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25 Years Later, Madonna’s ‘Sex’ Book Is Still Pop’s Most Radical Moment

Twenty-five years ago, Madonna put the world in a trance with the release of Sex. Well, she put some of the world in a trance: During its first day in stores, the $50 coffee-table book, which lived up to its carnal title, sold 150,000 copies, and it soon topped The New York Times Best Seller list. Of course, because it was mainstream art promoting libidinous pleasure, a puritanical outcry followed. Many critics, cultural theorists and fans alike found the BDSM-themed photo collection scandalizing, even repulsive. In their eyes, Madonna, who already faced accessions of overexposure following a decade of chart-topping provocations, had crossed the line.

Today, Sex is still the most radical career move a pop star has ever made.

During Madonna’s imperial phase - the ephemeral period in an artist’s career when everything turns to commercial gold - she sang about teenage pregnancy, introduced the famous cone bra, burned Christian crosses, simulated masturbation on an arena tour and made a video so prurient that even the youth-centric MTV refused to air it. That was child’s play.

The publication of Sex - on Oct. 21, 1992, one day after its companion album 'Erotica' arrived to mixed reviews - marked the moment Madonna’s priorities graduated from making you dance to making you horny. Michael Jackson had been grabbing his crotch for years, and Prince wore an assless pantsuit to the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, but women were only allowed to push so many buttons. The competing female pop stars of the 1980s couched their sexuality in other aesthetics: punk camp (Cyndi Lauper), androgyny (Annie Lennox), anthems about respect (Janet Jackson), love-hungry wholesomeness (Whitney Houston). For Madonna, however, there was a continuum between 'Like a Virgin,' the 1984 single that sparked her first brush with controversy, and 'Erotica,' a concept album about fornication, conceived in the shadow of the conservative Reagan era and the ongoing AIDS crisis.

To read the rest of the article visit: www.huffingtonpost.com/madonna-sex-book

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