I was digging through an old drawer where I keep some work clothes when unexpectedly my hand touched something cold and metallic.
oh, I’ve never owned a gun.
It was a ring binder with three letters engraved on the silver metal cover: SEX.
“I don’t understand how a guy looking at a naked girl in a magazine demeans women. Everyone has their own sexuality,” begins Madonna’s book, which is still shocking 30 years after it was published in the US in early October 1992.
“It’s how you deal with people in everyday life that counts, not what turns you on in your imagination,” she adds, in words that now sound naïve in times of internet trash, porn and sexual exploitation of men, women and children.
Most of the things you associate with 1992 seem tame and conservative when you look back from the perspective of what has overtaken us in the past few decades. Not sex. The scenes of simulated sex, bondage and nudity are as fresh today as they were then.
I’m not someone who knew much about Madonna at the time; I still don’t. I might recognize a song or two, but I enjoyed her role in the film Desperately looking for Susannea hilarious prank starring Aidan Quinn.
But then came the hype surrounding her book. We couldn’t get our hands on it the week it was released in the US, but English writer Martin Amis had flown to New York especially for the launch.
That Sunday independent carried his lengthy article, illustrated by a frontal nude image of Madonna, photographed by Steven Meisel.
It caused an uproar, but it was a topic of conversation and we were all for topics of conversation.
I remember it cost £25 but I can’t remember exactly where we got it the following week – although I must have been involved in sourcing it, which is why I still have the book.
Because of the commotion the Yanks play caused, sex was posted on the book pages the week it came out in Europe, with a review headed Erotica in a full metal case, a reference to the CD of the same name accompanying the book. Perhaps mischievously off-topic was Barry Egan’s review of Daniel O’Donnell’s autobiography, Follow your dreams.
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On page three of the same newspaper, Lise Hand sought the opinions of some well-known women on a book she said contained a “shopping list of sexual practices and contained scenes of group sex, lesbianism and sadomasochism.” The photographs are artistic, cheesy, outrageous or exciting, depending on your point of view.”
“I think the less censorship there is, the better,” said then Health Secretary Mary O’Rourke. “We’re educated enough to decide matters like this book for ourselves, with no filter system in place to decide for us. However, this book is not really a tribute to sex, there is a lot of violence in some of the photos.”
In 1992, singer Dolores Keane arguably reflected current thinking: “The book is more aggressive than I expected. Madonna is a slut, there’s no doubt about that. She wants to shock the world and she can get away with it.”
Maxine Brady, then President of the Union of Students in Ireland, added: “It’s not hard porn, although some of the footage is exaggerated. But sexual practices are a matter of taste and many people engage in this type of behavior in the privacy of their own homes.”
There was also an Irish aspect: one of the “models” in the book was Carl Geary, originally from Blackrock in Dublin, who ran a bar in New York called Sin-é for a friend, Shane Doyle. It became a hangout for celebrities including Sinéad O’Connor, Lou Reed and Jeff Buckley.
Another client was Jodi Peckman, photo editor at Rolling Stone Magazine, then the bible of pop culture.
As a result, young Geary met Madonna and eventually ended up in bed kissing the naked singer.
“Eventually I go to bed with her and, well, Madonna pushed everything to the limit, but I thought everything we did was tasteful,” he later said.
Geary later wrote novels, including one set at his old workplace, Montpelier Parade, south Dublin.
Of course, the Vatican contributed heavily to the sale sexby telling Catholics not to buy it
sex was photographed in New York and Miami in early 1992 and included cameo appearances by actress Isabella Rossellini, rapper Vanilla Ice, model Naomi Campbell and socialite Tatiana von Furstenberg. Within days it sold more than 1.5 million copies and surpassed that New York Times bestseller list.
In the UK it sold 100,000 copies on day one and was the second best-selling hardcover book in 1992, behind Andrew Morton’s biography of Princess Diana.
It was described, perhaps ironically, by one journalist as “the best and fastest-selling illustrated book” – although even now it seems academic as to who would have it on their coffee table.
The book appeared at the same time as the singer’s CD eroticismbut if there was a CD with my copy, it’s long gone.
The aluminum case is scratched and despite being a first edition, it’s probably worth less than $75, although some autographed copies are currently selling for over $5,000.
Is there a legacy too sex, or was it all just hype? Sociologists may have already answered that question, but it’s just a dirty book to me, although it has to be admitted that Madonna looks pretty good in her birthday suit in some of the less salacious pictures.
Madonna is now 64 and apparently lives in a €6 million mansion in Lisbon. Last time I saw her on Graham Norton’s TV show, Madonna fit the unkind phrase “mutton dressed as lamb” — shall I say so?
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/madonnas-sex-still-has-the-power-to-shock-at-30-42051333.html Madonna’s “sex” still has the power to shock at 30