When I finally got it, I was like, WHOA...
I’ve decided to have some fun looking at music and sexual identity in relation to the good, bad and sometimes hilarious ways they intersect.
While I was thinking about different genres and time periods, I came up with this list of songs that are related in no way other than that I rocked the hell out to them between the ages of 3 and 8 — with the full encouragement of the adults around me (well, all songs except for one) — only to hear them again as an adult and say to myself, “Wait. What?!."
So without further ado, let us embark on a tour of the sexual confusion '80s music lulled me into ...
Here are 5 songs from the 1980's I didn't know were about sex (because their blatant sexual content completely escaped my young mind).
1. "Physical," Olivia Newton-John (1981)
Oh, Olivia Newton-John ... Sandra Dee ... So sweet. So wholesome. So ... horny, apparently.
You can set this video in a gym and act like the “physical” they are getting into is about exercise all you want, but, in my experience, if a trainer demands that you, “Let (them) hear your body talk,” it’s time to either file a harassment complaint or check to see if you have wandered into of one those late night Cinemax movies.
When I was 3 years old this was my jam!
My mom would crank it in the car for me and an oft-repeated story in my family is the tale of the time my brother’s Catholic school (be prepared, Catholic schools feature heavily in this post) had a talent show and one group got up and sang this song. My mom apparently unleashed me out into the aisle of the auditorium, where I proceeded to rock out with my socks out. Everyone agreed I was adorable.
Just to be clear, an adorable 3-year-old child enthusiastically dancing while a chorus of older children sing about boning.
That talent show from Napoleon Dynamite had nothing on us.
2. "Little Red Corvette," Prince (1983)
Cars, horses, music — kids like all of these things!!
Add to that the fact that I became aware of this song around the time my mother started dating the man who would become my stepfather, and that he drove a fly-ass Trans Am (work with me folks, it was the '80s), and you have the recipe for me eternally and happily linking this song to the mom and stepdad I love dearly.
I hadn't heard it for years until it came on one day while I was grocery shopping. Cut to me standing in the cereal aisle going, “Wait. She had a full of pocket of what? Some were used?! He’s not talking about horses! He’s not talking about a car at all!”
3. "She Bop," Cyndi Lauper (1984)
Let’s not beat around the bush (seriously, no pun intended). This song is about masturbation.
At my Catholic school kindergarten graduation, a girl got up and performed a dance to this song. Yeah, that happened. There were nuns at this event. Children recited prayers and poems. And, obviously, a 6-year-old rocked a solo routine to a song about self-love.
What’s more, it inspired my mom to enroll me in dance classes. So now my childhood sounds like an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras.
4. "Pour Some Sugar On Me," Def Leppard (1987)
Pro tip: If you are listening to a rock song, especially an older one, and they mention “sugar,” they mean sex. Cliff Notes for Pour Some Sugar On Me would read: “Give me sex, sex, lots of sex. Let’s have sex, sex, sex, sexy sex sex.”
Ok, I may be exaggerating slightly, but Joe Eliot and crew were not being subtle with this one. However, when I was 8, I had no clue.
The summer after the Hysteria album came out my cousin was obsessed with the album and his sister and I were both taking dance classes (as inspired by "She Bop" girl). This resulted in a lot of impromptu “rock shows” in the driveway that consisted of my brother and male cousin lip-synching this song while my female cousin and I danced around. Some of the lyrics our brothers emoted to while we gyrated included:
"You gotta squeeze a little, squeeze a little, tease a little more
Easy operator come a knockin’ on my door
Sometime, anytime, sugar me sweet
Little miss innocent sugar me, yeah, yeah."
Looking back all that was missing was the go-go cages.
Sometimes this would happen at large family gatherings. You know, so our grandparents could clap for us. Because, of course.
Thankfully they refrained from throwing money.
5. "Push It," Salt-N-Pepa (1987)
As I mentioned above, there was just one song that I didn’t have adult support in my misunderstanding of and this is it.
When the women of SNP demand that someone, “Push it good,” they are making their intentions pretty clear. And in case there’s any confusion, they throw in this clue: “Can’t you hear the music’s pumpin’ hard like I wish you would?”
Again, though, I was 8 and clueless and whenever I heard this song I pictured people pushing large boxes around. (I am not even kidding about that.)
So there I was, in 3rd grade, singing in the lunchroom, “Push it, push it good!...”
And then there I was in the principal’s office.
Here’s the thing. No one would tell me what I had done wrong!
The principal called my mom in and ordered me to tell her what had happened, so I did and waited for her to be as confused as I was. Instead, she said, “JoEllen, that’s disgusting!” What she didn’t do was explain why or how. A few days later a classmate explained that the song was about sex.
Now that I’m examining my attitudes towards sexuality, I’m seeing how experiences like this really do shape kids.
I had done something so “disgusting” no one would talk about it, and I hadn’t even realized it. Sex suddenly seemed really dangerous — like I could get in big trouble without even knowing I was doing anything wrong.
Writing this post it hit me. THIS is why sex-positive parenting is important!
So, that’s my musical Hall of Shame.
What about you? Did you have any case of musical sexual confusion? Tell us about them!
This article was originally published at The RedHead Bedhead. Reprinted with permission from the author.