A perfect storm happened in 1990 for the sensory-me. I was beginning to understand what being horny meant. There’s no need for me to be elegant about the language here, because there’s nothing elegant about middle school horny-ness. I was twelve and there was this music video by Billy Idol called “Rock the Cradle of Love.” We all knew it, we all waited for it, and we all watched MTV or VH-1with our mouths slightly parted. Now, up until this point here’s what I knew: I had an opening down below, it was sensitive, and something was supposed to rub over, across, and near it. At twelve, that’s all I knew, or admitted, to know about my pink nerves.
It should be noted that this was two years before my mom started to pay attention to MTV on the family room T.V, deciding “No more!” Too late Mom. I saw what I needed to see already. I saw the asses and the boobs of a few “dancers” and the mouth of Steven Tyler wide open ready to probably lick all of those things. Guns and Roses will not trash my mind now that I am suddenly a freshman in high school. Billy Idol however, alerted me to my own sexuality two years ago, Mom. Of course, I never told her any of that. Let’s back up to the dark apartment on some unnamed city block.
So there’s this young neighbor girl around sixteen years old who knocks on the apartment door of an older man. Likely, he’s about thirty years old, and because there was no dialogue about anything related to the inappropriateness of the age gap and her being a minor, it was what it was: 1990. PS- I’d never let my daughters watch this portrayal of the fantasy of a minor. But again, I didn’t see or understand that aspect as a middle-schooler in 1990. I only saw the lust and desire that this man had for this girl. And, well, I wanted to be her in many ways. Or so I thought. I didn’t really. I wanted fantasy. I wanted the tingle. What I did learn from this video was my own potential and power as a female. I learned how the female body can spark certain feelings in onlookers. Basically, this video taught me what it meant to turn someone on—-something I wouldn’t practice until years after, but the awareness was there. Isn’t that the first step toward truth?
Once this unnamed neighbor girl enters the business professional’s apartment, she claims her stereo is broken and asks if she can play her cassette in his stereo. Oh, the days of directed dialogue, leading up to the music video’s plot before the music even begins! His apartment is posh, modern, and clearly urbane in the white privilege sense of the word. She pops the cassette in, and Billy Idol graces the big screen of the man’s television on the wall. In 1990, the average consumer couldn’t afford flat screen TVs on the wall or anywhere, so clearly this man had enormous amounts of money. As Billy lip syncs his own song, the girl begins to strip down to her bra and skirt and performs some basic seductive dance moves. Acting aloof and as if she’s in her own world, but clearly knowing exactly what she’s doing as the man trembles, drops his glass, and fidgets all over his apartment. He’s in such a startled state, uncertain of where his eyes should be, and really where he should be in terms of the entire apartment. I mean, he should’ve asked her kindly to leave, but Billy Idol and the girl’s black lingerie have him in a chokehold. Same as my eyes.
It all made my crotch tingly. The movement of her body and the man’s awareness of her made me think about my own femininity and what I was able to conjure if given the opportunity. I didn’t have breasts yet because I was a late bloomer, but I knew they’d be dazzling enough to get a second glance from boys in a couple years’ time. At this point, I had never kissed a boy with tongue—only pecks on the cheek. Now, I am a believer in art and its influence, but I do not, under any circumstance, believe that art can force people to do things they’re not supposed to do. Art cannot cause a person to harm someone else or in this case, find an older man and seduce him with a Billy Idol-led strip tease. We have free will, and when we are guided through life with rights and wrongs from role models; we make our own decisions.
Though my crotch tingled and I enjoyed this video, I didn’t have sex until I was almost nineteen years old. Orgasms? Many, but never from actual sex. The discernment is stupid, but I’m saying it anyway.
The other music videos that created a bit of a nerve-ending ruckus in my pants were “Ragdoll” by Aerosmith and “Cold Hearted Snake” by Paula Abdul. “Ragdoll” was about Steven Tyler’s sexy-ugly face more than anything else. His mouth made me feel things. The way he led with it, a kid with raging hormones couldn’t help but envision the way he’d use those lips on my mouth. The last minute and a half of the video is what got me. Steven kissing the woman on the porch. The opening scene of the video is the drummer banging between a bass and a snare drum being held upright in the street. For a sensory-me, the drumbeat set the thrilling, sex-in-the-air pace. The drumbeat got me in a headspace of what I didn’t even know about yet—a sort of Burlesque-peep show-Amsterdam energy with people strutting, tongues hanging out, and people moaning behind closed doors.
Paula Abdul’s “Coldhearted Snake” is the most obvious in its sensuality—a bunch of scarcely clothed dancers slipping and sliding all over each other’s bodies at a fluid pace and with facial expressions that invoked nothing but sex on display. That video was a music-centric orgy with really cool outfits and dance moves—the way the human bodies sort of slid over and around each other, like it was what they were born to do. I mean, isn’t it? The thing about these videos and their appearance on my TV was that you never really knew when they’d be on. Maybe I was in tune to the latest best video countdown, and it was highly likely they’d be in the rotation? Or maybe, it was just a stroke of luck. Yes, I said stroke. I’d watch from the corner of my eye. My wide eye. My parents never really noticed. The things that really counted were invisible anyway, like the tingling in the body and the rush of something warm filling in the spaces, and the acute awareness of my femininity.
It makes me chuckle that the “Paradise City” video was the catalyst for my Mom to say, “No more MTV for a while! It’s garbage.” Oh Mom…If you only knew. Axl Rose had nothing on Steven and Billy. Maybe to other kids, but there was something about the entire direction of the “Rock the Cradle” video. The way it was shot, the darker lighting, and the many red paint colors in the apartment scenario. Or Billy’s tongue.
Was it the worst thing in the world to learn of the crotch tingle from Music Television? Rock and Roll has been synonymous with sex since the beginning of time, so why should it stop at pop music? The instances in which most of us learn about the crotch tingle range from posters, commercials, sitcoms, movies, magazine pages all the way to the real-life waiter or waitress taking our order at the local pizzeria when we’re thirteen years old. Art can be sex, and I think that’s fabulous.
If you see a woman in Doc Martens drooling over a 1964 Chevy Impala like it’s candy, it’s probably Elaina. Her first two books are Italian Bones in the Snow and Black Licorice. Elaina’s poems and prose have been published in various mags and journals. She’s the editor of 50 Give or Take with Vine Leaves Press and lives on the Jersey Shore with her husband and daughters.