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A Sex Story

Lora Bernard recounted what it took for her to get a copy of Madonna’s book, “Sex,” in her article, “Madonna’s ‘Sex’ isn’t pretty, but pretty honest,” which was published in The Galveston Daily News on Nov. 8, 1992. On Oct. 21, 1992, Lora Bernard made a phone call to her 64-year-old mother in Fort Worth, Texas, to buy her a copy of Madonna’s book, “Sex.”While what may seem as taking extreme measures, Bernard wanted to be sure she could get a copy of “Sex,” since only 1 million copies were available worldwide and she doubted that the book would be available in one of the bookstores on the island.Bernard’s concern proved to be correct, as it was reported in The Galveston Daily News that the book, retailing at $49.95, had been in short supply at the B. Dalton Bookseller in the Galvez Mall. Michael Gonzalez, the store’s manager, commented that the book had moved much more quickly than any book they ever had, especially for a book at that price. The newspaper had promoted the full Page 3 coverage of world and local sales of the book on the front page as Madonna’s fans becoming the “first owners of their undressed idol’s fantasies about S&M, bondage and nude pizza eating.”For the recordMadonna had teamed up with art director Fabien Baron and fashion photographer Steven Meisel to produce a coffee table book that contained a series of photo essays, each depicting a different sexual theme. The book included cameos by actress Isabella Rossellini, rappers Big Daddy Kane and Vanilla Ice, model Naomi Campbell, gay porn star Joey Stefano, actor Udo Kier, and socialite Princess Tatiana von Furstenberg.“Sex” sold more than 150,000 on the first day, topping the New York Times Best Seller list, and became the fastest-selling coffee table book. It remains as one of the most sought-after out-of-print books. Madonna claimed she published the book “to liberate America — free us all of our hang-ups.”Mom buys “Sex”In response to her daughter’s request, Bernard’s mother set out to purchase “Sex.”Public furor had been raised across the country in anticipation of the book’s release. The Vatican had called the book “morally intolerable” and asked its followers to boycott the book, while Southern Baptists threatened to stop doing business with printer RR Donnelly, whose presses printed their Bibles. Waldenbooks and Barnes & Noble sent out corporate statements to store managers that could be shared with customers who were offended by “Sex.”Arriving at the store, Bernard’s mother was met with having to cross protest lines to enter the store. With book in hand, her mother then had to pay cash, show identification to prove her age, and sign a waiver stating that she “would not be using the book to contribute to the delinquency of a juvenile.”“When our society puts that much effort into controlling an artist’s work, I think that’s revealing. Someone’s afraid of it,” Bernard wrote.Art or pornography?At 3 a.m. on Oct. 24, Bernard got her first chance to see the book, following a five-hour drive to her mother’s house. Bernard respected Madonna’s ability as an artist to have others “reassess themselves as sexual beings, prejudiced Americans and as religious church-goers.”“The entire book, from its Mylar-wrapped aluminum cover, to its thousands of tiny pictures crammed together to its rough, thick paper, explores sex in a raw, honest way, without romantic overtones or lacy teddies to make women look more like dolls than human beings,” Bernard wrote.“No, it’s not a pretty book. I’ve seen better photography and read better press.“But, in truth, honesty is not pretty. If it was, we’d probably get a lot more of it because lying would not be necessary. So, it would follow that a ‘pretty’ sex book that selectively portrays monogamous, same-race, male and female relationships probably wouldn’t be entirely honest either.”Bernard was overjoyed and bragged about having her copy. But she was met with her friends being disgusted and smug; and was warned by her co-workers not to bring the book to work.“I understand their reaction, but I must respectfully disagree with their opinions,” Bernard wrote. “I think that to consider the book pornographic is an unsophisticated generalization.”

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