Every now and again, I am reminded how wonderful Madonna is. Recently I found a link to scans of the pages of her Sex book on Tumblr and spent a while marvelling at how bold she was back in 1992. Despite the fact that I have my own copy in storage somewhere and so have seen the text and images many times before now, every time I look at the book it means more because I have related to it in a new way at different points in my life. I never saw them as shocking or offensive but, now that I have reached my late 30s, the themes covered in the book make far more sense to me. Even though it may have initially seemed that she was simply out to shock, Madonna’s book shows a personal exploration of sexuality, desire and the female body that was both brave and educational. At the time, despite the book’s success, the media and general public reacted quite badly to its publication. “Mad Fan Al” sums it up beautifully in an Amazon review, stating:
“Middle America was on a clean up campaign which many, including Madonna, saw as an infringment on the country’s celebrated freedom of speech and expression beliefs. She added to the debate by producing a book of her own Erotic fantasies which portrayed her take on sexuality and sex in a way SHE wanted it to be seen. She wanted to portay her own ideals of sex from the stand point of a straight, white woman and not as the object of some male, media hungry tycoon exploiting women the way the pornographic industry had done for decades. This was all good, outstanding actually, but most people (including the male dominated media) missed it and her point totally. The press actually felt extremely threatened by her and labelled her as anything from a tramp to a whore and everything in between, she was in reality a sexual woman in control.”
Despite this, Madonna refused to apologise for the book and one of my favourite parts of the whole incident was when she wrote and released the song Human Nature, explaining how she felt about reactions to things she’d said and done. “Would it sound different if I were a man?” she asked us. Quite probably. At the peak of her career, Madonna was a strong woman who was a bold innovator, made her own choices, spoke her mind and regretted nothing. There is still a lot we can learn from her.
Image via Wikipedia.