In popular culture, representations of gender and sexuality inform our perception of ourselves and of others. In no uncertain terms these images shape our own performance of gender and our construction of sexuality, contributing significantly to how we perceive the world around us. Cultural and social conditions therefore regulate hegemonic assumptions of “normality”.
What I propose is that popular music can create or contribute to creating alternatives to gendered behaviour and our experience of sexuality as it is influenced and shaped by images of sexuality and gender conveyed through popular culture. The aesthetics of sadomasochism arguably provide us with a most powerful representation of sexual Otherness, while also apparently making the eroticisation of pain and violence available to us through emphasis on the theatricality of sadomasochistic play.
This mainstreaming of “kink” is certainly contingent on a corresponding de-saturation of its subversive potential. My aim is not to find out whether the medium of popular music may offer up different ways of retaining that potential, but rather how this would be achieved. To this end, I present analyses of three musical examples, all of which, I will argue, can be placed within a context of popular music. My aim is to uncover the workings of popular music as a function for staging alternatives to hegemonic masculinity and gendered behaviour.