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May 27 2010

Lady Gaga: Music Videos As Porn

Media-gaga I realize that I’m late to the Lady Gaga party. (Hey, I’m 48 years old. Cut me some slack.) But I gotta say — I’m impressed.

If I just listened to her music, I’d only be moderately interested. I think her music is perfectly fun, well- above- average dance pop music. But I’ve been watching her music videos… and they’re making me think that this woman is a force to be reckoned with. (Yes, I realize she doesn’t direct her own videos — but they are clearly collaborations, strongly shaped by her artistic vision, and they’re a central part of her public persona.)

And what’s striking me about Lady Gaga’s music videos is not just how smart they are, or how imaginative, or how lovingly crafted and visually stunning, or how just flat-out funny. What’s striking me about Lady Gaga’s music videos is how strongly influenced they are by sex culture: by fetish fashion, by sexploitation flicks, and by plain old dirty porn.

What’s more, they seem to be strongly influenced by these cultures, not as an outsider, not as someone who’s manipulating this imagery to titillate/ shock the audience, but as an insider, someone who’s intimately familiar with both sex culture and sexual marginalization. This isn’t Britney Spears, using schoolgirl or slavegirl or girl- on- girl imagery to excite her audience without any apparent understanding or affinity for it. Lady Gaga’s music videos (coupled with her interviews about her work) show a thoughtful, informed insight into polymorphous perversity. She has an analysis that could easily hold its own in any queer theory/ gender theory/ sex theory forum — and damn do I love a sexy girl with an analysis! — and her freak flag is waving high and proud.

In a way that — if I can be crass for a moment — makes her videos very functional as porn. I’ve certainly seen other music videos that turned me on. I can’t remember seeing any that made me this hungry to watch them again and again… with a vibrator handy.

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Thus begins my latest “Media Darling” piece for Carnal Nation, Lady Gaga: Music Videos As Porn. To find out more about how Lady Gaga’s music videos are influenced by sex culture and porn — and how they’re different from other music videos that use sex to sell — read the rest of the piece. (And if you feel inspired to comment here, please consider cross-posting your comment to Carnal Nation — they like comments there, too.) Enjoy!

10 comments

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  1. 1
    The_sun_and_i

    That’s so funny! I just started watching Lady Gaga videos in earnest for the first time yesterday, and have been thinking about the interesting issues of gender, sexuality, and artistic interpretation she and her videos bring up. That moment in Bad Romance where she falls on her hands and knees and the camera pans back to show the guy watching… simultaneously titillating for me as a subbie and thought-provoking for me as a student of sexuality and gender representations. I’m starting to come around to the view that she fundamentally embraces sexuality, in a queer and subversive way, though there’s a certain extent to which her gender exaggerations and some of the more uncomfortably sexual/eroticized-inequality moments (uncomfortable: I watched Telephone in one of my classes and had to really work not to squirm in my seat) strike me as deliberately discomfiting satire of the patriarchal treatment of women as fundamentally sex objects and bodies to be viewed and used by males. But anyway, yay Gaga!

  2. 2
    The_sun_and_i

    Oh, also I’m Amanda/Angel Kaida. I’ve commented here and emailed you before. I just signed in on Twitter now because the thing told me to. Sorry about that.

  3. 3
    jemand

    FUCK! It just ate one of my comments!
    Anyway… I will say I love lady Gaga’s videos in a sort of intellectual way, I like her exploration of kink and gender and sex theory etc… BUT I’m pretty solidly a straight girl at heart…
    The music videos I go back to most often for ‘porn’ purposes are these:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-Isl_KX2WQ
    and some others by Whitesnake. Probably much less intellectual than Lady Gaga, but… I have *never* found guys like that in mainstream hetero video porn :(
    And even when you *can* search for characteristics on porn sites, it’s only ever the women, I can’t say ‘hot shaved guys in long hair with tight pants and awesome cars…’ lol.
    But that’s my whine about modern porn and is probably only tangential to the post :)

  4. 4
    Maria

    I agree, jemand. If you like a certain kind of men, you are pretty much out of luck when it comes to porn, straight or gay…

  5. 5
    Francenia Andrews Zeve

    I wanted to go look at this, but I’m in a Catholic hospital at the moment and they have some kind of parental control thing set up. I’m more than a little offended.

  6. 6
    Francenia Andrews Zeve

    By the hospital’s policy. I love your blog.

  7. 7
    Spencer

    Has Typepad been acting up? I swear I posted a comment about my Gender Studies major neighbor across the hall who wrote a paper on Gaga, but it’s nowhere to be found.

  8. 8
    Jen

    On man-porn: I used to think of myself as primarily turned on by women, until I started watching versions of popular music videos performed by amateur male dancers. Here’s my favorite, and the hottest music video I can think of (although “Bad Romance” is now a close second):

    When I watched that “split” video above, I realized I was looking at each video about 50/50. The women in music videos weren’t hot because they were women–they were hot because of what they were DOING, and for whatever reason, we live in a culture in which men don’t do those things. (If you know of a site where they do, do let me know!)
    A man wearing hot pants and shaking his butt gets called gay, with an implied “and you don’t want to be GAY, do you?” as though all sexiness is just a way to appease the male gaze–not for women, certainly not to turn yourself on. That’s always someone else’s job, I guess.
    Now I identify as “sexy isn’t a gender, it’s a language” (and also as asexual: most days sex never crosses my mind, and the whole genitals thing really doesn’t do it for me). I’m just posting this here for now, if that’s okay. I don’t like new places and I’m not a carnal person. If you think Carnal Nation needs these ideas, you’re welcome to write a post about it.

  9. 9
    genos jong

    You defintely are a funny writer.And you seem honest as well.It really is fun to read your articles.Unique in ”blogging land”.
    http://www.gio-reviews.com

  10. 10
    Martin

    Invariably pop music is contrived by vacuous record company twats & talentless wannabes with video cash to convince you to “buy in” to the style, shock or attitude so people part with their hard earned cash. Although Gaga is perhaps no different in her ambition; can’t help admiring her liberated sister act. As for being 48 years old, stuff that! It’s never too late to start exploring who you really are & enjoy life beyond the programmed conformity that bullshit society forces on people from a very young age. Feel the fear and do it anyway, just don’t tell the buggers where you live because the uptight straight edged conformists are perhaps the weirdest of us all.

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