The other day I was meandering around YouTube and I stumbled upon “Adults React to Selena Gomez – Hands to Myself” by the Fine Bros. In this video, the “adults” were asked questions about whether it’s appropriate for Selena Gomez to be so sexual in a music video, considering she’s a former Disney child star.
This video depicts a Selena Gomez, in bangs and dark smoky eyes, parading around a modern mini-mansion, clad in her underwear, silky sheets, a man’s button-down and even naked in a bathtub at some point. This sultry montage oozes sex, and we even get a few shots of her writhing around a bed with “incredibly hot music video guy.” We find out this is fake and that Selena’s stalking “incredibly hot music video guy,” who then calls the cops on Selena. She’s arrested, wearing nothing more than her undies and the men’s button down shirt. Camera zooms out, and just kidding! They’re together and this was a project they had worked on. The questionable narrative mechanics aside, there’s one thing about the video that you cannot miss – it’s about sex.
Of course, most people, myself included, were supportive of it. Women – cis or not – should have the same sexual freedom that men have, which means that they can have as much or as little sex as they want without being labeled a slut or being viewed as a sexual object. A lot of this has to do with the over-sexualization of women’s bodies, hence the “Free the Nipple” movement, and all the controversy surrounding girls’ dress codes in schools. Women owning their sexuality allows them to take back control of their bodies, which is important.
But Selena is a former Disney child star.
No matter what she does, or how much she regrets her Disney past, that’s a part of her celebrity. This also means that no matter what, she has a lot of young girls who are obsessed with everything that she does.
It is fantastic that Selena is taking back control over her body, and owning her sexuality. From a young age, girls are taught that their sexuality, which can be as innocent as hand-holding and kisses on cheeks, isn’t theirs to control. So Selena Gomez’s “Hands to Myself” is a message to all girls and women that it is okay to own your bodies and your sexuality.
Yet she still has a young impressionable audience. “Hands to Myself” was released shortly after her other hit single “Good For You.” “Good For You” surprised us all, with Selena embracing her sexuality for the first time. Whereas “Good For You” is simple sex appeal, “Hands to Myself” is glamourous and sultry. Yet both of these singles, to put it matter-of-factly, are about sex. Her other recent works are focused on love, similar to the works of many other female pop stars.
I can’t help but question why artists like Selena Gomez are not empowering women and girls in areas other than their sexuality? Yes, you have artists like Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj singing/rapping about being a boss and running the world. But even these artists contribute to the extreme emphasis on female sexuality.
The empowerment of female sexuality is important, incredibly so. But with such a degree of emphasis to the exclusion of other ideals, the focus of women’s liberation becomes about the body and sex. Somehow, an effort to push against the profiling of the female body as a sexual object instead strengthens the idea of the female body being a sexual object.
This isn’t to say that female artists should stop owning their sexuality in their works and in their lives, but maybe we should encourage works and artists that are attempting to empower women in other sectors of their lives, whether it’s about being a boss, going beyond expectations and limitations, the empowerment of being a mother/deciding not to have children or even fighting and winning a battle against breast cancer. There are so many other areas of our lives in which women all over the world are totally winning and that the heavy focus in pop culture on our bodies and our sexuality completely ignores. It turns the female experience into something flat and one-dimensional.
But sex sells, and we keep buying into this version of female empowerment that ignores the nuanced and multi-faceted experience of being a woman.
Contact Arianna Lombard at [email protected]