John Mayer referred to Jessica Simpson as “sexual napalm” over a decade ago, and, while she didn’t have the wherewithal to stick up for herself then, she says she’s not that same young twenty-something girl anymore.
Jessica Simpson reflects on her past high-profile relationships in her newly released memoir, Open Book. Not long after her divorce from Nick Lachey, the Newlyweds star began dating singer-songwriter John Mayer. Simpson alluded that their on-and-off again relationship was tumultuous, stemming from the fact that Mayer was “obsessed” with her. Before you roll your eyes, her description is an understatement.
Ten years ago, when asked about his relationship with Jessica Simpson, the singer said, “Yeah, that girl is like crack cocaine to me... Sexually it was crazy. That’s all I’ll say. It was like napalm, sexual napalm.” What loaded words, quintessential “locker room talk.” But boys will be boys, right? (Ok, now you can roll your eyes.)
As a fan of John Mayer, I felt disheartened when I read what he said about her (and other women) in this interview. He’s a good musician; he knows that some songs are just better without lyrics. He could have said nothing, but the songwriter, knowing the weight of his words, attempted to make an interview with Playboy sound poetic. He later claimed he was trying to be clever, except there’s nothing “clever” about lewd and racist comments.
“Yeah, that girl is like crack cocaine to me... Sexually it was crazy. That’s all I’ll say. It was like napalm, sexual napalm.”
While he did apologize for what he said a long time ago, when he was recently asked about Simpson’s new book (where she couldn’t even bring herself to repeat what he said about her), he deflected the conversation by quoting a Pee Wee Herman movie:
“As Pee Wee Herman says in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure before the movie of his life is about to play out at the end, he’s not watching the movie, and the reason he’s not watching the movie, he says, ‘I don’t have to watch it, Dottie, I lived it.’ And I think that’s prescient here.” There he goes again trying to be clever.
The Irony in Mayer's Grammy Winning Song “Daughters”
As a grown woman, I can dispel his lack of empathy as immaturity but my inner child cringes with disappointment. I was 16 when “Daughters” won song of the year, and I did learn how to love from my father. But having a great father doesn't protect a girl from boys like Mayer forever, although I would say most great fathers spend their lives trying to.
It’s ironic that he would write such a song when it’s men like him who perpetuate the very thing he’s singing about. You know John, boys will be boys, but they become fathers too. My best friend has a daughter whom I adore. Her mom playfully asked her recently, “Why are you so cute?” to which she replied, “Because I said.” She’s three, and all I can do is pray that she’ll hold onto that self-worth forever. At what age does our self-esteem weaken?
Women Believe a False Narrative about Sex
We grow up being fed this lie that men need sex, like they need food or water. So, in response, women do all they can to be sexually desirable. They compare themselves to women like Simpson and create impossible standards. We are supposed to be an anomaly, a man’s sexual fantasy yet “girl next door.” It's too much.
We grow up being fed this lie that men need sex, like they need food or water. So, in response, women do all they can to be sexually desirable.
The artist famous for touting daisy dukes was also America’s sweetheart. Simpson shares in her book what we often hear from celebrities: she felt immense pressure to be thin and beautiful, she was constantly compared to other female artists, and she was made into a notorious sex symbol for publicity. A woman who is universally known for her beauty, however, didn’t feel desired by her first husband, Nick Lachey. Simpson recognizes this is what drew her to Mayer — he made her feel wanted. While she says John Mayer’s comments “made it easy” to completely cut ties, she almost defended him by saying, “he thought that’s what I wanted to be called.” As someone who was known for being a virgin before marriage, that's a surprising anecdote.
We’ve made sex appeal to be something that's supposedly empowering for women, but what's empowering about something we’ve contrived to be so temporal and shallow? We pretend that sex appeal can be spotted in a provocative picture or in a way a woman looks or dresses. But being sexy isn’t just that — it's a whole package. We can’t be drawn to someone sexually with just an image alone. To feel something about someone in a picture or even someone you see in a crowd, you’d have to know them. Chemistry can’t be manipulated so easily; you either have a story with them or you’ve created one (the latter being quite sad).
In the deepest parts of ourselves we only want to be loved for who we are entirely, our whole selves, and it’s finding that deep connection with another person that fuels lasting intimacy. That connection, however, requires complete transparency; something Simpson admits she didn’t have with Mayer, as she confessed she always felt insecure with him.
To feel something about someone in a picture, or even someone you see in a crowd, you’d have to know them. Chemistry can’t be manipulated so easily.
It’s only natural for a woman to want to be desired by her husband. Simpson refers to her current husband and the father of her three children, Eric Johnson, as her “soul mate.” This connection is different than anything she ever had before because of how “loving and selfless” he is. Reminding all of us, that women really just want a good guy.
Distorting Sex Doesn’t Support Authentic Love
The fashion mogul has let everything go with Mayer, but she noted that it was this relationship that led her further into addiction. It was more than the words he said about her. They broke up nine times, and you can imagine how she must have felt in the midst of the relationship if this is what he said about her in the end. Mayer’s words weren’t alluring, although I think that’s what he was going for. He didn’t characterize her as a captivating goddess; he painted this picture of her that implied something pornographic. To refer to a woman’s body as a “drug that wasn’t good for you,” that you would “sell anything to have [sex] with her,” implies that sex is all she’s good for, it’s all she’s worth.
As a woman, it sickens me to think of my best friend's daughter, or my future daughter, to ever define themselves by how sexually appealing they are to men. I can only imagine how fathers feel, knowing exactly how “boys will be boys.” That’s why the narrative that men need sex, has to change. Men don’t need sex, like they need food or water or air. They aren't obliged to do it just by being a man.
But when there isn't authentic love in the relationship, sex is just a means to an end.
Sex isn’t a fundamental need — affection is, and the two aren't always the same thing. Physical touch is just one love language, for both men and women, that can validate or express authentic love. But when there isn't authentic love in the relationship, sex is just a means to an end. It’s just use. Jessica Simpson is a perfect example that women don’t need to be desired by all men, or just any man for that matter, but they do need to feel desired by their husbands. Husbands need to have sex with their wives absolutely, but no one needs meaningless sexual encounters.
I can’t help but wonder, if men really knew the number of tears that were shed in their name, would still have an affinity for sordid sex? Women deserve more than to be sexually exploited; our bodies aren’t for the benefit of men.
While our fathers have a major impact on how we as women accept and give love, unfortunately for Mayer, they can’t be blamed for everything. As he wrote in “Daughters,” if “boys would be gone without the warmth of a woman’s good, good heart,” then it’s the job of all men to protect them.