‘Oral’ and the Beauty of Unfulfilled Fantasies

What Björk’s trying to tell us about kissing and salmon

Counter Arts
4 min readNov 30, 2023


Written and recorded in the late nineties, Björk and Rosalia’s Oral was recently released to the public. The accompanying music video shows both singers deepfaked on two dancers sparring with samurai swords. Their song’s poppy electronic beat complements its sensual lyrics, suitably so with its suggestive title. By Björk’s own admission, Oral is essentially about kissing:

It’s totally that moment when you’ve met someone, and you don’t know if it’s friendship or something more. So you become, I guess, aroused. And you become very aware of your lips. That’s maybe why I called the song “Oral.” You don’t know what the consequences are if you act. Sometimes fantasy can be amazing, and that’s enough; you don’t have to also do things.

The act of kissing, with lips, with tongues — eyes closed and everything — starts with fantasy. There is an expectation, a forecast from one person to another. Alapack (2007) says that kissing is the most genuine of intimate acts. This is partly because in practice, a kiss cannot be faked, it is reciprocal, and it can be withdrawn by any one party at will. In a kiss, one is vulnerable, one has to relinquish control somewhat to the other person. A cold kiss can hurt just as much as a breakup. He also states that kissing is a gateway, it is the initiative act, the door to romance and relationships. For that reason, a kiss holds the ability for satisfaction or disappointment, it can signal the start or end of a relationship.

Björk’s lyrics and song structure reflect this dilemma, of whether or not to risk perfect dreams for tactile reality. The two singers chiming in over one another is like a dialogue between inner thoughts and conflicting doubts. Björk and Rosalia lament this barter between desires in their second verse:

Let me introduce one to the other
The dream and the real, get them acquainted
(Just because she can)

British psychotherapist Adam Philips in his book On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored (1994), suggests that satisfaction is the death of possibility. He says that obstacles just push people to find new ways of making what they don’t do more exciting. Fantasies, either sexual or romantic in nature, exaggerate the satisfactions they promise, often leading to frustration.

In one of his other books Missing Out (2014), Philips says that there is never any guarantee that the desire will be satisfied, and even then the object of frustrations will just transform into something else. Before there ever was kissing there was a dream of a kiss. And in that dream’s realization, the desired act loses something. When what once was wanted is now found, it loses something that gives it meaning in the first place, the want itself. The person in the song is frustrated because she wants to kiss this guy, but maybe she also wants to kiss him because she’s frustrated. Once all is unsaid and the deed is done, there is no place to hide, so the dream dies in contact.

By suspending the kissing exclusively in imagination, the honeymoon phase lingers forever, lips perpetually near each other but never touching. In the end, both singers decide that some things are better left in dreams, and perhaps a phantom kiss lasts longer than a real one, with less unfavorable consequences. A sentiment echoed in the song’s final line:

There’s a line there, I can’t cross it

Now onto meatier matters, concerning salmon. Open-pen fishing is when a large cage or net contains hundreds to thousands of different fish, which causes bad conditions for any animals involved and pollutes the sea. This practice is not only harmful to the environment but needlessly puts the fish through extreme suffering. Salmon industrially farmed in Iceland are drugged to grow quickly, deforming it. Thus Björk chose to finally release the song after 25 years as a charity single, lending all profits to the campaign, raising awareness for salmon, and opening her mouth about the tension that comes from kissing.


Alapack, R. J. (2007). Simulation in Cyberspace and Touch of the Flesh: Kissing, the Blush, the Hickey and the Caress. Journal of Psychosocial Research, 1(1).

Phillips, A. (1994). On kissing, tickling, and being bored : psychoanalytic essays on the unexamined life. Harvard University Press.

Phillips, A. (2014). Missing out : in praise of the unlived life. Picador/Farrar, Strauss And Giroux.



Counter Arts

Chronic dreamer. Self-proclaimed poet, writer, and artist. Lover of art in all its myriad forms.