Now that’s ideology! In “Just a Kiss” Lady Antebellum convinces the listener that a kiss goodnight is a more powerful and satisfying affirmation of love than having sex. Is this objectively true? I guess it all depends on one’s personal history, but I'm not so sure. Nonetheless, the song is so persuasive, it’s romantic sensibility so strong that I imagine more than a few people will be drawn in by it. This song is a perfect example of how ideology works when it’s convincing: its argument is successful not because it denies you something or because it demonizes something but because it presents its position as the most natural and appealing.
The song begins by inverting the usual gender narrative of sexual desire. The female singer in the first verse sings: “it’s hard to fight these feelings when it feels so hard to breathe.” The male singer in the second verse reassures her: “We don’t need to rush this/Let’s just take it slow.” Then together in the chorus they both agree: “No, I don’t want to mess this thing up/ No, I don’t want to push too far.” Finally they realize the beauty of what they actually have, that this might be the relationship that they have been waiting for their whole lives and so they realize that they are “alright/ With just a kiss goodnight.” And what a kiss! “Just a kiss on your lips in the moonlight/Just a touch of the fire burning so bright.” Who wouldn’t want such a kiss?
Sex would ruin what they are building up. The scene, the kiss, the desire, they are all so ideally right that sex would only desecrate the perfection of the moment. The kiss, the kiss, that’s what you want! There is no need to lecture young people about what God and your family expects from you. There is no need to scare them about sexual diseases and unplanned pregnancies, no need for holier-than-thou preaching about saving yourself for the right person, under the right conditions, and after you are married. Abstinence is not a sermon here.
Abstinence in this song is the most perfect medium through which one can express love and desire. In other words, abstinence is the result of true love and if you really love someone then that love would motivate you to NOT want to have sex with that person. It’s a funny refiguring of the commonplace that love leads to sex. In this song, love leads to abstinence. Will this song keep teenagers from having sex? Who knows, but I’ll probably try to get my kids to listen to it a lot when they're teenagers.