Why we're getting tired of raunchy stunts by Rihanna, Katy Perry, and other stars

By Leah Greenblatt
Updated June 18, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

Musicians have been scandalizing the masses since Elvis and his Tilt-a-Whirl pelvis first gyrated onto The Ed Sullivan Show. But pop-star provocation may have finally reached its fatigue point, thanks to the recent shenanigans of Christina Aguilera, Katy Perry, and that tireless mistress of shock and awe, Lady Gaga. First, Aguilera capped off an MTV Movie Awards performance of her oral-sex ode ”Woohoo” with a neon heart pulsing over her own woohoo. Then came Gaga’s much-anticipated ”Alejandro” video — a seemingly subtext-free slurry of sex and religious imagery that, 21 years after Madonna‘s ”Like a Prayer,” didn’t have much to say besides ”Lookit! If there are machine guns hot-glued to my bra, it must be art!” Finally, Perry’s Wonka-esque ”California Gurls” video found the singer — incidentally, the daughter of two pastors — shooting twin plumes of white stuff from her sequined showgirl bustier. When Rihanna subsequently wore what looked like Spanx and a pair of suspendered coffee-filter cones on stage at a festival in Spain, it actually felt…quaint.

Do we need to have an ob-gyn level of intimacy with these girls’ ladybits to continue buying their music? Outsize sexuality is of course a pop star’s prerogative, but it also tends to both obscure and cheapen their genuine talents: Aguilera possesses one of the best voices in the business, and Perry and Gaga consistently write their own hits. Sure, they’re just responding to the public’s seemingly unslakable thirst for fresh stimulation: To not play the vixen game is, more often than not, to be cut from the A-team. It would be nice, though, if for once they didn’t feel compelled to streak the field.