Around this time 25 years ago, Madonna’s racy “Justify My Love” music video was banned from MTV for being too sexually explicit. The network’s conservative decision was a response to the clip’s subject matter—a slyly pornographic narrative paired with Madonna’s erotic whispery vocals, delivering that irresistible chorus, “Wanting, needing, waiting, for you to justify my love.”
In the heat of this controversy, Madonna appeared on ABC News Nightline to discuss why she felt the decision was wrong, bringing to light a number of important issues that are still problematic in contemporary culture. First, the interviewer addresses the nudity that pervades Madonna’s music video, to which the singer rebuttals by explaining the value of honest artistic expression. “I’m just dealing with the truth here,” she says, reiterating the reality that sexuality is an important part of human nature.
MTV‘s qualms with a woman’s nipple in 1990 echoes Instagram’s censorship policy today, which greatly hinders the possibilities of creative freedom by actively oppressing the female form. Before the Internet became as widely used as it is today, television was the greatest enemy in terms of censorship—a medium that favored violence over the human form. Some 25 years later, this is still the cultural norm, and one that Madonna’s work has always thankfully challenged.
When asked if MTV should have a designated time for “adult content,” the singer delivered a brilliantly spot-on rant that still feels socially relevant today. “I think MTV should have their violence hour and I think they should have their degradation to women hour,” she said, sarcastically. “If we’re going to have censorship, let’s not be hypocrites about it. Let’s not have double standards. We already have these videos that display degradation to women and violence that are played 24 hours a day, but yet they don’t want a video playing that deals with sex between two consenting adults.”