Rita Ora’s ‘Girls’: pop music’s fetish for women locking lips refuses to die

Rita Ora's caught some flak on social media for the tone-deaf lyrics of her new track, 'Girls' featuring Cardi B, Charli XCX and Bebe Rexha

20 May 2018 - 00:00
Rita Ora.
Rita Ora.
Image: Gallo/Getty Images

Girls kissing girls. So erotic. So edgy. So subversive. So dirty. On Pornhub one of the most popular categories is lesbian or girls on girls, or whatever.

For a long time in pop culture, women making out with women was a sure-fire way to gain loads of attention and court some controversy.

We thought we had left that kind of rubbish - not women kissing each other, but the fetishisation of it - in 2008, when Katy Perry tortured us all with the earworm that was "I kissed a girl and I liked it".

But we were wrong. Just last week Rita Ora released a track imaginatively titled Girls and it seemed destined to become the 2018 version of Bang Bang (the 2014 mega-hit by Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and Jessie J) and Lady Marmalade (Pink, Mya, Lil' Kim and Christina Aguilera, 2001).

Girls is Ora collaborating with Cardi B, Charli XCX and Bebe Rexha. It's a catchy enough tune (sounds very much like early XCX) and it's gained a lot of attention on social media and in the press - but not for the reason any of the women imagined.

These are some of the lyrics: "Sometimes, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls/ Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls" and "I steal your bitch, have her down with the scissor/ Tonight, I don't want a dog, I want a kitten".

Yawn. Are you still awake? We were about to fall asleep just reciting those tired, cringeworthy lyrics.

The song has been slammed for being tone deaf, and rightfully so. Just like when Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera made out with Madonna at the 2003 MTV Music Video Awards, and when Rihanna and Shakira did the whole girl-on-girl thing in their 2014 Can't Remember to Forget You video, the tradition of pop music exoticising female bisexuality for attention and the male gaze has survived into 2018 in the same way cockroaches will apparently survive nuclear apocalypse.

Ora issued an apology when things went south, insisting that the song is based on her honest experiences: "I would never intentionally cause harm to other LGBTQ+ people or anyone," she wrote in a note shared on her Twitter account.

Cardi B - whose lyrics we cited above about wanting a "kitten" - also apologised, feigning ignorance at how offensive parts of her verse on the song are.

WATCH | The music video for Rita Ora's Girls

Bisexuality is often dismissed - both within and outside of LGBTQIA+ communities - as something for people who aren't sure what they want, are promiscuous, or are looking for attention - or worse, as something women do when they are drunk.

It's time pop music and pop culture in general stopped selling bisexuality and lesbianism as something that's a fetish and as exotic. Because until then, straight women will keep calling other women their "girl crushes" (a crush is a crush, guys) and they'll keep drunkenly trying to kiss lesbian and bisexual women as though that cannot be sexual harassment because they too are female.

Heteros are the worst.