At age 60, Madonna is firmly established as a trailblazing pop star and music icon but as a young woman trying to break into the music industry, she faced her fair share of predatory men offering to advance her career in exchange for sex.
In a new interview with NME, the “Medellin” singer discusses her #MeToo experiences in the 1980s.
“I would say there were plenty of situations where men were wanting to abuse their power,” she says.
“I was the starting-out artist begging for help, and I would go to people who ran labels or influential DJs saying: ‘Can you help me out? Can you listen to this song? Can you hook me up? Can you sign me to your record label?’ and, a lot of people said: ‘Yeah, if you’ll do this,’ and usually it was a sexual favour.”
Was it actually that explicit, the interviewer asks.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” Madonna responds. “And there was one time where I was so broke and I was so sick of being broke I thought, Wait, could I do it? But I didn’t do it in the end. I couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I knew I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I did, so I just kept going on as I had, being a starving artist and waiting for my ship to come in and — ironically — I was signed by a gay man who didn’t want anything to do with me in that way and he just really appreciated my music.”
Madonna expanded on her experiences in an interview with the Guardian. “I can’t tell you how many men said, ‘OK, well, if you give me [oral sex],’ or, ‘OK, if you sleep with me.’ Sex is the trade, you know?” she explains, hoping that more women in the music business would speak out about their experiences.
“I feel like maybe there isn’t a movement so much because we’re already used to expressing ourselves in a way, or fighting for things, although I do wish there were more women in the music business that were more political and more outspoken about all things in life, not just … the inequality of the sexes.”
In the interview, Madonna also says that Harvey Weinstein’s reputation as a sexual predator was an open secret, which she learned first-hand when working with the disgraced movie mogul on her 1991 tour documentary “In Bed With Madonna”.
“Harvey Weinstein was untouchable. His reputation was universal — everybody knew he was, you know, the guy that he was.
“I’m not into name-calling, but it was like, ‘Oh, that’s Harvey, that’s what he does.’ It just became accepted,” she admits. “And I suppose that’s the scary thing about it. Because if people do things enough, no matter how heinous and awful and unacceptable it is, people accept it. And that certainly exists in the music industry, too.”