Illustration by Gina Ledor
In recent memory there’s been a sort of awakening of women’s sexuality within music. There have always been artists like Madonna who push boundaries with their sexuality, but the amount of women who do so has increased by a lot.
One of these artists is Janelle Monáe, who has been releasing music since the early 2000s but burst into popularity with her debut album, 2010s The ArchAndroid. This album served as the second and third parts of a series of concept albums, but Monáe still managed to bring her own sexuality into the music. Through songs like “Mushrooms & Roses” she discussed her romantic life including talking about somebody named Mary whom she supposedly liked.
In singles from her new album, Dirty Computer, she has further explored her own sexuality. She’s explored themes of loving women in the video for the song “PYNK” where she wears pants modeled after a vagina. In another single, “Django Jane,” she talks about the beauty of being a black women and her successes in recent memory. So what does this mean for music as a whole?
Janelle Monáe is just one example of the increasingly open and celebratory artists in the past few years. Other artists also celebrate their identities and are open with who they are. Cardi B, one of the most popular artists right now, also talks about her own sexuality as a woman rather than her sexual identity as Monáe does. She doesn’t shy away from talking about her own self love when it comes to her body.
Many musicians talk about their sex life, but all too often women are shamed for talking about the same things as men. People will always try to bring down women who are open about their bodies, but when popular artists like Janelle Monáe and Cardi B continue to make music celebrating their identities, they show that it’s okay to be like them. Hopefully young people can look up to these kinds of artists and know that it’s okay to love themselves.
Janelle Monáe’s decision to come out as pansexual in the past week was admirable considering the too-often objectification and hypersexualization of queer women by fans and media—especially black women. Many queer women who come out are bombarded with invasive comments on the details of their relationships and sex life.
This type of treatment is inherently sexist and homophobic, and while the intent may not have been one of malice, it creates a hostile environment for anyone who wants to come out. Monáe’s new album is not only a response to critics shaming her identity, but also an empowerment of herself and others through her sexuality.