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Taking it in the ear: On musico-sexual synergies and the (queer) possibility that music is sex

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Across ages and cultures, music's relationship to sexual allure and its adept capacity for invoking pleasure, eroticism, and desire are well established. Music's ability to arouse and channel sexual urges and desires renders it both a dynamic mode of gender and sexual signification and a putative agent of moral corruption. Music can convey coded sexual innuendo, give shape to a person's erotic agency, or constitute a significant part of their sexual identity. For some, listening to music may, in fact, be considered an erotically pleasurable or even a sexual act. Drawing selectively on music's erotic history, on queer erotic possibilities, as well as on contemporary accounts of musically-mediated eroticism and identity situated across a broad range of popular genres, this paper will examine the way music can be used to catalyze and negotiate erotic pleasures. Specifically, it will examine this in terms of what the author names as ‘musico-sexual synergies’. These include: music as a stylistic marker of sexual identity; music as a structuring device for sexual action; and the fetishization of music and/or sound – that is, the sexual fetish known as ‘auralism’.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia,

Publication date: August 1, 2012

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