Sex Sells, but Does it Convey Power for Women?

perry

Music Video Critique

California Gurls by Katy Perry is an upbeat, danceable pop song in which Perry has somewhat modelled the message of “California Girls” by The Beach Boys; the girls of California are all beautiful and perfect. Perry, however, includes hyper-sexualized notions of power in her song and video in regards to gender; women are powerful if they are sexually attractive, and likewise, can gain power from acting provocatively. With the rise of third-wave feminism, some female entertainers are becoming more sexually explicit in public. I argue that although sex is not shameful, providing people with explicit depictions of one’s body is a form of relinquishing power and only serves to reinforce negative stereotypes of women.

The video begins with a Candy Land- like game, with Snoop Dogg as the “Sugar Daddy,” who controls Perry’s moves as she moves through the game. The lyrics “warm, wet and wild” are accompanied with visuals of a dripping ice cream cone as well as Perry licking white frosting off a popsicle (subtle). Perry’s ascent to the clouds is when the video becomes increasingly sexual: Perry is nude except for a bit of cloud covering her backside. As the music video continues, there are lyrics that read: “sex on the beach,” where the word ‘sex’ is sung very breathy by Perry, possibly to draw attention to the word and also to possibly to induce images and sounds of sex for the listener. Speaking of sex sounds, Perry continuously makes ‘ugh!’ sounds and we see a three-dimensional popsicle quiver and then melt (oh so subtle). The finale of the video involves Perry ‘defeating’ Snoop Dogg with the help of her girlfriends, using two whipped cream bottles that appear to be ejaculating as Perry simulates manual sex (this video should really have a recommended age for it).

Perry seems to be trying to convey that women can use their sexuality as a strategy for gaining power in a man’s world. Being so ‘hot’ you can cause someone to reach climax is a must for women, apparently. Perry may view herself as a bargaining chip of some kind in the music industry; artists know that if they create a big enough buzz, they will command attention, which equals money in the entertainment industry.  Rogers writes in her 2013 article on The Guardian, that entertainers’ value is no longer solely attached to record sales, but from media sites, such as Twitter and music video hits. This new definition of popularity has changed the music industry enormously. More often, record companies are no longer interested in developing a performer based on musicianship; they build commodities, making the most amount of money possible. Female artists undressing, or being scantily-clad is not surprising anymore.

Perry is one of the many artists willing to undress to sell. She is hugely successful, but is perhaps not respected as a true musician. Some singer-songwriter females show that more women over men remove their clothing and act in provocative ways in the music industry, possibly to the detriment to the artist themselves. This may reinforce ideas that women are not ‘true’ musicians but simply marketing ploys, which reinforces the notion that when women build a career on their sexuality, the public does not necessarily take them seriously as genuine artists. Furthermore, removing one’s clothing in return for profit could be argued as a form of prostitution;  female artists presenting more and more outrageous things in order to maintain their relevancy serves as a negative stereotype that woman are not true musicians, that they are relying on sex appeal to sell records instead of musical talent. This sexualisation may also trap these females in a cycle, constantly having to ‘one-up’ each other to sell themselves. Contrary to what women may think, using one’s body and sex appeal does not appear to conduce power or respect. If one’s agenda is to solely gain money, though, this lack of legitimacy may not be worrying.

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