It's 2002 and Christina Aguilera has just released her coming of age, sonically-rebranded album, Stripped. I'm eleven years old, in sixth grade, and I'm all ears. As an impressionable pre-teen in the midst of puberty, I lyrically devour the LP. This isn't music for my parents, I think to myself, this is made for me. I'm picking up everything that this woman ten years my senior is putting down. I have no conscious idea how much these sounds and lyrics will influence my behavior and in turn, my life.
Songs like the feminist anthem "Can't Hold Us Down" and the sexually empowering "Lemme Get Mine, You Get Yours" became the soundtrack to my life. These weren't just tracks I listened to mindlessly--they were my first lessons in life and love. Lyrics like "...The guy gets all the glory the more he can score/while the girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore..." taught me that there's a terrible double-standard women face. It taught me I have the right to be as sexually free as any man. Aguilera also sang about the freedom of no-strings-attached sex, which really got me thinking. I wasn't even sexually active but the wheels in my head were turning.
In the pop music explosion I fervently looked up to Xtina and Britney. Yes, there were other (more tame) influences like 3LW, Shakira, and Destiny's Child but I wasn't as drawn to them. New-age pop was hot and I was a hyper-consumer. By the time boys started to pursue me, I already had notions of how rewarding and liberating sex could be. I knew my sexuality was powerful but I didn't quite know what to do with it. Can you imagine a bunch of sixth graders grinding to 'Dirrty' at the school dance? That was me and my friends.
The effects of my musical influences were extensive. I idolized Britney's toned stomach and sex appeal so much that I began doing crunches daily. I knew with diligence I could mimic her figure and her allure. At that point is when I really became an athlete. I began training myself to be all-around physically fit. I was chasing after the image pop music was selling, buying into the product like marketers wanted me to.
Every music video carefully crafted with a panting, gyrating star fascinated me. I remember watching MTV's 'Making the Video', a show that chronicled the behind-the-scenes filming of music visuals. I recall the choreographer of Britney's 'Slave 4 U' instructing her not to smile--it was all about being seriously sexy. The video was provocative. A bunch of scantily clad, oiled up bodies in a warehouse danced across my TV screen, dizzying my immature mind. I was both intimidated and intrigued. When I started developing relationships with boys I explored sex the way I interpreted it through music, which wasn't always the right approach.
As I got older, the sex-tinged pop music circuit expanded with acts like The Pussycat Dolls, Beyoncé, and Rihanna. Eventually I would learn to navigate my sexual identity on my own terms but my judgment was clouded for a little while. I'm glad my parents didn't censor the shows I watched and the music I listened to, but now I understand why some parents do. We become versions of what we read, watch, and hear. I'm now a more conscious and cautious consumer--I think I'll go listen to some Amy Winehouse.