Imagine a teen lesbian right now. Ok, now scratch that image because the average teen lesbian isn't a 35-year-old woman in a crusty office building in the San Fernando Valley, all knee-high socks, snapping chewing gum and faux-scared side-eyes to the “teacher” who just “caught” her in a bathroom playing with her “school-friend”. IRL, the average teen lesbian is basically someone with not a single household name to tell them they're normal.
On Monday, Jessie J - one of Britain's only out, non-straight women under 40 that the average straight person could name - declared she is, uh…straight. Giving an exclusive interview with The Mirror, ostensibly to only talk about her sexuality (and how she doesn't want to have to talk about it anymore) and plug some gigs she needs to sell some tickets to, she declared “for me, it was a phase.”
She added: “I feel that if I continue my career not speaking on it, I almost feel more of a liar than if I didn't. I just want to be honest, and it's really not a big deal. Who cares?”
Well, she clearly knows who cares, having previously gloated to Glamour “It’s important for me to be open and honest [about my bisexuality]. I get hundreds of letters from people about it.”
Now, I know women have fluid sexualities, with 30-40% of women claiming in a recent study they have been attracted to other women. But Jessie's totally ‘boxed in’ her own sexuality and done so seemingly out of the blue, with no boyfriend - that we know of - to appease. The only possible reason she could have to announce her sudden heterosexuality is she wants blokes to know she’s painfully available. What other motive is there when someone says: “I want to stop talking about it completely now and find myself a husband.” All the while, being the first person to bring up her sexuality since last September.
She later expanded on this on Twitter, saying “I am evolving into the woman I want to be forever, wanting a husband and kids one day and dreaming up my future just like everyone else,” not only throwing out the implication that gay families aren’t authentic, but also that everyone’s dreaming of that same normcore future instead of just getting on with their lives and seeing what happens.
Maybe she does want a husband and kids, but how on earth would bisexuality preclude her from those dreams? As she said herself in 2011, “I kind of think it's about the person not the genitals.”
It's tough, though, to be sexually fluid as a female musician. It might be a marketing tool for some like Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and so on. But when it comes to legit bisexuality, or even lesbianism, it has to be neutered, sanitised. Like La Roux calling Take That a 'bunch of gaylords', or Nicki Minaj preferring to appear in a video where she AK’s any man who looks at her than discuss those early rap battle videos where she shouts out her wifey Remy Ma. As Carrie from Jessie’s beloved Sex and the City (seriously who the fuck is she kidding if she thinks that’s what straight girls watch) would put it, I couldn’t help but wonder if people are turning down something that could set them apart, not only as role models, but artists.
Angel Haze is a possible exception, and part of the exciting new frontier of hip hop where the new underdogs coming up against mainstream society aren’t rappers, but queer rappers. On a cover of “Same Love” she spits: 'No I'm not gay no I'm not straight and I'm sure as hell am not bisexual, dammit, I am whoever I am when I am it.' and will talk about gay women’s struggles in interviews. But it almost seems as if she’s had to make epic, emotional, glossy pop rap, fit to tour with Bastille, to compensate for the edges brought through her personal life.
Jessie, though, seemed to genuinely believe that sexuality could be both fluid and nothing to define her by. Her first song, “Do It Like A Dude”, was hardly the sort of faux-lesbian imitation dead-eyed pawing at each other that Rihanna and Shakira or even Britney and Madonna try to peddle. The women in the video were butch, grotesque and physically capable of snapping a man in two. They were there as much to turn women on as men. And the lyrics were obviously about Jessie's sexual prowess - with women - exceeding that of male competitors: ‘My B-I-T-C-H-E-S on my dick like this.’
I'm not up for cutting people down for changing. But in the case of Jessie J, she's reneged so hard on something that she used to make such a stand for. She used to be a figurehead for young women who didn’t just fancy men, and now she’s played into that damaging stereotype that bisexuality is only transient until a woman returns to a bloke.
She claims that she doesn’t want to be a role model, but not only are songs such as “Who You Are” stodgy with proselytising, but her prolific social media channels contain more didactic aphorisms than a hemp-clad homeopath's bookcase. She spouts more of these when she talks about her decision to be straight from now on. “Whatever sexuality they chose, or have chosen, love is love. Everyone has their own journey and story, and mine can't go how you would rather it go. I have to live for me.”
She hasn’t only played into the bi-until-decided myth, but she’s also said sexuality is a choice. In a country where psychologists, recommended by the NHS, offer “gay cure” therapies, you can see the problem when people suggest that sexuality is decided.
You might wonder why the fuck I, a happily out woman older than Jessie J, am clinging to the words and actions of someone whose voice is wasted on autotuned songs of varying quality. Straight people are surrounded by their own reflections; everywhere from him-and-her newscasters flirting with one another, to cereal packets to tea-towels to advertising hoardings to all the straight couples who can walk hand-in-hand in public without the looming fear that they’ll get attacked, as one in six of their gay peers have been. Emblems of straight people are so commonplace they’ve become background, our default wallpaper, and for all of her gurning, her wigga-realness and her lacquered hair, Jessie J was one of those reflections of us.
Perhaps there was undue pressure on her to represent all bisexuals. And maybe she got asked about it too much. This story will develop, I’m sure. But Jessie can expect to have lost a lot of fans. Fans who, in turn, feel that little bit more lost because there is one less person about to vindicate them.
Worse than that, she is fanning the flames of bad attitudes, providing a narrative for any homophobic parent, teacher, youth leader, uncle, whatever, who wants to say “it’s just a phase” to feel confident in their assertions. Young people aren’t Jessie J’s responsibility, but she sure made it seem that way for a while. And as much as Jessie J’s bisexuality normalised differences for people struggling with their sexual identities, by doing such a hasty, sealed-up announcement of her new sexuality - one that she could have actually enacted, physically, without any announcement - she’s basically committed a whopping hypocrisy. The worst case of pop hypocrisy, in fact, since Westlife’s Brian McFadden sang “When I see my babies run/ When all the madness has been and gone/ I raise my family and live in peace/ Now that's what's real to me” two years before moving halfway around the world away from his children so he could shack up with Delta Goodrem. And we all know what happened to him.
Follow Sophie on Twitter: @SophWilkinson