Madonna reflects on how ‘Sex’ broke sexual taboos: ‘You’re welcome bitches’

On the 30th anniversary of the coffee table book, the singer recalls how she was shamed for trying to empower herself as a woman

(l-r) Editor Glenn O'Brien, Madonna and photographer Steven Meisel at the book presentation of 'Sex' in 1992.
(l-r) Editor Glenn O'Brien, Madonna and photographer Steven Meisel at the book presentation of 'Sex' in 1992.

It’s been 30 years since Madonna released her groundbreaking album Erotica, which coincided with the publication of her coffee table book called Sex. In the book, the singer sought to challenge society’s ideas of eroticism and how they were shaped by the male gaze. The volume featured erotic photographs of Madonna and other models taken by legendary photographers Steven Meisel and Fabien Baron. On the anniversary of its publication on October 22, Madonna reflected on the criticism she faced over the book.

“Thirty years ago I published a book called S.E.X. In addition to photos of me naked there were photos of Men kissing Men, Woman kissing Woman and Me kissing everyone. I also wrote about my sexual fantasies and shared my point of view about sexuality in an ironic way,” she wrote in an Instagram story. “I spent the next few years being interviewed by narrow minded people who tried to shame me for empowering myself as a Woman. I was called a whore, a witch, a heretic and the devil.”

She continued: “Now Cardi B can sing about her WAP. Kim Kardashian can grace the cover of any magazine with her naked ass and Miley Cyrus can come in like a wrecking ball. You’re welcome bitches.”

Madonna also shared a clip from a 1992 interview with Australian journalist Richard Carleton following the release of Sex. In the interview, the journalist from 60 Minutes Australia confessed that he “got a fright” from reading the singer’s book. “I’ve never seen the likes of it,” he said, to which Madonna responded, incredulously: “You’ve never read Playboy magazine or Penthouse?” Carleton replied that the two could not be compared. “The picture of you astride the mirror, masturbating? I thought that was horrible. It just strikes me as horrible,” he said.

Madonna replied: “I think that people’s reactions to specific situations in the book is much more a reflection of that person than me. You were scared by that picture, what does that mean? Are you frightened of a woman that can turn herself on? Are you frightened of a woman who is not afraid to look at her genitals in the mirror?”

As time has shown, Madonna’s erotic book was a challenge to male oppression of women and their sexuality. Thirty years later, thanks in part to Sex, the world has an entirely different understanding of female sexuality.


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