Like a Virgin: When Pop Stars Become Women

The rise of the internet in the early 2000s ushered in a new era of pop stars – one where teen girls like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were suddenly available for mass consumption and subject to the omnipresent male gaze. This gave way to pressures for female stars to walk the fine line between virgin and whore. And all the while, the world was watching, waiting for the day they turned from girls to women and stepped into their sexuality. So, what happens when these pop stars do become women?

By 19, Britney fully embraced her sexual identity in “I’m a Slave 4 U ” and subsequent album Britney; meanwhile, Christina, 21, did the same with “Dirrty” and Stripped. After the album cycles, they both stepped back from the overtly sexual images, leaving us to wonder if it all had to do with the pressure to become the sexual being that society was waiting for them to be.

In this episode, we explore the narratives given to Britney and Xtina, and look at how others like Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish dealt with the pressure to be sexual pop stars. 

You might also enjoy learning about: how Justified set the precedent for male heartthrobs becoming adults, the ups and downs of Miley Cryus’ career, and the dark side of the Disney Industrial Complex.

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Want to talk more? Find us: @name3songs | @sara_feigin | @jenna_million

Sources for Like a Virgin: When Pop Stars Become Women

Read an Interview With a 17-Year-Old Britney Spears: ‘Oh My Goodness, These Guys Are, Like, Old’ (Variety, Karen Bliss)

Britney Spears, Teen Queen: Rolling Stone’s 1999 Cover Story (Rolling Stone, Steven Daly)

Oops… She’s doing it again (The Guardian, Jenny Eliscu, 2001)

Britney Spears: Sex & The Singles Girl (Entertainment Weekly, Chris Nashawaty, 2001)

The Tragedy of Britney Spears (Rolling Stone, Vanessa Grigoriadis, 2008)

Britney Spears Engages In Battle Over Who Made Her Sexy (LAist, Jessica P. Ogilvie, 2013)

Christina Comes Clean : The Allure Interview (Allure, 2002)

Has Anyone Seen Christina? (Rolling Stone, Chris Heath, 2002) [this link is for a message board, but it’s the right interview lol]

Christina Aguilera: ‘I came out with Dirrty and that was my f**k-it moment’ (Irish Times, Shilpa Ganatra, 2019)

Christina Aguilera: Dirty Girl Cleans Up (Rolling Stone, Austin Scaggs, 2006)

‘Like A Virgin’ Lives On, A Winking Anthem For Women Getting Married (NPR, Neda Ulaby, 2018) 

Madonna’s Now-Famous ‘Like a Virgin’ Performance Was Thanks to a Wardrobe Malfunction (, Matt Mullen, 2020)

Twerk It Out: Miley and Robin’s VMA Performance, One Year Later (Rolling Stone, Katy Kroll, 2014)

Miley Cyrus on Her Jump to Sexy Twerker (NY Times, 2013)

Rosen on Bangerz: Miley Cyrus Can’t Stop Reminding Us She’s Not a Kid Anymore (Vulture, 2013)

Selena Gomez Breaks Down Her ‘Psychotic’ Alter Ego From ‘Hands to Myself’  Video (MTV News, Madeline Roth, 2016)

Selena Gomez Embraces Her Sexuality: ‘It’s Part of Being an Adult’ (ET Online, Jackie Willis, 2015)

Selena Gomez Strips Down for ‘Revival’ Album Cover: See the Pic (Billboard, Erin Strecker, 2015)

Selena Gomez Reveals Why She Doesn’t Like Her ‘Revival’ Album Cover (iHeart Radio, Hayden Brooks, 2020)

Demi Lovato Says They ‘Never Truly Identified’ with Being a ‘Sexy, Feminine’ Pop Star (People, Melody Chiu, 2021)


Dua Lipa: ‘You have to be made of steel not to let words get to you’ (The Guardian, Laura Snapes, 2020)

Billie Eilish Explains Why She Covers Her Chest — and Why She Might Not Once She Turns 18 (People, 2019, Brianne Tracy)

Billie Eilish Steps Out in Lingerie, Reveals New Tattoo in ‘British Vogue’ Cover Shoot (Billboard, 2021, Mitchell Peters)

Is Billie Eilish’s “Big Reveal” Really So Shocking? (Slate, Nicole Fumo, 2021)

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