Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Saturday, January 5, 2013

This is My Jam: Katy Perry - Peacock

As part of my New Year's resolutions (about which I will write more here later), I've resolved to write here at least once a week. That should keep things interesting. I will have a schedule, which I am formulating more clearly right now, but one of the things I will be writing about is the song I post at

For those not in the know, This Is My Jam allows you to post a song to Facebook, Twitter, etc., announcing, like the girl in the convertible Jetta with the top down, that this song, above all others, is "my jam!" A lot of the fun in these sites is the constraint, the 140 characters to which you must limit your discussion of said song. It keeps the commentary tight, and encourages aphorism and wit.

Those who know me, know I prefer the long form, however, and since I'mma let me be me this year, I'm gonna talk at length. About Katy Perry. Because I can.

"Peacock" seems, at first, to be a female empowerment anthem, but really it ends up being entirely heteronormative, in the sense that it centers entirely on penis. Of course, this is done coyly, in that the said appendage is only referenced indirectly (if repeating "I want to see your peacock-cock-cock, your peacock," over and over could be said to be "indirect").

It seems to be at least partially a response to the "Pick Up Artist" community that sprang up a few years ago. As Pick Up Artists, normally unsuccessful men tried to use special manipulative techniques to improve their chances of getting laid. Not only is "mystery" (or "Mister E" a sort-of celebrity in Pick Up Artist circles) referenced, but "peacocking" is a well-known technique in the PUA community. It's pretty gross and sexist, and dubiously successful. Google "Pick Up Artist" if you want to know more, but I must warn you, your faith in humanity may be compromised.

Beyond that, though, there is something incredibly compelling about this song. The idea of Katy Perry, all wide-eyed faux innocence and body built for sin, singing a song about dick, is really hot to me. It's dirty. I am, for better or worse, a target audience for this song.

There's a taunting quality to it, too, a turning of the tables on the "show us your tits" douchebag that's fun to watch. This is where she's being supposedly empowering. And then she subverts her own subversion with the middle bridge where she finally gets to see said peacock, and rhapsodizes unreservedly about her love of it. The fantasy becomes, not one of female empowerment, but of worship by the female of the male. The way she does her fantasy fulfillment is interesting here, however.

Like another song in Katy's ouvre, "I Kissed a Girl," there's a feigned subversion of the heteronormative relationship that actually serves to reinforce the dominant paradigm. She's doing something that is supposedly "out there", but really it builds up the male ego. In "Peacock" she's teasing and taunting, only to swoon in amazement and joy when finally "shown the goods." In "I Kissed a Girl" she goes outside her "normal" sexual parameters, but only to reinforce what men find attractive, and she even looks to her "boyfriend" for approval.

Katy Perry traffics in fantasy fulfillment. The fact that I dig the fantasy notwithstanding, she is fascinating for what she reflects back to us of our sexual politics.

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