Since October of 2017, the world has seen the #MeToo movement sweep across social media, causing numerous industries to reevaluate how they allow people to interact with each other, primarily in a work setting. From there the movement went into how women and men treat each other on dates and in social gatherings. Now, the movement has moved into how people flirt with each other, and as the focuses become narrower, the ability to make flirtatious mistakes have become wider. Just ask American Idol star and popular rock star Katy Perry. The beloved icon is in trouble for flirting with male American Idol contestants ranging in ages from 19 to 27 years old. While her interactions feel innocent, even fun, many are calling her out for being too aggressive with the contestants. In this new era, we are moving from embracing public sexuality to almost puritanical values, which might be more dangerous down the road.
Everyone wants to feel safe, and yet in a culturally diverse, sexually open, constitutionally run country, safety has different meanings to different people. Sex has always been America’s hang-up. Much of Europe has laughed at us “uptight” Americans who seem so slow to embrace different lifestyles and understand open relationships. Cinema has been the greatest reflector of these values. Characters in American cinema either fall in love before or after having sex with each other. As a society, we attach emotional conditions and qualifications to sex, unlike our European counterparts.
This value stems from a Judeo-Christian worldview that has bled into all areas of our lives, causing people to feel either morally responsible for their sexual behavior or guilty about their sexual desires and actions. This probably explains why, after #MeToo, we have second-guessed sexual activity and advancement. Whether it be disgusting Harvey Weinstein, the cringy Aziz Ansari or the old fashioned-flirtation of Garrison Keillor, every act is being judged; and due to a 24/7 news cycle, with equal amounts of outrage. Suddenly, we see how sexual freedom bred the feeling of sexual imprisonment.
Now this outrage has been targeted at 32-year-old female Perry. She stole a kiss from a 19-year-old boy when he claimed that he had never kissed a girl. She gushed around a 27-year-old construction worker, and she called an 18-year-old “hot.” The argument is that we wouldn’t tolerate that behavior from a man, so why would we tolerate it from a female? Forget the fact that Perry is not just famous for sexual songs but also for exposing cleavage in an Elmo T-shirt on Saturday Night Live. She has always been out there and open about being a sexual person. America created her, and now the #MeToo movement is after her.
Slate’s Christina Cauterucci wrote, “Of course, Perry’s flirtation isn’t truly sexual at all. It remains in the realm of PG-rated jest — this is family television, after all.” She went on to add about the stolen kiss: “The scene feels even more lewd and exploitative post-#MeToo than it would have last March. ABC’s decision to treat it as a playful, feel-good moment — and use it to advertise the show — is bafflingly obtuse.”
The 16-year-old boy went on Entertainment Tonight to clarify his own position: “I do not think I was sexually harassed by Katy Perry and I am thankful for the judges’ comments and critiques. . . . I’m not upset about it, I’m glad that it happened.”
From 1950s conservatism came 1960s sexual freedom, breeding a 1970s feminist movement of empowerment that created a 1980s music video sexploitation. The 1990s brought us a decade filled with breast jobs and Baywatch, and today we live in the age of Internet pornography. We go through shifts, and these shifts inspire behavior in future decades. By making every act equal, we will create a society ready to explode in the future, and the results could create an America that acts out in ways we’ve never seen.
What scares me is that if we aren’t careful, we will create a society void of the ability to discern levels; and 20 years from now people will mock the precautions taken today to protect, creating a sexual revolution that will grow into a monster that no one can control.