Life and Culture, OP/ED

Lana Del Rey: Her Case for Sexual Liberation

By Tanza Loudenback

Lana Del Rye's sophomore album. 

Lana Del Rye's sophomore album. 


   Lana Del Rey’s second album Ultraviolence hit radio waves this spring. It swiftly—in the sultry and iridescent way that defines Del Rey’s artistry—shot up to No. 1 on the Billboard charts last week.

   While an instrumentally heightened version of her debut album, this one echoes the same touchy themes: dominance, depression, death and disillusionment. Despite the instantaneous popularity of Ultraviolence, her critics have wasted no time expressing that they are wildly unimpressed with her tendencies to glorify violence in the name of love. In the title track, Lana sings about the complex connection between love and violence, “He hit me and it felt like a kiss/Jim brought me back/reminded me of when we were kids.”

   Lana’s lyrics notoriously romanticize the men who love her, enslave her and ultimately hurt her. She often goes as far to portray men as her liberator, but never fails to admit when her deep obsessions end in devastation. “Jim raised me up/He hurt me but it felt like true love/loving him was never enough.”

   So, the question stands as listeners try to discover her motives behind the brilliant rawness of Ultraviolence: Why does the emotionally twisted artist happily surrender herself to sexist roles? Is she a counter-productive model for female youth?

   In a Rolling Stone interview in early June, Lana said: "My idea of a true feminist is a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants." Feminism is generally described as a radical attitude that demands equality between men and women, eliminating any and all hints of sexism. Feminists take nothing less than a leadership role in their own lives, almost always refusing to submit to men. But, evidently, Lana’s terms and conditions of a feminist are vastly different. She daringly portrays a woman who is OK, and actually feels emboldened, by male domination.  

   Perhaps Lana is representing a post-feminist world where sexism is no longer troublesome and both sexes have learned to respect each other within the boundaries that most suit each relationship. In the post-feminist world she denotes, women are entirely welcome to choose traditional gender roles without the marionette strings of society leading them to act progressively.

   Even so, Ultraviolence falls deeper than an opposition against feminism. Lana is undoubtedly self-assured in her decisions to allow men to empower her. In some ways it’s a plea to the feminist world to realize that love is both an action and an emotion, and the abuse Lana details is just as passionately valid as anything else. It’s a call for liberation from the constraints of contemporary power in relationships. And just because her liberations often deal with her sexuality instead of her mentalities, her efforts shouldn’t be discredited.

   Lana finds strength in her struggles to broaden the spectrum for women who want to be valued by men, but feel like the radicalness of feminism is too narrowing. Really, she rejects the notion of feminism and sexism as a means of black or white, right or wrong. Instead, she vehemently seeks liberation for females, a new kind of feminism—encouraging women to embrace what it is they really want despite what textbook feminism demands. Because as a self-proclaimed “chameleon soul,” Lana realizes that nothing is ever a one-way street. Nothing, including herself, has a “fixed personality.”


Edited by Valerie Reich

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