Astrid talks about The Weeknd’s latest
The Weeknd’s latest song with French DJ Gesaffelstein, ‘Lost in The Fire’, gained a lot of critical attention surrounding its lyrical content, particularly the speculation over a potential Drake reference – but why hasn’t the focus been on the blatant homophobia and misogyny directed towards queer women in the second verse?
As a bisexual woman, the language in this verse is all too familiar to my own experiences of bisexual erasure and represents every disturbing encounter I’ve had with those who objectify women as a result of their queerness, don’t regard lesbian sex as ‘real’ sex, and think ‘real men’ can turn lesbian women straight.
The Weeknd sings about the possibility of his female love interest being into girls, before marking her sexuality as “a phase”, telling her to “bring a friend” so he can engage in a threesome while he plans to “fuck [her] straight.” Shudder. It shocks me that chart-topping artists are still perpetuating such harmful attitudes in 2019, but what shocked me more was the response, or lack of response, these lyrics got.
While some people publicly condemned the song, such as musician Marika Hackman who called out The Weeknd for “managing to deride, fetishize and dismiss lesbianism all in one verse”, many others argued his lyrics can’t be considered homophobic as they encourage a threesome involving two women. Because someone can’t be homophobic if they fantasise about lesbian sex right? Wrong.
Defending the song on these grounds shows that the sexualisation of female queerness is a kind of homophobia many people seem to overlook, but this homophobia isn’t up for debate. It’s damaging and needs to be understood, condemned and fought against. A woman’s queerness does not exist for male sexual fantasy and it is definitely not a challenge for men to try and change or control through straight sex.
Yet, The Weeknd’s lyrics epitomise these kinds of attitudes from the moment he refers to this girl’s queerness as a “phase”, to his explicit dismissal of lesbianism when he promises to “fuck [her] straight.” The Weeknd may be known and loved for his openly sexual lyrics, but the inherently violent undertone of “fuck you straight” hits unnervingly close to home for queer women who have been subjected to threats of sexual violence at the hands of homophobia that’s rooted in misogyny. The context behind his choice of language means this line can’t be ignored and so readily accepted, especially when corrective rape is still happening as a form of hate crime and conversion therapy all over the world.
As a bisexual woman, the language in this verse is all too familiar to my own experiences of bisexual erasure and represents every disturbing encounter I’ve had with those who objectify women as a result of their queerness, don’t regard lesbian sex as ‘real’ sex, and think ‘real men’ can turn lesbian women straight. The fact this discourse is present in a song that’s become widely popular and will reach many younger, vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community worries me to the core.
Writer Jill Gutowitz commented on the harm media portrayals of female queerness had on her as a teenager, saying “these are the kinds of lyrics that […] subconsciously kept me in the closet.” Being a former fan of The Weeknd, who has yet to address the criticism of his second verse, leaves me feeling betrayed and disheartened with where pop culture stands today.
I don’t believe The Weeknd should be ‘cancelled’, but I do believe in calling out destructive behaviour so outlooks can change and society can progress. This is why witnessing the homophobia in this song go unchallenged or debated is as problematic as the homophobia itself.
By ignoring or simply refusing to recognise the harmful nature of these lyrics, the normalisation of homophobia will continue at the expense of the wellbeing and safety of the queer community.