Gays and Gaga: On Gay Cultures Female Icons

Gay culture has always had a bedfellow in female performers, particularly in music and comedy.

From Joan Rivers to Patsy Stone, to Gaga and Madonna, there appears to be a trend for outrageous and over-the-top females to quickly form the largest fan bases and become icons of a community.

I want to explore some of the reasons why this might occur.

For this one we need to go back – all the way back, to the 16th century.

Molly was a term used to describe female prostitutes in England. Those familiar with the new BBC series Taboo will also know it was a term used to describe Molly-houses, the ‘olden days’ version of today’s Bathhouse, often held in back rooms at Taverns in big cities like London, where men would gather to cross-dress, role play giving birth to wooden dolls in shocking gender plays (especially considering the time!) and take part in public sex.

It is here, we find a trend that flows right into today’s gay culture; and I will argue that the same things that united the 16th century homosexuals and the prostitutes of their time may not be all that different from what unites the gay community and its female icons, today.

The Very Public Sex of Madonna: A historic bond that unites us

Madonna used SEX? I’m clutching at straws here.

But, but…Why would a sexy woman appeal to gay men?

  • Public sex was the ONLY sex for gay men throughout history. Before the days of Grindr and Instagram (#gaybearsunite) there were no ways for men to pre-arrange private meet ups with other gay men, and even if they had friends who they had previously had sex with, having sex in homes where other family or friends could walk in was a major risk with legal and social ramifications. So, public venues sprouted up to help give these sexual outlaws a place to come together. These venues were often run by females, known as Mothers. See: Mother Clap
  • Shared Oppression: Women, too, have been historically oppressed for their sexual behaviour, so it makes sense a feeling of kinship would unite sexually aggressive females and the LGBT community.
  • Shared object of affection – We both like men. It’s difficult to engage in banter with a group of men talking about the ass on that chick, but talking about boys – and boy problems – makes for a less awkward relationship when it comes to topics of love and sex.
  • Androgyny and gender fluidity – From Patsy Stone’s ‘gender fluid’ years to Gaga’s questioned genitalia, these icons often play with the ideas of gender expression, too.
  • Express yourself: Messages of empowerment and encouraging one to be ‘true to yourself’ are appealing in a society that otherwise encourages those who are outside the norm to ‘not make yourself stand out too much’, often through real fears for safety. The mixing of this message with aggressive, rebellious resistance messages becomes powerful and important.
  • Outrageous behaviour – Joan Rivers to Dame Edna, a lack of political correctness sets them apart from the norms – An old lady talking about vaginal dryness on national TV? You simply don’t do that, Joan. Yet again, rebelling against oppressive standards is a powerful unifier.
  • Personal Pain – From Britney’s breakdown to Mariah Carey’s abusive relationship to a powerful man, these stars personal lives reinforce connections to the gay community, who can empathise with stars who have not just survived, but overcame struggles and abusive pasts, in a particularly strong way.
We feel imprisoned, too, bae: Madonna challenges power structures around Race and Religion
Outlaws: Police and Prison imagery reminds of us of our shared outlaw status
“Papa, I know you’re going to be upset”; Madonna keeps up her resistance – this time, to her father, she states she has made up her mind, she’s going to keep her baby. She begs; “Don’t stop loving me daddy”. This is a story gay men can relate to, on a whole other level.
Prostitute Prisoner: This strong sexual female outlaw ends up behind bars, at this Prison for Bitches.
Gaga’s body is a crime scene.
Gaga destroys her oppressor.
Jennifer Saunders calls Patsy Stone’s character “fluid” (
Joan Rivers: Offending the masses on a daily basis by talking about subjects that made them feel uncomfortable.
Mariah Carey explains feeling ‘sequestered’ and having a partner who was in control of her life. She escaped, and went onto produce the song ‘Outside’ describing the struggles of feeling like you don’t fit in.
Hooker Realness: Cher sits on a giant pistol (ahem!) on a military ship surrounded by sailors. Do I even need to explain this one?

Author The Sex Researcher

Researcher looking at our bodies, relationships, and sex lives in the digital age.

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