That was the nearly universal reaction to Madonna laying a wet one on 28-year-old rapper Drake in Coachella. After singing “Human Nature” and stripping down to a t-shirt that read “Big As Madonna,” the 56-year-old surprised him with a kiss, a la Britney Spears. His reaction was classic: “Oh sh–! What the f–k just happened?”
I joked in an interview on BBC radio that it looked a lot like sexual assault. The host was quick to point out that Drake had tweeted that he really did enjoy the kiss—it was her lipstick that made him say WTF.
Right. That’s what I call damage control. I can just picture the PR people scurrying behind the scenes. “Tweet that you liked it! Make up any excuse, just fix it!”
The kiss lit up social media, as Tweets across the globe bashed Madonna for not acting her age. This one is a gem:
Madonna cleaning her tongue before finding next victim to kiss pic.twitter.com/ox0Uyj83i9
— Weasel (@KatieWeasel) April 13, 2015
Of course, Madonna has her defenders, and I talked to two of them during the interview. The thrust of their defense was, “It’s Madonna, and she can do whatever she wants” and “Older women are sexy too, and they should express it!”
First, the idea that celebrities can do whatever they want just because they’re famous or even known for pushing boundaries doesn’t make it right or above criticism. It’s also not true. What if a man had done the exact same thing as Madonna? Picture this. Mick Jagger on stage with Taylor Swift, and all of a sudden he lays a big sloppy kiss on her, and she squirms away, mumbling, WTF?! Would anyone applaud Jagger? Would they be running to his defense, or would they be calling for his head? I’m thinking the backlash would be worse than what Madonna is getting.
Yes, Older Women Are Sexy Too
As for the second point about older women being sexy, this is the real issue—and one that actually applies to all of us common folk out here. Older women can certainly be sexy, but 50-year-old sexy is very different from 20-year-old sexy. Robin Wright, for example, is incredibly sexy. But she isn’t 20-year-old sexy, and she isn’t trying to be. That makes her more than sexy—it makes her stunningly beautiful.
I have a suggestion: How about women start thinking in terms of beauty instead of sexy (or, even better, how about thinking in terms of good….)? I’m a little sick and tired of the adolescent sexy thing—and it’s not because I’m 48. I’m not wearing mommy jeans and shedding the makeup or putting my feminine sexuality on the shelf (my husband enjoys it, thank you very much). But I also don’t want to be defined by my sexiness. The “power” I have isn’t fixed on my sex appeal. I’ve lived a full life. I have a brain. I have accomplishments. I have a heart. I have a family I adore. I have a beauty that goes deeper than my skin. If all I had at this stage were my ability to lure men with sex, then I’d be a sad creature indeed. Not to mention, I wouldn’t be much different than a prostitute. Just sayin’.
The problem with the kind of sexy Madonna displays is that it’s juvenile sexy. Immature sexy. Shallow sexy. Golden Corral chocolate fountain sexy. The kind of sexy we see from teenagers and insecure girls in their twenties—cupcakes who are looking to exercise power over men with one of the most common tools in the shed. It’s what Madonna is famous for.
The truth of the matter is, juvenile sexy just doesn’t work when you’re old—not because you’re not sexy anymore, but because you have a mature sexiness. And not only that, your sexiness is just one dimension of your character. Your beauty is so much more. You have other advantages, and you don’t have to rely on the batting eyes, the tight skirts, or, as in Madonna’s case, the random creepy kisses—and whatever else she’s willing to do—to exercise power or to express yourself.
Sadly, if this is all Madonna has left in her arsenal to peddle her art, then it speaks volumes about the quality of her music. If she’s still relying on the same gimmicks she used in the 80s to be “cutting edge” and marketable, then maybe we should just turn the page on Madonna. Better yet, maybe she can turn the page on such trivialities and explore her artistry, develop it, and create something new and meaningful. I believe she can—if she embraces beauty instead of sex.
