A Brief History of Songs About Lesbian Sex

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If you listen to popular music, it might seem like love songs are being eclipsed by tunes about raw passion. So many tracks include lyrics about secret rendezvous and highly sexual situations, and while most of them are explicitly male-female pairings, there has been a noticeable uptick in those that are about two women getting busy in the bedroom. And I’m not talking about the “Girl Crush” and “I Kissed a Girl” kind of songs that are tongue-in-cheek teases; I mean the singing of actually doing the deed, like Demi Lovato‘s “Cool for the Summer” and now Miley Cyrus‘s “Bang Me Box.” Here are some lyrics from the latter:

Want to lick it so much that it’s almost like I taste it on the tip of my tongue
I want to touch it so bad that it’s almost like I can feel it on my fingertips
I want yours inside of me, but don’t forget where I like licking baby
I want to make your fantasies realities I want to be yours baby

While this is one of the more explicit songs to come from an out musician, it’s certainly not the first, and there’s been a few decades of history behind both queer and straight female artists creating songs about two women being intimate.

In 1992, k.d. lang had tongues wagging when she released “Constant Craving.” Although the song is much more suggestive than it is blatant, k.d.’s coming out the same year clued listeners in to what she couldn’t get enough of. 

kd-constant-craving

The next year, Melissa Etheridge‘s coming out and entire album, Yes I Am, echoes this same kind of same-sex wanting. Everyone knew the songs were about intimate relationships with women, even if no pronouns or female-specific body parts made it into the lyrics. Twenty years later, Melissa’s song “All The Way Home,” got her 2014 album banned from Barnes and Noble.

I’m gonna take off honey take the brake off
When I break down the door
Your hips slide like a rip tide honey I’m a surfboard
I said honey I’m a surfboard

In the late ’90s, Me’Shell Ndegéocello‘s song “Beautiful” was so simple, but so very effective in getting the point across.

Such pretty hair
May I kiss you
May I kiss you there
So beautiful you are
So beautiful
Please don’t move
It feel so good to me
Hmm tell me my
Beautiful

That same year, The Butchies released “Sex (I’m a Lesbian)” and were followed up by arguably the most well-known track about lesbian sex, Melissa Ferrick‘s “Drive.” The last song on her 2000 album Freedom had a thumbing bassline and some heavy breathing to accompany what had the most explicitly sexual lyrics about lesbian lovemaking thus far:

Your mouth waters
stretched out on my bed
your fingers are trembling
and your heart is heavy and red
and your head is bent back
and your back is arched
my hand is under there
holding you up 

So while pre-2000s songs about women making love to other women were written and sung by queer women themselves, the trend of heterosexual women (or those who have never said otherwise) singing on the subject began to emerge. What became most noticeable was that these lyrics (and often accompanying music videos) had a different take on what was going on. The lust expressed in songs like Rihanna‘s “Te Amo” (2009) is much more about lesbian sex being illicit—something the singer shouldn’t want, but she does. And it’s not the kind of concern or self-doubt innately expressed by lesbian musicians who are singing from a place of being oppressed. Instead, they are about exploring that “bad girl” side; that temporary part of you that gets wild for one night—or “cool for the summer.”

Yes we can dance.
But you gotta watch your hands.
Watch me all night.
I move under the light because I understand.
That we all need love, and I’m not afraid.
I feel the love but I don’t feel that way.

Out bisexual women created songs around the same time, including The Veronicas‘ “Take Me on the Floor” (“You kill me with your touch”) and Missy Higgins‘ “Secret” (“And you threw me down, said, ‘If ya don’t mind I’m gonna leave you here until night time, Then we can do what we want my baby out of the spotlight.”) The Veronicas song was much closer to the themes of Rihanna, Demi and Katy’s songs, though, while Missy details a real life relationship she had with a closeted woman who wanted their relationship to be kept under wraps. The song and the story go deeper than a dance-floor moment of desire.

Stills from The Veronicas “Take Me On The Floor” videoveronicas2 veronicas

Although hip hop is not the most LGBT-friendly genre, it is sometimes the most sexually explicit. At the beginning of her career, Nicki Minaj rapped about her interest in women in songs like “Girls Kissing Girls” and was assumed bisexual. (She later clarified she is not interested in women.) In “212,” Azealia Banks made it clear she was interested in women (“Now she wanna lick my plum in the evenin'”), and rappers like Azealia and Angel Haze are open in life and music about their sexual identities. Still, neither has produced as explicit of a track as God-Des and She‘s “Lick It,” which serves as a musical instructional manual for going down on a woman.

Spread out her lips before you kiss
You wanna make sure that you find the clit
Lick a little bit then move it all around
Lick it all over ’til you hear her make a sound

It’s become less taboo to sing about same-sex physicality (at least for women), and even songs that are still in the not-so-specific-lesbian (but-oh-so-lesbian) vein, such as Tegan and Sara‘s “Closer” (“All you think of lately is getting underneath me” are mainstream hits. And more than ever, women of all identities, from Jess Glynne to Kehlani (“First Position”), are both talking about and singing more blatantly about their relationships with women. Because there have likely been so many other songs about same-sex female scenarios throughout history that we never knew were about two women, though some we might have suspected.

A shift has been made, though. Instead of innuendos and basing themes off of the singer’s own sexual identity, lesbianism and bisexuality have been borrowed for a titillation tactic, and more often than not, those songs are the ones that become the most well-known by the general pop-music-listening public. Inside the queer community, most might say “Drive” is the go-to lesbian sex track. Outside of it, “I Kissed a Girl” would probably come to mind. And as well all know, that song was much less sensual than Melissa Ferrick’s ditty. 

All of this begs the question how truthful should a song be for fans to be able to enjoy it? It’s debatable, considering music has a different purpose for most everyone. There are passive listeners like there are hardcore audiophiles, and queer women are, obviously, not all in one camp. But like movies and television that depict lesbian sex and sexuality, it is often the case that those that have an actual queer woman involved turn out to be more realistic and true. That’s not to say straight women can’t write a good lesbian sex song, but I’m sure they’ll keep on trying.

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