The evolution of sex in country music is parallel to the evolution of sex in American society throughout the 20th century. From songs about affairs to songs about exploring sexuality, this theme has remained controversial overtime. The acceptance of sexual themes in country music still continues to be heavily reliant on the acceptance of sexual themes in society.
1. “Slippin’ Around” Floyd Tillman (1949)
Written by: Floyd Tillman
Post-WWII in America was an era that brought to light controversies surrounding the work place and family life. As soldiers began returning home in the 1940s, divorce rates were climbing. While some radio stations refused to play songs related to infidelity, Floyd Tillman came out with his controversial hit “Slippin Around,” a song about two people having an affair.
2. “Would You Lay With Me (In a Field of Stone)” Tanya Tucker (1973)
Written by: David Allan Coe
The sexual revolution period in America surfaced in the 1970s with the invention of the pill and implementation of sex education in schools. “Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone)” was a song written by David Allan Coe and released in 1973. Although the lyrics “If my needs were strong would you lay with me / Should my lips grow dry would you wet them dear” may not appear too suggestive to listeners, the song was deemed controversial when 15-year-old Tanya Tucker was the recording artist: that seems a little young to be singing about a woman’s “needs.”
3. “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” Conway Twitty (1973)
Written by: Conway Twitty
Conway Twitty’s “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” was banned from several radio stations in 1973. The lyrics “As my trembling fingers touch forbidden places / And as I taste your tender kisses / I can tell you’ve never been this far before,” were very controversial for their time, especially in the country genre. These songs only supported the fear society had of premarital sex, especially in teens, during the sexual revolution.
4. “The Chair” George Strait (1985)
Written by: Dean Dillon, Hank Cochran
During the 1980s, many Americans began pushing for conservatism as Ronald Reagan took presidency. People wanted to resurrect the old-fashioned family values and shy away from sexual undertones. The 80s popularized artists like Randy Travis, George Strait, and Dolly Parton. These artists sang lighthearted love songs like George Strait’s hit “The Chair.” The simple lyrics “Well, excuse me, but I think you’ve got my chair / Oh, I like you too, and to tell you the truth that wasn’t my chair after all” allude back to chivalry with the idea of a man finding an excuse to have an innocent conversation with a woman instead of trying to take her home. The 80s tried to bring values back into country music.
5. “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” Shania Twain (1997)
Written by: Shania Twain, Robert John Lange
Female country artists became far more common in the 1990s. The 90s was the women empowerment decade for country music. Artists like Trisha Yearwood, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, and Sara Evans rose to fame and expanded the female audience for country music. “She’s in the Love with the Boy” by Trisha Yearwood told a story of a young woman rebelling against her parent’s wishes for a young love. Shania Twain sings about a woman’s independence in “Man! I Feel Like a Woman.” The lyrics “Forget I’m a lady / I want to be free to feel the way I feel” defies the stereotypical pressure for a woman to “act like a lady.” Twain, and other country women, wanted all the ladies to know that they don’t need no man to be happy by revolutionizing the portrayal of females in country music.
6. “Burnin’ It Down” Jason Aldean (2014)
Written by: Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins, Florida Georgia Line
In the 2000s, American society started to become desensitized to sexual nuances in the entertainment sphere. Artists in every genre began pushing boundaries to see how much audiences were willing to accept before they were offended. This was especially seen in country music with the emergence of “bro country.” Artists like Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, and Blake Shelton started referencing their manhood in songs about drinking, pick-up trucks, and one-night stands. Instead of women rising above housewife stereotypes, as seen in the 90s, they were becoming portrayed as sexual objects of desire with the daisy dukes and cowboy boots trend. With songs like “I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes” by Billy Currington, “Your Man” by Josh Turner, and “Fish” by Craig Campbell, bro country was no longer subtly hinting but outright referencing sexual encounters. Jason Aldean took a huge risk with his recent song “Burnin’ it Down.” Aldean’s team was concerned with releasing such an overtly sexualized song, especially in the midst of his cheating scandal, and was afraid it would push boundaries too far and fail. Much to everyone’s surprise, the single was a hit. America likes to talk about sex, and now people are becoming okay with that.
7. “Follow Your Arrow” Kacey Musgraves (2014)
Written by: Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, Kacey Musgraves
Kacey Musgraves made some bold statements in her song “Follow Your Arrow.” The song is filled with lyrics that don’t exactly agree with the norms and values of typical country music. With the lyrics “kiss lots of boys, kiss lots of girls, if that’s what you’re into. When the straight and narrow gets a little too straight roll up a joint…” Musgraves thought she would receive a lot of backlash from the song as it referenced gay rights and drug use. However, Musgraves received less criticism than expected because songs about these topics were becoming more common, especially in the pop genre. “…No matter what we should all be able to love who we want to love and live how we want to live,” Musgraves said. She crack opened the door to country music accepting these lifestyles.
Successful songs in country music almost always follow a trending topic. Throughout history, country has evolved as society has evolved. From the post-war past to the bro country present, the theme of sex has been addressed and molded to fit the values of society while still bordering controversy. As society accepts new trends, so will country music. Now more than ever, we will expect to be hearing new songs referencing sexual freedom.