In March 2018, Katy Perry made the news after she kissed a boy. After being asked, the boy in question had told the American Idol judges he had never kissed a girl and was saving his first kiss for his first relationship. A shocked Katy then jokingly demanded him multiple times to “come here right now” to which he hesitantly moved towards her.
He asks if the kiss will be on the cheek and gives Katy a cheek kiss but the camera manages to catch Katy’s eyes brighten as she has a little idea. “You didn’t even make the smoosh sound” she complains, implying for him to do it again. The boy leans in to kiss her cheek again only for Katy to quickly dart her head around and kiss him on the lips. The boy quickly moves away and though he’s smiling, his red face shows his awkwardness.
Since, the boy has told the New York Times that the kiss made him uncomfortable and had Katy asked him to a kiss on the lips he would have outright said no.
The problem with this is hard to define. I can already feel the eye rolls of some. "She was only joking!"; "Is romance and spontaneity dead when you have to consent to everything?". With the former I understand that she was only joking. The singer seemed to think she was doing a good thing. In her mind, the boys first kiss was with Katy Perry and he can go home and tell all his friends about his ‘legendary’ experience.
However, perhaps it is easier to see why this is problematic when looked at in relation to cases that have been defined as sexual harassment.
An audition setting where the victim is in a place where their future and fate is in the control of a more powerful individual has been a common narrative in recent times with the Harvey Weinstein reports. When Katy tells the boy to “come here right now”, as joking as it may be, she knows that no one, especially an auditionee, is going to deny one of the biggest selling artists in the world. While Katy is not looking to get pleasure out of this experience, she is using her power in this situation to get the other person to do as she wants even if it is against their own wishes.
Additionally, Katy is making the assumption that her kiss is above the rules of consent. She doesn’t have to ask someone because she’s Katy Perry. Who doesn’t want a kiss from Katy Perry right? But isn’t that sort of a much softer, less disgusting version of Donald Trump’s assumption that he can 'grab a woman by the pussy' because he is Donald Trump?
Don’t get me wrong Katy Perry is a strong, powerful woman who has done a lot to inspire and help people. I remember her song 'Roar' inspiring high school me to stand up for myself against someone who thought they could push me around. She is nothing like Donald Trump or Harvey Weinstein.
However, the #metoo movement is about more than just assault. It’s about harassment and the culture and climate that breeds it. It’s about people with power assuming they can do what they want to someone. Although Katy has been an outright supporter of the movement, she is also human and has been brought up in this same power crazy world we all have.
While Katy did not have bad intentions, her actions were not okay. The boy clearly did not want a kiss and she ignored his wishes. In 2014 she talked about feeling uncomfortable when Miley Cyrus kissed her on camera and thus she shouldn’t do that to someone else.
These things are important to point out. It is a reminder that no one is above consent and someone’s sexuality is theirs and theirs only. While I don’t personally think this needs to be ‘taken further’ or ‘justice be provided’ as some have called for, I hope Katy Perry, and the world, learn from this story. No means no.
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