While female pleasure in music is nothing new, the shift that has appeared is largely based around an absence of the man: take for example Janet Jackson’s Take Care, where she sings: “I’ll lay here and take care of it ‘til you come home to me.” For Jackson, masturbation is a bookmark. The Divinyls’ I Touch Myself - a pro-masturbation anthem if ever there was one - contains the line: “I’d get down on my knees, I’d do anything for you.” When it came out in 1990 it was intrepid. But the song is just as much about giving pleasure as getting it.
In a 2011 interview with CNN, Kathleen Hanna, feminist leader of Bikini Kill and now the Julie Ruin, questioned the purpose of Katy Perry’s sexual presentation on Perry’s 2008 debut single I Kissed a Girl. “The whole thing is like, ‘I kissed a girl so my boyfriend could masturbate about it later,’ said Hanna. “It’s disgusting. It’s exactly every male fantasy of fake lesbian porn.”
St Vincent, Cyrus and Minaj don’t fight for the right to pleasure, they just do it and they do it themselves. Until this point, most lyrics on the subject of female masturbation have undermined and corrected the illusion that pleasure can’t be DIY. Now the message is that pleasure still exists when pleasure is self-serving.