Iggy Pop had descended into dark place marked by heroin addiction and the dissolution of his band, only to have David Bowie come to the rescue by helping get the Iggy and the Stooges a new record deal and producing the album. On the resulting Raw Power LP, James Williamson's buzzsaw guitar replaced Ron Asheton's primal blues licks, and Iggy moved lyrically from playful and scary to aggressive and lurid. "I created 'Penetration' at Williamson's mother's house one afternoon," Iggy recalled. "From that riff and that vocal I was able to conjure with it." The two "conjured" the rest of the album after this song.
“Like on 'Youth Knows No Pain' — we are the ones that should demonstrate, because we can take it,” Likke Li said. “We can pierce ourselves, take Ecstasy, dance all night and still go to work at our McDonald's jobs.” Despite the hedonistic sentiment in the song, the Swedish singer also admitted in hindsight her youth had repercussions. “I remember when I was 18-19 and feeling that I know it all,” Li said. “I always feel that I know it all. But that song is about realizing you don’t, and reflecting, ‘Boy, if I only knew what would follow.’”