George Michael Was The Reason I Was Given My First Sex Talk

I received my first, and only, sex talk because of George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex.” As a tween, I spent my summers at a YMCA day camp where we hiked, canoed, and listened to a lot of pop music. Creating little group dance routines was an extremely popular pastime for the girls, while the boys liked to blast music while they played basketball. We pulled songs from all genres and eras, the latter thanks to some of our counselors who were high school students and recent grads and all eager to introduce us to their favorites. Our daily bus rides to and from the camp site featured all-camp sing-alongs, where we learned every song from The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar” to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” to Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice.”

But when someone introduced George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” into our little world, things got interesting. I had no idea what the song was about, or exactly what sex was yet. I was 10 or 11 and while I had a vague idea about where babies came from, I still couldn’t fathom why people would have sex or understand that it was a recreational activity. I certainly had no idea it was what most of the pop songs I was listening to were actually about.

“I Want Your Sex” really freaked out our counselors, because it was the first pop song we obsessed over that skipped the subtext and spoke directly about sex. It was banned from many radio stations on its release and even MTV banished it to late-night showings after getting a mountain of complaints. For the broader population, the song was considered suggestive and even irresponsible on its release in 1987, because we were in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. That wasn’t what worried our camp counselors, though. At one of our monthly camp sleepovers in the local YMCA building, they pulled the oldest girls and boys into two groups, separated by gender, to ask us if we knew what sex was.

A few of the 12-year-old girls thought they did and explained, in vague terms, how sex worked, which was rather eye-opening to me and would become a reference point in the coming years. Then, our counselors asked if any of us were having sex. We weren’t. One of the actual adults leading this conversation asked us what we thought Michael was talking about in the song and most of us had to admit that we hadn’t given it any thought. That counselor pointed out to us that in the music video, Michael writes “explore monogamy” on a woman’s body in lipstick, telling us that he was singing about sex inside loving relationships. It turns out, that was true. As Rolling Stone points out, the single was written by Micheal as a reaction to the public awareness campaigns about AIDS. He felt they separated sex from being a loving act and aimed to write a song that combined the two. He wanted people to think about the emotion behind sex, rather than simply the act. But the song was simply heard as scandalous for it’s direct address of the sex act in America. Many people missed the point entirely.

I was still too young for the discovery of this song, and it’s subsequent explanation, to be my sexual awakening, but it did raise my awareness of sexuality. I’d never before thought of the role sex played in relationships, but thanks to Michael’s song, it was a reality I would never be able to unsee.

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