Let’s Celebrate Feminine Beauty
In January, I wrote a post called, “Madonna, It’s Time To Act Your Age.” I’m not going to repeat what I said there, but I would like to elaborate one point in light of the controversy surrounding the geriatric groping of Drake: Leave that kind of sexiness to the young. Or, better yet, why don’t we all get off the “I’m defined by my sexuality!” train and start celebrating feminine beauty—being the most inwardly and outwardly beautiful women we can be, not the sexiest.
If we would stop our sad spiral of self-sexualization and focus on beauty, we might actually discover the peace and happiness we’re really looking for. One thing’s for sure, we’ll certainly rediscover dignity. If we focus on true beauty, we’ll celebrate women at each stage of their lives. We also might actually be able to put sexuality in its purposed place, for both men and women. (Yeah, men need to pay attention too.)
All that frenzied sexuality and intensity that women are feeling when they’re young—what’s it for? Why is a young woman being “sexy”? What’s all the sex appeal about? Why is that her power? Sorry if this offends your feminist sensibilities, but its main purpose is to find a mate. You got it! A lover. A man. A husband. Those bright lights advertising sexual vitality say one thing: “I’m available for the right man who finds me attractive and wants to be with me for the rest of his life… and I’m ripe to make babies.” Her sexiness is for her husband to enjoy, for the deepening of their relationship, and if children come from that, so much the better. And, you know what? That’s beautiful. She’s beautiful.
And what does that lead to? You got it. The next stage of a woman’s life. Motherhood. She and her husband join together to create a new life, a family. She doesn’t need to long for the days of sexual advertising. She’s got what she wanted. She has a husband whom she shares her life and body with, and she has a family to nurture and love. Now she can rest in it, and enjoy it. She doesn’t need to feel pressured to look like she did when she was 21—though all women at any age want to look as good as they can if for no other reason than for themselves (and for their husbands). But she doesn’t need the pressure of the maiden specter hovering over her, and she can celebrate the beauty of her changed body, setting herself free to let life be as it is today and delighting in the sweet moments of a loving family she created with the man she adores. And you know what? That’s beautiful. She’s beautiful.
As an aside, I know all women don’t get married and have babies—so, please, save the “You’re saying women should be barefoot and pregnant and controlled by men” predictable protest for someone else. That’s not my point. Making babies isn’t the purpose of a woman. It’s the fundamental purpose of sex (along with enjoying intimacy with your spouse)—and sexiness, particularly the kind expressed by Madonna, is about sex. Many women live beautiful lives independent of a man and without children. What I’m talking about is typical stages of a woman’s life and the primary purpose of sexuality—intimacy and love in a covenantal relationship and the creation of children.
The last of these stages is just as beautiful as the first two. Women have so much to look forward to after being moms—or, if they’re not mothers, after (or the continuation of) a long career or years of service. But it’s a looking forward—not looking back to those insecure, sparkly maiden years. The mature woman—complete with a loveliness and confidence that’s all her own—has lived a meaningful life, raising a family, nurturing relationships, working hard at her job, developing her mind, and enjoying a satisfying relationship with her husband.
The mature woman doesn’t need to advertise. She doesn’t need to long for the days of maidenhood or even motherhood. She has wisdom, experience, a strong relationship with the man she loves—who still thinks she’s the sexiest woman on the planet—and she can explore all the incredible things life has to offer as a fully actualized woman, as an adult with substance. And that doesn’t mean mommy jeans and no makeup, but it also doesn’t mean projecting sexuality as if she’s on the prowl.
The woman of substance has it all and looks forward to expressing herself in new and interesting ways. She rests on the foundation she has built, having the maturity to give back instead of always taking. And you know what? That’s beautiful. She’s beautiful. She is, in many ways—in the most important ways—the pinnacle of beauty. The most beautiful women I’ve ever known have deep lines on their faces, a crown of gray on their heads, and eyes that reflect the wisdom of a noble and loving soul.
When it comes to acting your age, I’m all for it. I reject the juvenile temptations of the sugar pop princesses and their sloppy on-stage kisses. I embrace the beauty of women at every stage, never longing for the past or waiting for the future, but embracing yourself as you are in the here and now, at this stage, and enjoying the beauty of it without apologies and without the pressures of a sexualized culture looking for the fountain of youth.