Janelle Monae in 2019Primavera

If you want to encapsulate sex positivity, listen to “Screwed” by Janelle Monae. Over an infectious guitar riff, Monae exuberantly sings: ‘Let’s get SCREWED, I don’t care! We’ll do it all for fun.’ Alternatively, dip into any song on Doja Cat’s 2019 album Hot Pink, an ebullient rap-disco exploration of female sexual pleasure. Both Doja Cat and Janelle Monae’s music powerfully resists the taboos that all sex, but particularly female and queer sexual experiences, is frequently subject to. Instead, they catchily celebrate sexuality as a healthy source of fulfilment and creativity and produce a beautiful defiance; one that we can dance along to.

“Her songs express her desires with confidence and poise”

In “Body Language”, Doja Cat croons ‘We ain’t afraid of sexuality’. A quick glance at her song names, including the tracks “Down Low”, “Cyber Sex”, “Bottom Bitch” and “Talk Dirty”, confirms this. The 25-year-old-rapper and singer always sounds like she is enjoying herself, revelling both in her sexual prowess and her musical virtuosity. Punning irreverently about her vagina and breasts in “Rules”, she reaches an impressive flow, which has led to comparisons with Kendrick Lamar: ‘you don’t dive in that pussy like dolphins If he don’t dive in that pussy like oceans, Twins look identically like Olsens’. Her songs express her desires with confidence and poise. “Addictions” is a disco bonanza of lust about ‘an itch I just can’t scratch’, while the rap chorus of “Rules” asserts her boundaries: ‘Play with my pussy, but don’t play with my emotions.’ Female masturbation, often taboo in pop-culture, inspires a gleeful rap verse in “Cyber Sex”. The singer also embraces the theatricality of sexuality and its rich potential as a source of self-expression in her often elaborately-costumed music videos and the playful song “Freak”. This is just one of many of her hits which has gone viral on Tik-Tok. Hopefully, the millions of teenagers dancing along to her unashamed celebrations of sexuality will grow to see their sexuality as she represents hers: under their control and for their own pleasure.

Doja Cat demonstrating a makeup routine for Vogue Taiwan in 2020VOGUE Taiwan

Janelle Monae also fuses pop and rap to celebrate sexuality’s fun and empowering potential. The 35-year-old actor, rapper, singer and activist is so committed to sex-positivity that she provided the voiceover for Netflix’s 2020 educational docuseries ‘Sex, Explained’. Her musical pride in her sexuality intersects with her celebration of blackness and femininity. The non-binary singer’s Twitter bio reads ‘pro nows they/she/them/her/freeassmuthafucka’, because in 2018 she came out as pansexual in a Rolling Stone cover story by declaring “I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker.” Her 2018 album Dirty Computer was accompanied by a 48-minute-long ‘emotion picture’ depicting a fantasy world where rebels and misfits, mostly the young, black, sexually empowered and queer, are hunted down as ‘dirty computers.’

Monae’s music vocally protests societal stigmatisation of female and queer sexualities and is far more political than Doja Cat. In “Q.U.E.E.N” (originally entitled Q.U.E.E.R) she chants: ‘Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am’ like a mantra. At shows, she encourages her audience, often composed primarily of adolescent girls, to shout: ‘I’m dirty and I’m proud!’. “Screwed” shifts from carefree sexual hedonism to anger against financial and corporeal oppression of women: ‘Hundred men telling me to cover up my areolas/ while they’re blocking equal pay.’

“Monae is extremely aware of the empowering influence of her music”

Sexuality in Monae’s music can also be playful. “Make me feel!” is an upbeat romp through lust and love, with catchy synth and a tongue-click beat that was produced by her mentor Prince: ‘It’s like I’m powerful with a little bit of tender! An emotional sexual bender.’ The verse of “Pynk” alludes erotically to different parts of the female anatomy, before bursting into a chorus of ‘I like that!’ The music video epitomises feminine pride: Janelle and her backing dancers wear elaborate pink ‘vagina’ trousers. Monae is extremely aware of the empowering influence of her music, particularly for the culturally underrepresented black queer community. In conversation with the New York Times, she said “I’m proud when everybody is taking agency over their image and their bodies.” When she tells us to ‘Hit the mute button. Let the vagina have a monologue’, we should listen because what she has to say is well worth our time.


Mountain View

A Tribute to SOPHIE

By giving sexuality an infectious new soundtrack, Doja Cat and Janelle Monae allow their predominately young listeners to see sex and sexuality positively: something to sing, dance and rap proudly about in the public eye, rather than a taboo to be hushed up. With Doja Cat and Janelle playing , we can rap in defiance of stigma, and celebrate our desires on the dance floor. As Doja Cat sings in “Cyber Sex”, ‘What a time to be alive!’