Understanding Lady Gaga's 'Virgin Birth'

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A conversation between Atlantic correspondent Alyssa Rosenberg and Fleshbot editor Lux Alptraum on the conflicting messages about sex and romance in contemporary pop music.

Read the first part of the discussion, "Who Knocked Up Lady Gaga?"

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Hi Alyssa,

Allow me to answer your questions with another question. You've wondered if Gaga's seeking motherhood without the inconvenience of heterosexual sex—but what I'd like to know is whether Gaga wants any sex at all, period.

After all, her music videos have expressed a fairly dim view of heterosexual sex: If it's not leading to someone's fiery death ("Bad Romance"), it's landing Gaga in the hospital ("Paparazzi"), or an act conducted by two skeletal zombies ("Born This Way"). And despite her profession of bisexuality, I haven't seen much evidence that Gaga considers lady love to be superior to the straight sort—in fact, it seems largely absent from the universe she inhabits. Both "Born This Way" and "Alejandro" (Gaga's explicit and implicit anthems to sexual freedom, respectively) communicate their celebratory message with gay male iconography; Gaga's most prominent instance of getting it on with girls takes place in the yard of a women's prison ("Telephone"), and it feels far more about power than about desire.

If Gaga is a sexless matriarch tending to a brood of little gay chicks, well, that wouldn't be that surprising. Given her place within the gay club scene (and her recently adopted identity of Mother Monster), it's actually a fairly fitting role. But there's an added element to Gaga's performance that makes me think she's more than just a virgin matriarch. Because, let's face it: Gaga's made it pretty clear that, in spite of her complicated messages about sex, she does have a use for sexual attention ... provided it comes from us, the audience.

As you mentioned in your letter, Gaga's hardly known for her conservative attire. In most of her videos, she's wearing little more than lingerie. The two times I've seen her in public, her outfits were similarly risque. And when she engages in music video sex scenes, it's rare that her partners have her full attention: more often than not, her eyes are locked on the camera, not on what she's doing. Like a pornstar, Gaga's fully aware that it's the viewer who's her true paramour. As a sexual object, Gaga is a pro; it's her ability to engage as a sexual subject that's hesitant and undefined. Gaga's not afraid of sex—she just has little in the way of sexual agency.

But then again, despite her professions of wisdom and experience, she is, still, just a 24-year-old girl. And it's hardly uncommon for young women to be more comfortable in the passenger's seat of sexual experience. But as she grows up, will Gaga find a way to fill in the gaps between virgin girl and virgin mother—to give young women something more to latch onto than lingerie, dancing gay men, and virgin births?

Best,
Lux

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Lux Alptraum is editor of Fleshbot, a website about sexuality and adult entertainment. More

She also has worked as a sex educator at an adolescent pregnancy prevention program, an HIV pre-test counselor, and founded Boinkology, a blog about sex and culture.

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