On Popular Music: Katy Perry’s E.T.

Normally I am not a fan of Katy Perry; in fact, every time I hear “Wide Awake” come on the radio, I wish I was fast asleep. But this one I actually like. Not only do I not turn it off the second I hear it playing, I crank up my stereo to its maximum, no matter how old or large the crowd waiting at the stoplight with me. It’s fortunate that it’s got a funky backbeat, though, because lyrically, it’s conceptually strange. The singer appears to be describing her desire to have a sexual encounter with an alien life form. We have a term in English to describe the unusual kink of performing sex acts with members of another species. It’s called bestiality. Personally, I think it’s nice that the general public gets to hear about a perversion so taboo that all but the most hardcore pornographers shy away from it.  

Anyway, in addition to the standard version, I’ve also heard an alternate version of the song, featuring an introduction and later a vocal interlude by Kanye West, the latter part of which goes like this:

First, I’ma disrobe you,
Then I’ma probe you,
See, I abducted you,
So I tell you what to do, I tell you what to do, what to do. . .

An odd interjection, harshly delivered, and what is most intriguing about it is how it completely alters the character of the song. Without the interlude, the piece arguably centers on feminine desire; the singer perceives the extraterrestrial as a being who is “hypnotizing” and “magnetizing” and whose “kiss is cosmic.” The refrain further reflects her desire: “Kiss me” and “Take me” are its main features. However, the additional verse switches the focus of desire from the female to the male; the alien is not only now in charge, but has proclaimed his right as the kidnapper to subject his victim to his will. In short, we now have a rape story. 

But perhaps this was the underlying nature of the “kink” under discussion, after all. Consider the lines “Want to be a victim; ready for abduction,” and “Inject me with your love then fill me with your poison.” Although these words indicate submission rather than aggression, they are nonetheless suggestive of a submission which the performer finds desirable. In other words, it is being subject to the will of the alien that arouses sexual desire in the female; her sexual empowerment is derived from willingly submitting herself to it.

Of course, the bizarre concept of being “probed” by aliens, often with an implied (or even overt) sexual component, has been around as long as there have been abduction stories. This is perhaps a mark of human arrogance, for the notion that creatures from another planet would find us sexually desirable makes roughly as much sense as the idea that humans might be attracted to chimps or orangutans. All I can say is, if the aliens ever do come to call, we had better hope that they have Star Trek-quality devices at their disposal for their probing needs, for, if not, they are likely to attempt to unlock the secrets of our bodies in much the same way that we investigate the inner workings of the animals on our own planet. Not through penetration, but through dissection.

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