“Katy Perry Was Kissed by a Girl, and She Did Not Like It,” chortled The Telegraph. Time ran with the same play on one of Perry’s most famous songs, “Katy Perry Kissed by Girl at Concert, Did Not Seem to Like It.”
A young woman, reportedly named Rayane, was invited on stage and proceeded to very much invade Perry’s space, kissing and touching the “Fireworks” singer all over her luminous-caped body several times, including her breasts.
Meanwhile, the fan has largely been described as “overzealous” with more than a few insinuations that she was drunk or high on ecstasy.
Despite Perry’s clear unease in the video, she ends her exchange with the grabby fan with a pat on her butt—and the fan responds which a much stronger grab at Perry’s. By all accounts, it’s a no harm, no foul situation.
In general, the reaction to the groping affair is pretty light-hearted, with Entertainment Weekly describing the interaction as “hilarious.”
Most of the coverage has been focused on complimenting Perry’s composure and, at most, mocking the fan’s behavior.
While it’s not wrong for the coverage to be so breezy, it simultaneously reveals a double standard when it comes to female-on-female groping and unwanted touching.
It may seem trivial or overblown to talk about unwanted touching with such gravity. However, that terminology was included in the latest campus rape and sexual assault survey from the Association of American Universities, which said one in four college women are victims of sexual assault and misconduct.
Women are often considered to be naturally affectionate but innocuous. In fact, historically in many Western societies, we’ve come to expect that women love to touch and embrace each other in a platonic, non-threatening manner.
In their book, The Social Sex: A History of Female Friendships, Marilyn Yalom and Theresa Donovan Brown write about how around the start of the 19th century, female friendship became romanticized.
“It was not uncommon for girls and women to call each other darling, sweet, and precious… Adolescent girls hugged and kissed and made no secret of the crushes they had on their schoolmates,” they write.
In fact, this expected physical intimacy and affection between women allowed some 19th century lesbian relationships, often referred to as “Boston Marriages,” to exist in a socially acceptable way because they were “presumed to be ‘innocent’—that is non-sexual,” Yalom and Brown write.
As a result, few eyebrows are raised when a female fan cops a brief feel—and in turn, we expect Perry to handle this contact with aplomb and good cheer, regardless of the discomfort and unwantedness. It’s just girls being girls, right?
But perhaps this expectation shouldn’t jibe with modern sensibilities.
After all, we are hyper-sensitive when men are the ones perpetuating the unwanted contact or gaze of attention. In recent years, we’ve become obsessively attuned to men’s catcalling—rightly recognizing how threatening it is, but even going so far as to suggest it should be criminalized.
If a male fan had been the one groping and throwing himself on Perry few of us would have been laughing, and I highly doubt the tone of the articles would have been so light.
Furthermore, if a male fan had groped, say, Justin Timberlake or (for a true kerfuffle) Kanye West, I highly doubt the performer would have kept such composure—and, more importantly, he wouldn’t have been expected to do so.
As socially sanctioned as female-on-female affection is, male-on-male forms are stigmatized and considered almost unquestioned justification for violent reprisal.
It was only in 2013 that the American Bar Association passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of gay and trans “panic” defenses, which are based on asking “a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s excessively violent reaction,” according to the LGBT Bar. They are still actively used in courts to this day.
The disparities in society’s outrage (or tolerance) depend solely on the sex of the groper—not least of which to the person on the receiving end.
Perry is being praised for her comportment, but would audiences have been so charitable if she voiced her discomfort and we had heard her roar?