their sexuality is not questionable, is not controversial, is not ugly, is not incapable of being something sought after, and is not inferior to heterosexuality.
(TW: Sexual Assault, Depression & Suicide). This also translates to queer women suffering from mental illness and being the targets of sexual violence at rates much higher than heterosexual women. According to The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence’s 2010 survey, approximately 35% of straight women have experienced stalking, physical violence, or rape at some point in their lives. Meanwhile, 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women have experienced stalking, physical violence, or rape at some point in their lives. A study done the following year concluded that bisexual women were far more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than straight and even gay women. Researchers credit this high rate to the weight of the stigma surrounding bisexuality has on bisexual women.
The belittlement and hyper-sexualization of one’s identity has consequences. When we are all socialized to see queer women as mere commodities and inhuman, straight men feel entitled to the bodies of queer women, female entertainers feel justified in using an identity to sell albums, and queer women are left to suffer in silence because after all, it is all just “a phase”.
So when members of the LGBTQIA community speak about this and offer those outside the community with guidance regarding how to begin addressing poor media representation, shut up, listen, and be appreciative that education is even being offered to you.