Sex (book)  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Wiki Commons

Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Sex is a highly designed coffee table book written by Madonna with photographs by Steven Meisel and film frames taken from film shot by Fabien Baron. Sex was released on October 21, 1992 by Warner Books. The book was released by Madonna as an accompaniment to her fifth studio album Erotica, which was released a day earlier (October 20, 1992).

The extremely controversial book featured strong adult content and softcore pornographic photographs depicting simulations of sexual acts, which included homosexuality, sadomasochism, and anilingus. Madonna wrote the book as a character named Mistress Dita, inspired by the silent film actress Dita Parlo.

Featured in the book, aside from unknown models, are actress Isabella Rossellini, rappers Big Daddy Kane and Vanilla Ice, model Naomi Campbell, gay porn star Joey Stefano, actor Udo Kier, the European socialite Tatiana von Fürstenberg, and nightclub owner Ingrid Casares.

For the release of Sex Madonna gave a party at New York City's Industria Superstudio, which she attended dressed as Little Bo Peep with a stuffed toy lamb.

Aside from Steven Meisel himself, photographers from his studio were also employed. The book credits Michael Stratton, Darren Lew, Line Barzudkas, Stephen Callaghan and Chris Hobson. Fabien Baron, one of the book's designers, also shot many of the photo sessions on film (mostly on Super 8 mm). Many stills from Baron's film were used in the book. Filming was done entirely on Super 8mm, and the filmmakers were Fabien Baron, Stephen Callaghan, and Darren Lew.


Warner Bros. Records and Time Warner executives were reluctant to allow Madonna to make such a book, and though they eventually gave her permission, they remained greatly opposed to the idea. Madonna was made to sign an agreement that forbade her from including any photographs depicting religious imagery, bestiality, or child pornography.

Not long after signing this agreement Madonna founded Maverick, a multi-media entertainment company. Since by contract she had total artistic control over any of the work released by Maverick, the agreement she signed with Time Warner concerning what not to do in Sex became obsolete. As a "tongue-in-cheek" way of demonstrating her power to the executives who had so vehemently opposed the book, Madonna included two photographs that "broke the rules"—a photo where she is tied à la S&M on a low cross-shaped table surrounded by candles with a large crucifix displayed on the wall behind her, and another photo of her kneeling on the ground with a dog underneath her on its back, creating the impression that she is straddling the animal while it is giving her oral sex. However, should one look closely at the photograph, one will see that Madonna is not straddling the dog's head at all, but rather kneeling on both knees beside the dog.

Warner Bros. commented that Sex was very difficult to produce, requiring contributions from many different printing and publishing companies, with Mighty Dimension Inc. coordinating the project—LTI, Bishop Studio, Master Eagle Graphic Design, and Shorewood Packaging, all based in New York City; as well as Laserscan Inc. in Phoenix, Arizona; Benson and Palmer in Newport, Rhode Island; Mohawk Papermills in Cohoes, New York; C&H Packaging Company Inc. in Merrill, Wisconsin; and Nicholstone in Nashville, Tennessee. At some point while the book was being produced some of the photographs were stolen, prompting an FBI investigation that quickly recovered the photos. In the credits of the book Madonna thanks the FBI for " ... rescuing photographs that would have made J. Edgar Hoover roll over."

Madonna had originally intended to call the book X but changed her mind when Spike Lee's upcoming film Malcolm X began to be promoted—the film was released three weeks after the book, and inspired the fashion trend of wearing hats and shirts with a large X in honor of Malcolm X. Madonna wanted the book to be of an oval shape, but the printing and manufacturing of such a book would have been too expensive. In the end, the original design for the X title and shape of the book were only retained on the back cover (see below) and on the accompanying CD and its packaging.

Design and printing

Sex was designed by Madonna and Baron & Baron Inc. (consisting of Fabien Baron and the photographer Siung Fat Tjia), who also designed the packaging for Madonna's Erotica album and single. The book is largely presented in a style not far off from Andy Warhol's works, namely the famous shot on the metallized plastic cover of the book (a colored reverse negative), which Madonna also used for the cover of her Erotica album.

Certain pages include images that are collages of ripped and pasted prints, proof sheets, entire pages in monochromes and full color, and other collages of photos that look as though they were stapled together. The text of the book varies from handwritten to printed, with eye-bending styles of typefaces and colors. In the French, Italian and Japanese versions of the book any printed text that was not printed in these complex typefaces had the French, Italian or Japanese translation printed over it, and any text that could not have the translated text printed over it was included at the back of the book on additional pages. In the Japanese version, Madonna had any photos that included visible genitalia "scribbled out".

Included with the book is a CD single. It contains a more subdued version of the song "Erotica", titled "Erotic", which was only released via the book (this version of the song was also released in an edited version on a promotional-only 12" picture-disc released in the UK of the song "Erotica"). The song includes alternate spoken verse taken from the book's opening pages.

There is a small photonovella-style comic bound into the back of the book titled Dita in "The Chelsea Girl" which depicts a party at the Hotel Chelsea in New York City. Allegedly Madonna created the dialogue of the comic book when photographer Steven Meisel placed a stack of randomly ordered photos from one of the book's photo sessions on her desk. He suggested she conjure up a story while maintaining the random order of the photos.

The English language release of Sex was printed in 1.5 million copies in its first edition and another 1.5 million in its second (Madonna herself is said to own the very first printed copy of the first edition.) Warner Books only allowed Sex to be printed in the English, French, Italian, and Japanese languages. The Japanese, French, and Italian language releases all received a 1 million copy printing each for the first edition, and since the Japanese version was banned shortly after its release, it did not receive a second edition printing as the French and Italian versions did. The English version was the only version printed in the United States, while the French, Italian, and Japanese versions were printed in their respective countries, and aside from the translated text and differences in paper quality, they are identical to the English language version. The Japanese version was printed on art paper of far higher quality than that of the English, French and Italian versions.

The Japanese version was the only release of Sex to be put into a special box. Although all of the other official releases of the book include the title on the metallized plastic cover as "Madonna Sex", the Japanese language release had the title printed as "Sex by Madonna" on the metallized plastic cover.

Books that were printed in languages such as Spanish, Thai, or Russian are all unofficial and were manufactured without the consent of Madonna or Warner Bros. These versions of the book were printed in a variety of styles, with varying covers and quality.

The book was sold at a price of $49.95 in the United States.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sex (book)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools