My first reaction to Madonna was intense respect for anyone who could arouse and annoy so many people at such a young age. So I kept on eye on her. Watched her every move.
But I soon realized I wasn't interested, at least not sexually, which was supposed to be the point. I felt a clinical distance—all right, a clinical fascination—but nothing direct or moving. No spark. And this was surprising, since she certainly met much of the official criteria that I'd carried since my official adolescence.
I mean, she flaunted her ample sexuality, she was rebellious, uninhibited—a real sexual creature. So why the cold shoulder? Why no cold showers?
I began to simultaneously question her rebelliousness and her status as a sex kitten/goddess.
In her signature hit, Material Girl, she strutted around, looking so rebellious, so independent. In reality, though, it was just a version of Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend, an updated insurance policy for dependent women whose mission is to land the man with the deepest pockets and dig in. Hardly rebellious, after all.
Another signature song, Papa Don't Preach, superficially maintained the rebellious facade of the can't-tell-me-nothing-I'll-make-my-own choices, younger generation, and superficially confronted the teen pregnancy issue. But its message was that the real problem these girls face are fuddy duddy old parents who insist that they have abortions! It takes a lot of Spandex to make that stretch.
OK, so she was another 80's opportunist. But not sexy? Why, she's promiscuous, unrestrained. Just look at how she carries on!
In one of her videos she dances erotically in front of a black church group, complete with interracial, lesbian overtures. In another, she is in chains. In another she grabs her crotch. In another, she intermixes images of men wrestling in semi-nude liquid sensuousness with her making love (handcuffed, naturally). And so on. It's sure supposed to be sexy. Why isn't it?
The essence, again, is that, contrary to appearances, she is, at heart, not rebelling.
Look at her face, even her body language. Rarely a glimmer of how neat or liberating some of this might truly be. Or, heaven forbid, feel. Never a smile or a relaxed moment. Instead, it's all intensity and grimness. She is running through a laundry list of naughty things a good Catholic girl doesn't do. But it's a desultory, by the numbers sort of perversion: Now I'm going to do this. Now I'm going to touch that. Now I'm going to break this taboo, and so forth.
She is, at heart, sinning. And that's the crux of the problem.
She is a fallen woman, a fallen virgin, a fallen Catholic. And none of this brings her any real pleasure. It brings her intensity without joy. Hell hath no fun for a fallen soul. She is not liberated from the fundamental Puritanism of her church or her society. All she does is act out, mechanically illustrate, what she is not supposed to do.
From a marketing perspective, it's a well-practiced form of titillation common to opportunistic preachers who bring 'em into the tent by promising to graphically, ah, "expose" evil. She's not selling sex. She's selling sexual repression, with an act that has the raw sexuality of an explicit medical text book; a set of mandatory object lessons to be studied, absorbed.
As our nation's designated tease, Madonna has achieved the status of a buzz word—a trademark. In the process, she has failed to even become a sex object; and has instead become an object of sex.