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Madonna‘s “Like a Virgin” was a little edgy in its day, but the controversy didn’t stop it from becoming a major hit for the Material Girl. If a song with a similar sentiment came out today, it would inspire an endless internet discourse. Many listeners would find “Like a Virgin” offensive today, but not for the reasons it was offensive in 1984.

Why Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ was controversial the 1st time

The Miami Herald reports that “Like a Virgin” was controversial when it came out in 1984 because of its brazen sexuality. Using the word “virgin” in a pop song was very provocative. While the tune was intended as a love song, the Queen of Pop’s vocals made it sound more sensual than amorous.

Today, the track would be seen as fetishizing virginity. Obviously, people can be virgins at any age. However, people tend to associate virginity with teenagers. For that reason, “Like a Virgin” would raise a lot of eyebrows if it came out in 2024.

What social media would do with ‘Like a Virgin’

Of course, there’s a case that “Like a Virgin” really is a love song about finding a partner so great that they make you feel like all your previous (bad) relationships never happened. Or maybe you can argue that the tune sexualizes virginity to a degree, but that it’s a song about consenting adults. But that’s not the big picture here.

The big picture is that the internet often tries to interpret media in the most negative light possible. People look for reasons to get outraged at art. If “Like a Virgin” was a new song, people would undeniably find its treatment of virginity objectionable. The only question is whether or not a critical mass of social media users would get so upset at the song that it would hurt Madonna’s career. Of course, Madonna released plenty of controversial tunes, including “Like a Prayer,” “Justify My Love,” and “Erotica,” all of which helped her become an icon. Regardless, the modern media landscape is very different from 1980s and 1990s MTV.


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Madonna didn’t find virginity attractive

During a 1985 interview with Spin, the Material Girl discussed her feelings about virginity. “I wouldn’t like to sleep with a guy who was a virgin,” she said. “I’d have to teach him stuff and I don’t have the patience. I’d rather deal with experience. When I say virgin, like in my song, I’m not thinking about sexual virgin. I mean newness. Even after I made love for the first time, I still felt like I was a virgin. I didn’t lose my virginity until I knew what I was doing.”

Madonna explained her sexual image. “I like to look the way [The Ronettes’] Ronnie Spector sounded: sexy, hungry, totally trashy,” she said. “I admire her tonal quality. I don’t have a deep, throaty voice or a womanish voice when I sing. I think my voice sounds innocent and sexual at the same time. That’s what I try to tell people, anyway; but they always misconstrue what I mean when I say ‘sexual innocence.’ They look at me and go, ‘Innocent, huh?’ They think I’m trash.”

You can enjoy “Like a Virgin” but there’s never going to be another hit like it.