A brief history of music for the purpose of sex

Marvin Gaye Album cover

James Lepinsky

The following is another excerpt from James Lepinsky’s upcoming book, “How to Write a Song.”

Other than nourishment, the one thing that drives human beings is sexual desire and interaction. Our sexuality is an important aspect in our lives whether we may give it credit or not. In my opinion, one’s sexuality should be taken with considerable gravitas. However, sex may be a novelty in one’s life (hook-ups, one night stands, flings, open relationships), can be the rope that ties two together (monogamy), or play little to no importance in one’s life (asexuality, celibacy, abstinence).

However you may orientate yourself within the world of sexual desire, sexuality and our pursuit for more plays a big unconscious role in how we make decisions. The average music fan is also the average fan of sex, just as they might be the average fan of food, clothing, or exercise. These are things that human beings just do. Some human beings make the dire mistake of assuming sex is only for procreation or reproduction to hopefully create an offspring, or that sex to breed is the only acceptable reason to commit such acts. This assumption is surely ironic, as most human beings participate in sex without the objective to reproduce. However, despite the fact that all human beings engage in sexual activity in some form, sex can be far from a banal, meaningless activity. Though many times, it really is meaningless and devoid of any love, so let’s not kid ourselves. However, in an effort to “spice up the bedroom,” participants of their carnal desires may use music to set the mood and provide a soundtrack for foreplay and fornication. Music, after all, acts like a great aphrodisiac. Many artists have dedicated songs and pretty much their whole lives to being the soundtrack for lovemaking.

From a purely musical standpoint, many babymaking anthems are slow, sultry, and syrupy, with the exception of Etta James’ rendition of “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” which is more brazen and bold. There are other songs about lovemaking that are not slow or sensual, but rather aggressive and punishing. Let’s look at “Master and Servant” by Depeche Mode, a song about dominance, submission and BDSM. Frontman of the group Dave Gahan sings in a verse:

“Domination’s the name of the game. In bed or real life, they’re all just the same except the one that fulfills at the end of the dayLet’s play master and servant.”

Sometimes, these songs can act as a form of rebellion — Marvin Gaye sings in “Let’s Get It On” the following in the chorus:

There’s nothing wrong with me loving you, baby no no. And giving yourself to me can never be wrong if the love is true.”

Kelly’s “Bump n’ Grind” follows a similar message in its chorus:

I don’t see nothing wrong with a little bump n’ grind.”

Marvin Gaye and R. Kelly’s affirmations that there is indeed “nothing wrong” with their respective acts of lovemaking is quite telling. Human sexuality, despite its omniprescence and importance, is often shunned, dismissed and scorned by society at large. Sexuality is seen as taboo, for some odd reason, considering the fact that most humans in their lifetime experience some form of sexual desire. This is often why in American public school systems, sex education teachers often preach on the dangers of sex and resort to fearmongering their students — unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases are legitimate concerns that should not be taken lightly, however, the sex-fearing teacher will often use these as a cultural boogeyman to scare students away from pursuing and acting on their sexual desires. In a way, the song about making love is a protest for not only having sex, but being able to have an open and honest dialogue about the act itself. With Marvin Gaye and R. Kelly, they persuade their audiences that they should enjoy their sexuality, especially with a partner to whom they are devoted and committed. “Master and Servant” acts as a form of rebellion in another light, where the seedy, underground worlds of roleplaying, dominance, submission, bondage, discipline, and erotic torture are brought into the forefront. Dave Gahan stresses that these types of dynamics already play out in real life, so why not introduce and exaggerate them into the bedroom? Of course, what Dave Gahan forgets to mention is that while dynamics of dominance and submission sometimes do play out in everyday human interaction, understanding and accepting a partner’s boundaries on how they would like to be dominated or dominate are also important discussions to have.

Can there ever be something wrong with a little bump and grind? In his song, R. Kelly stresses this in an albeit innocent, harmless way. Ironically, the antics of R. Kelly have made him the poster boy of the fact that there can really be something wrong. As a perpetrator of many sexual abuse scandals, underaged marriages, and child pornography, R. Kelly’s career in more recent years is a testiment to everything wrong with sexuality. In 1994, Kelly married the late Aaliyah when she was just fifteen years old, and Kelly being twenty-seven. Hopefully, R. Kelly will face significant prison time for taking advantage of his female contemporaries, concurrently with the #MeToo movement against sexual harrasment and assault. These men should all be held accountable, and R. Kelly is no exception. However, with all of these facts in mind, “Bump n’ Grind” is a song that does not have time on its side. I strongly discourage this song from being used during any lovemaking session.

If there’s one person who writes the best songs about having sex, it’s Peaches. The undisputed queen of sex songs, her entire discography is dedicated to sexuality, promiscuity, and provocation. Her music is unapologetically pornographic and salacious, but that does not mean her art is not incredible. Look no further than the chorus of her song, “F*ck the Pain Away,” from her 2000 album The Teaches of Peaches:

“Sucking on my… like you wanted me, calling me all the time like Blondie, check out my Chrissie behind, it’s fine all of the time. Like sex on the beaches, what else is in the teaches of Peaches…. Huh, what?”

Other classics of hers include “Diddle My Skittle,” “Shake Yer Dix,” and “Boys Wanna Be Her,” the last of the third used as the theme song for political comedienne Samantha Bee’s television show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Her third album even graces the Freudian- esque title of “Fatherf*cker.” Despite her risqué nature, we the music-consuming and creative public should take inspiration from an artist as bold as Peaches. Not only is her music irrestibly catchy and fun, but Peaches uses her art to subvert and challenge how we should be talking about, portraying, and thinking about sex, especially in the context of the greater Westernized, militarized, privatized society. She is the beacon of sex-positivity, a philosophy that promotes immersive engagement and acknowledgment of one’s sexual desires. Unlike anxious teachers that ignorantly promote an abstinence-only lifestyle, sex-positivity lets us as human beings embrace and accept our inherently sexual nature, and support us to have safe and consensual sex. This should not be confused as sex being a wholly positive thing or even a “perfect” system, but rather a democracy where all participants can fully express themselves like the best art. People want to have sex sometimes because it feels good, not only because they need to create an offspring or a family, and sex is used as a tool to create intimacy and sometimes renovate an existing relationship. Moreover, I believe that artists should not be afraid to use their sexuality and sexual desires as a catalyst to not only make great art, but to improve how we as humans talk about sex and view sex outside of the heteronormative, Catholicized, and creationistic lens of procreation. We all experience some form of arousal, so why not use it to our advantage to make art to challenge these pre-conceived notions of sex and sexuality (no pun intended)? This is the nature of the lovemaking song. Let’s get it on.