Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care a lot about that may not necessarily have serious implications for politics or social justice. Although any day is a good day to write about our passions outside of social issues, we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun.
Content Notice: Discussions of sexuality and kink.
For my first bout of official network-sanctioned frivolity (which coincidentally coincides with my 28th birthday) I will be taking a look at three songs where some aspect of them made much more sense after a coming-out by the singer, in the case of Livin’ La Vida Loca by Ricky Martin; the first person I ever asked out, our date involving the song Big Spender from Sweet Charity; and me, which explains my love for Depeche Mode’s Master and Servant.
This, of course, is in part inspired by thinking about Prince.
Livin’ La Vida Loca: A Confused Outsider’s Interpretation of Cultural Heterosexuality
I won’t be disappointed if all you remember about this very-late-90’s hit is the hotness of Ricky Martin’s hips. He was like the Latino Elvis, his gyrations spurring us younger people into “What’s happening to my body?” moments and our moms into giggles as they felt things they hadn’t felt in a while (or ever).
No seriously, moms of every ethnicity seemed to completely adore this song, even as the more conservative ones pretended like they had never heard of this pelvis-y pretty boy before even as they cherished their copies of his eponymous American debut album. Quite kinky, in hindsight, them pretending like it was their first time every time.
The tune’s catchiness and its singer’s sexy appeal aside, the lyrics feel like something an alien might write after watching, listening to, and reading a representative selection of heterosexual romantic works, and then trying to write something of their own. The alien is not horrified by the human body and pretending not to be, nor are they unaware of how the human body works. Instead, they are trying to sound like everyone else without completely copying anyone in particular, and perhaps getting a little creative when they feel bold.
The central figure in the song, the never-named “she”, is an obvious attempt to invoke the exotic temptress stereotype with her devil-red lips and mocha skin (never forget the horribly problematic history and reality associated with this trope). The traits celebrated in the song, however, are not exactly what most men attracted to women think of when they think about women they want to fuck. Dancing in the rain is something a Manic Pixie Dream Girl might convince her Sad Dude to do, but in clothing; adding the stripping part brings it closer to sounding like the command of an exotic temptress but it doesn’t quite land. She does a lot of cool things, mimicking the exciting life of the classic party girl, but also drugs and steals from men, which is too dark for a party girl and still too dark even for a temptress. It’s more maneater than anything.
The lyrics alone are enough, but the video really makes case (warning: there are flashy lights in parts of it). Now watch it again, and this time, don’t just watch Ricky’s pants, okay? Take the whole thing in.
Does anything say “peak heterosexuality tropes of that era” more than:
- Ladies swaying in very high heels
- More women than men present overall
- Wet ladies swaying
- A lady acting sexy in a red sportscar being driven by the man
- Sexy-acting sportscar lady not being even close to mocha-skinned
- A man and a woman making out in front of posters of another straight duo making out
- Those tops that are basically small pieces of shiny fabric with strings attached
- Bass guitar close-ups (or is that just me with my history of dating bassists? please advise)
Its straightness ends up feeling like brands at the discount store: It looks close to what it’s attempting to be, but it’s not quite there, and why won’t it just be itself already, yeesh?
Big Spender: Subverted for Discomfort
I have no idea what I intended to do when I asked a crush out in high school. I was still a headscarf-wearing Muslim. I had no intention of not being one or doing anything to mess up my Muslim life. I was not an apostate or even close to one. I think I just wanted to try acting on my feelings instead of quietly yearning for once (though I didn’t read Hamlet until the fall afterwards). My mom somehow found out after he and I had hung out just once, and I “broke up” something that hadn’t even started. Years later, he came out as gay.
That outing? A dance showcase that included a number set to this song and included a male dancer in a corset. It was hot, fun, and well done. We both applauded very enthusiastically.
Afterwards, he thanked me for covering the cost of the tickets (look at me and my egalitarian ass even back then!) and joked that although he’d had fun, perhaps next time we could attend something that didn’t involve “cross-dressers or gay strippers.” His performative discomfort after being fine with things the night-of made sense after he came out. He was trying to cover his bases.
I’ve lost touch with him for years now. I hope he has come into his own even more.
Master and Servant: The Kink Isn’t As Incongruous As I’d Thought
My Three Stages of Listening to Master and Servant:
- As an uncorrupted, fairly naive person with a mainstream (read: vague) understanding of kink: “Oooh, kinky! Also, political! This is so edgy.” *downloads every gif from this video on the official Depeche Mode website*
- As a smug person well-educated on the theory of but just getting into the real kink and the sex-poz/alt-sex scene in general: “LOL, this song really doesn’t sound right. Usually, it’s Master and slave (note that the second word should be in lower-case and the first should be capitalized to show the power differentials). Also, puppy play is a different thing from Master/slave play.” *deletes the gifs in as superior fashion as might be mustered*
- As a seasoned (let’s not say jaded) vet of kink/alt-sex: “Oh man, this is so playful, and the personal is political, and I wish there were more fun and more self-aware politics in kink, ughhhh.” *wishes they still had the gifs*
Part of what got me from Stage 1 to 2, and very much what brought me to Stage 3 from 2, was embracing my queerness. While being kinky doesn’t necessarily make someone anything but straight, for me, my experiences with people who aren’t cis men very much opened me up to different ways of having sex (Greta once wrote a lovely piece about this phenomenon). When you stop focusing on reproductive-style genital arousal and use, and start focusing on the various forms by which pleasure might be exchanges, the very word “sex” evolves and changes in its meaning into something that encompasses and includes more people and experiences.