Prince Was the Sex-Positive, Empowering Feminist Hero All Women Needed

On Thursday, R&B star Prince Rogers Nelson, aka Prince, was found dead at his Minnesota home at the age of 57. Prince was known as an iconoclast in many different respects: as a musician, as a style icon and as a symbol of what was then the burgeoning gender fluidity movement.

Yet he was also an unabashed advocate for female sexual expression, particularly solo female sexual expression. It’s not a stretch to say that Prince instructed a generation of young women (including this author) in the art of masturbation. 

It’s no secret that Prince built his entire career on embracing human sexuality: pretty much 90% of his oeuvre is about cars or pussy (or a combination of the two). What is not often said, though, is that Prince was one of the few male artists to flip the male gaze on its head, depicting sexual pleasure from the perspective of women — who, up to this point, had rarely been depicted as active agents of desire, much less as people capable of desire to begin with.

Nearly all of Prince’s songs feature sexually voracious heroines whose generous proportions are outweighed only by their sexual appetites. From the barbecue ribs-ordering one-night stand in “Gett Off,” to Marsha, the blowjob queen in “Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” to the used condom-carrying lady in “Little Red Corvette” (which, ew, but that’s beside the point), to the hotel lobby masturbating heroine of “Darling Nikki” (thus prompting a slew of Sheraton gift shop managers to keep a closer eye on their periodical racks), Prince’s music is a laundry list of sexual conquests.

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