Sexy Song of the Week: “I Want Your Sex”

Released in 1987, the album “Faith” was George Michael’s killer solo release following the break-up of the British pop duo Wham! The title track begins, “Well I guess it would be nice, if I could touch your body….” and was Michael’s first solo Billboard #1. The very sexy album sold over 7 million copies in the USA, produced 6 chart toppers, and inspired some of the most memorable and controversial music videos ever played on MTV.

The vibey R&B track “I want your sex” unleashed an extreme storm of criticism for Michael. On the one hand, the song is an exploration of the human need for sex. (“It’s natural, It’s chemical…”) And Michael begs for it. (“Every man’s got his patience, and here’s where mine ends…” The song was banned on many radio stations and the video could only be played after- hours on MTV. The video features celebrity make-up artist Kathy Jeung scantily clad in lingerie and a crimson blindfold. Michael, however, was adamant that the controversy was misplaced. In a spoken addendum to the video he states that the song is not about promiscuity and casual sex. Rather the song is intended to be about the beauty of monogamy. In a steamy video scene, Michael writes the word monogamy on Jeung’s back and the video ends with “Explore Monogamy” on the screen. The original liner notes for a 9-minute version of the song are titled “Monogamy Mix.”

Arguably, the controversy and popularity surrounding “I want your sex” was a sign of the times. By the 1980s, the sexual revolution in the popular media had been a raging battle for over two decades. Liberal movers and shakers raged against the anxiety and loathing associated with overt sexuality. This song and video resurfaced the (often moral) debate about what counts as pornography and obscenity. More importantly, the late 1980’s marked the time when the world was just beginning to understand what HIV/AIDS was, how it was contracted, and its magnitude. Prejudice in the media was rampant. In 1985, the AIDS related death of iconic actor Rock Hudson spurred the Reagan White House out of silence. In 1987, AZT became the first FDA approved drug for treatment. By 1988, our first national campaign against HIV was launched.

At the time, Michael’s own homosexuality was not so publicly known. As a friend of mine remembers, the song fueled talk that Michael was overcompensating, being “over-sexualized for his inability to come out of the closet.” The song erupted in night clubs at a moment when casual sex was frightening. However, it was overwhelmingly popular in gay bars for years to come. My friend comments, “It became a caricatured way for people, at least in the gay bar scene, to sexualize their bodies through dance and music and not necessarily sex, but made the body sexy again, instead of a disease vector…I tell you, when that song came on, the boys went absolutely crazy. It was a whole choreography of simulated sex.”

Questions for discussion

  • What are your memories or experiences of this song?
  • Do you consider the video or lyrics obscene by 2008 standards?
  • How has the popular media portrayal of casual sex vs. monogamy changed in the last two decades?

Sources: Amazon, Wikipedia, Avert.org, VH1′s Sex: The Revolution.

3 Responses to Sexy Song of the Week: “I Want Your Sex”

  1. Brandon Livrago August 27, 2008 at 10:18 am #

    I believe it is evident in everyday life how the western societies perception of casual sex has changed and progressed over the last few decades. I think it can be broken down into two different progressions. First, casual sex exploded in the 70s and on into the 80s. The difference between now and then is that now it is much more open to discuss the topic. Indeed, now it is actually encouraged to spread awareness about the repercussions of casual sex. The main difference between the decades is the discussion and socially correct way of going about the topic of casual sex because it was just as prevalent back then as it is now.

  2. Yesenia Lucas August 27, 2008 at 11:13 am #

    In recent years it has become more acceptable by western society’s standards to explore sexuality through pop culture. The media has become a safe house for sexual issues, awareness, thoughts, attitudes etc. This video demonstrates the restriction that existed in the 80s towards casual sex. In various parts of the video the word “monogamy” is flashed, most likely to suggest that the artist’s intentions are not to promote casual sex, but monogamous sex. There is also only one woman in the video which further supports this idea. This suggests that society’s standards towards sex were more conservative in the 80′s than it is now. Sexuality in music has become more liberal in the past two decades. The boundaries are almost non existent. Music videos often portray a “loose” approach towards sex. Pop culture has even become excepting of homosexuality in the past few years. No longer is censorship in the media setting boundaries for what may or may not be expressed. Although I do agree that casual sex was just as prevalent in the 80s as it is now, the pop media portrayal has become more allowing to various expressions of sex. Examples of this include “Sex and the City”, a hit television show and the song “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry, which made it to number one on the Billboard charts recently.

  3. Charkivia Lovett August 28, 2008 at 4:37 pm #

    Now of days, sex is viewed openly and it’s acceptable for people to do it. This culture encourages students our age to do so, so for this song to say ” I want your body” is everyday communication that you hear.