Billie Eilish, the 19-year-old singer-songwriter known for hits like Bad Guy and Therefore I Am, is at the center of controversy yet again. The issue stems from recent imagery in her Lost Cause music video, where Eilish is surrounded by beautiful young women. She’s pictured in silk pajamas in a slumber party-type situation, touching and dancing with these women and sticking out her tongue. She recently posted a still from the video with a caption that said “i love girls”, and TikTok and Instagram went wild.
So where does the controversy come from? Mainly, it comes from people claiming that Eilish is “queer-baiting”, which refers to a marketing practice where queerness and same-sex attraction and romance are implied, but never actually depicted. Comments underneath the video still on Instagram are brutal, saying if Billie doesn’t come out that she’s “literally queer-baiting” while citing her supposedly “erotic” imagery and the release of the video during Pride Month. But Billie Eilish has never spoken publicly about her sexuality, and she doesn’t owe an explanation to anyone.
There’s nothing sexual about a sleepover-themed music video, or with friendly intimacy between two women. I kiss my female friends platonically, and have taken photos doing so. So why are we demanding an explanation from a 19-year-old for sticking out her tongue and saying she loves girls? Perhaps she’s exploring her sexuality (at 19, many of us were doing so); perhaps she’s simply close with her friends and loves spending time with them. Despite her song, she’s not the bad guy here.
Social media can be a wonderful connecting force, but many of us forget that brands, musicians, and influencers use it as a tool to advertise themselves. When you see photos of them every day, it’s easy to feel that you know celebrities on a personal level, but those feelings of intimacy are usually carefully manufactured to increase income, audience, and profit. That’s how the industry works. Billie Eilish is not your friend; she’s a celebrity you keep up with. She doesn’t know you, she doesn’t owe you explanations about her most private thoughts and feelings, and you don’t know if she kisses girls behind closed doors. To demand that kind of knowledge is incredibly problematic.
Remember what you’re actually doing when you try to pressure Eilish to “set the record straight” on her sexuality because she made one music video. You are asking that a complete stranger out themselves because they have a platform. That’s arguably an act of violence, celebrity or not, heterosexual or otherwise.
At 19, I swore up and down I was straight despite experimenting, exploring, and experiencing same-sex attraction. At 22, I’m comfortable enough to live my life as an unapologetic queer woman. Billie Eilish deserves the same time and space to explore herself and her potential queerness, and I can’t imagine doing so in front of the whole world at her age. Queerness still carries stigma, and everyone deserves to come out in their own time and at their own pace. A lot of what is being said to Eilish in the name of satiating curiosity is beyond invasive.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if Eilish is queer or is just enjoying the unique intimacy of female friendship, which isn’t inherently queer-baiting. What does matter is assuring she has the space to explore sex and sexuality on a normal teenage timeline, and to figure out who she is for herself. No one expects straight people to announce their sexuality or explain it — and if Eilish were to come out, it should be on her own terms. Respect her autonomy, her choices, and her right to privacy and exploration; otherwise you can’t call yourself a fan.