Speculating About Sexuality is Not Cool for the Summer

Image: Demi Lovato by João Bicalho, via CC BY 2.0

Demi Lovato’s latest single, Cool for the Summer, is an upbeat and catchy pop song, with lyrics that talk about a summer fling. While it’s not the most meaningful or moving song I’ve ever heard, it’s fun.

At least, it was until people began to speculate about Lovato’s sexuality. A Buzzfeed article titled “Is Demi Lovato’s ‘Cool For The Summer’ About A Same-Sex Fling?” is filled with comments about how Lovato must be bisexual. While most of the comments seem well-intended, it’s extremely problematic to guess someone else’s sexuality.

Firstly, it’s none of my business. It’s none of your business, either, unless you’re Demi Lovato. This should be obvious, but it apparently isn’t — sexual orientation can be an extremely personal thing, and if someone doesn’t talk about it, then we should respect their decision.

Secondly, there’s the problem of forcing labels on people who haven’t used them. We shouldn’t do that, namely because that’s not our job to decide how someone else identifies. Providing information about possible labels (such as different kinds of sexual orientations) is one thing; deciding that someone is bisexual because it seems like they show interest in same and different genders is something else entirely. As someone who has actively questioned their own sexuality, I can tell you that it’s not helpful at all when someone tries to dictate how you identify. If anything, it creates a pressure to just pick something so that people will stop, rather than trying to see if there’s an identity that I’m comfortable with, or if using a label is even useful in the first place.

Thirdly, speculating about people’s sexuality because they might not be straight suggests that being heterosexual is the norm, which is extremely heteronormative. Notice that no one has speculated about the sexuality of female celebrities who have only had relationships with men, or vice versa. Meanwhile, Lovato has to deal with this because of some song lyrics, among other things. Similarly, Kristen Stewart’s sexuality has been the topic du jour for ages, based on her more androgynous look. The speculation was bad enough that people celebrated when her mom supposedly outed her in an interview. Treating (potential) non-heterosexual orientations as puzzles to solve, or a wonder of the world of some sort, makes them seem like they’re unnatural and deviant, since they aren’t part of the mainstream heteronormative narrative.

I’m all for critical analysis entertainment media; I think it’s extremely important to see what values are presented in songs, movies, etc. However, speculating about someone else’s sexuality is not a critical viewpoint but part of an invasive, heteronormative dialogue. There’s no denying that the song is provocative, and that the lyrics could be about having a relationship with another woman. If you wanted to use a critical lens to look at the song, you could discuss how Lovato’s management said that she’s just “having fun” and how that idea hurts lesbian and bisexual women. But the guessing game about Demi Lovato’s sexuality (and everyone’s sexuality, except your own) needs to stop, because it definitely isn’t cool for the summer.

You can hear Cool for the Summer on Spotify and on YouTube:


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