On Prince: The Pleasure of Sex

From the moment I was six I felt sexy. And let me tell you it was hell, sheer hell, waiting to do something about it.
 Bette Davis

I Wanna Be Your Lover.

I sat at my best friends Sheryl dinning room table listening to my first Prince song. Sheryl, like Prince was ahead of her time, will forever be his biggest fan. She was so into him. She would stare at his album cover and pronounce she would one day marry him. I stared at his album cover, with his relaxed hair and no shirt and questioned if that was possible. I liked “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and although the lyrics were not overtly sexual my fourth grade self could feel the sexuality in each falsetto word. I knew I could not listen to this song at home.

At home my mom listened to Motown, Malcolm X tapes and the Qu’ran in Arabic. It was not a strict Muslim home but there were expectations and restrictions. My parents made the idea of sex forbidden for me. Sex and music should not be partnered because it would only lead to sex and sin. Prince looked like sex and sin to me and that was before MTV and cable.

When videos finally emerged on the scene his sexuality was in full view and I was shocked and intrigued and shocked just all over the place. He was truly testing all the boundaries that were my rearing.

My Muslim conservative upbringing forced me to shun him as most of my friends revered him. His behavior did not align with what I was being taught at home or in the Mosque. Was he gay? Was he a pervert? Was he a sexual deviant? He had me so conflicted. The way he strutted on the stage in his tight pants, barely-there shirts with the girly ruffles, gyrating and singing. He was just too much. Whoever he was, he was just too much and completely unapologetically who he was.

I knew his dress and his movements would offend my mother so I wanted to be offended also. But when I looked at him the most I could muster was mouth-gaping awe at his total freedom of self. When I listened to his songs I wanted to experience the sexual freedom he enjoyed without thinking of sin, whores and hell. I knew he was wrong, I knew his music was somewhat wrong but it didn’t look all that wrong to me and it didn’t feel all that wrong either.

Purple Rain

Around my friends I liked him but at home I would berate his behavior hoping to gain brownie points for my conscious awareness how society was trying to make the bad acceptable and the good unacceptable. I was really trying to have pure thoughts and think of sex only in terms of marriage and family but my body…my body felt differently.

Then came Purple Rain. I loved Purple Rain; I saw it five times and loved every song in it. I loved his story and I respected him as a writer. He was not just a man pretending to be this flamboyant wo/man but a great storyteller in music and screen.

Darling Nikki

I bought the Purple Rain soundtrack and whenever I was home alone I would I play Darling Nikki over and over again reliving the scene of him singing it in the movie over in my head. How he strummed so much energy into that guitar. How he made me feel like I wanted to straddle that instrument in the most nasty way. It was a huge experience. It was an awakening experience. At sixteen, Darling Nikki made it hard for me to want to keep my virginity. I just wanted to feel in real life what my imagination was making me feel alone in my bed at night under my covers reliving Prince singing that song. I thought a lot about sex listening to Prince and I didn’t care that sex outside of marriage was not good sex. It looked like great sex but I didn’t want to feel or think that.

I struggled with his lyrics and image for years. Part of me was this conservative minded teen turned adult who believed anything sexual should be hidden behind closed doors and private…always private. The other part of me tussled for sexual freedom because I like sex…a lot. I wrestled with his interpretations but I respected his absolute belief and security in himself to express himself. I wanted that freedom to be sexual without guilt. I still do and I still fight for it.

He was a part of my awakening.

RIP Prince…You gave more than just music.