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



Hi Lux,

Since Lady Gaga hit it big, we've heard a lot about her sex life: her dedication to safe sex, her period of celibacy, her HIV-prevention work. But last week, we got something new: the story of Gaga's first time. "I didn't lose my virginity until I was 17," she said in an interview. "But I have to say even then I wasn't ready and it was an absolutely terrible experience. It wasn't good at all." When I heard that, I had an emotion I don't know I've ever felt towards the 24-year-old international superstar: I felt kind of sorry for her. Not so much that she had bad, sloppy teenaged sex that brought with it emotional repercussions she wasn't prepared for. That's an experience that even twenty-somethings who don't wear couture clothes and sell millions of songs can sympathize with. It was more in the way she framed that brief confession, as if 17 is an unusually late date at which to have sex for the first time, and as if she should have done something more to get herself ready. As if it was her fault that she "never actually enjoyed sex until two years ago."

Whether she intended it or not, saving the story of her first sexual experience for the same week she released her video for "Born This Way" makes a certain amount of sense. The seven-minute video starts with an extended birth sequences, as Lady Gaga delivers both good and evil and gives rise to a new world order. But amidst all the speculation about Gaga's influences and the video's meanings, one question stood out to me: Who knocked up Mother Monster?

As Aylin Zafar raised, is the birth meant to be actual mitosis, Gaga splitting into two distinct entities created entirely from her original. Or is that just supposed to be what happens to the universe after she gives birth? Or she giving actual birth to something new while preserving herself, just without a Father Monster in the picture? Either way, "Born This Way" feels a bit like it's about a virgin birth.

It's an audacious concept, but it's in keeping with Gaga's earlier work. This is, after all, a pop star who makes a habit of wearing not a lot of clothes, who wore an outfit so high-cut at the 2010 Grammys that an entire nation got to see for themselves that she didn't, as had been rumored, have a penis, but who also sings songs that are deeply ambivalent about being touched, much less having sex. What's going on here? Does Gaga want the end result of heterosexual sex without the sex itself? What does it mean that one of our biggest stars in pop, a genre usually dedicated to the joys of the lead-up to sex if not the deed itself, seems kind of freaked out about sex? I'm confused, and not just by that eye in the middle of Gaga's chin.


NEXT: Lux Alptraum answers Alyssa's questions with another question

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