Becky Johnson: Did you have any heroines or role models when you were a kid?
Madonna: It’s weird, people always ask me that question and I can’t think of anybody specifically. [long pause] I think a few nuns, I thought they were pretty incredible. They seemed all powerful and perfect. Above everything. Really disciplined. And really clean. [laughs] For a while I was obsessed with being a nun, for those reasons. I just thought they were so superior. Then, when I realized that nuns didn’t have a sex life, I was incredibly disenchanted.
Becky Johnson: How old were you when you became aware of sex?
Becky Johnson: [laughs] Really? Do you have any specific memories?
Madonna: Well, I was always very precocious as a child, extremely flirtatious, I mean. I was just one of those little girls who crawled on everybody’s lap. I flirted with everyone – my uncles, my grandfather, my father, everybody. I was aware of my female charm. Then, probably about the same time as I began to rebel against the church and my family, my breasts started to grow. I went through puberty before most of the girls in my class.
Becky Johnson: They must have really loved you.
Madonna: [laughs] They hated me. So right around that time was when I really started to think about sex. About its presence, not about what I was going to do about it. The true sexual awakening, of course, happened much later. [pause] Last year.
Becky Johnson: [laughs] What would you define as the essence of femininity?
Madonna: The essence of femininity? To absolutely love being a woman.
Becky Johnson: It seems to me that one of the reasons you’ve had such a tremendous impact – on women, especially – is that you’re saying it’s time for women to use their sexuality as a strength and as a source of power.
Becky Johnson: Can you elaborate on that subject at all?
Madonna: Well, it seems to me that one of the pitfalls of the women’s movement was that women wanted to be like men. They felt they had to dress like men and behave like men to get anywhere, to be respected or to be in control. To have power. I think that’s bullshit. I think women have always had the power; they just never knew it. And you can be just as powerful being feminine.
Becky Johnson: Would you say that women are stronger than men?
Madonna: That’s a tough one. My first instinct is to say no. They have certain strengths, and men have certain strengths. But then I think that women are more durable. Emotionally, I mean, let’s face it, we have our period every month. [laughs] That really makes you strong.
Becky Johnson: Is vulnerability an important quality to you? Most people equate vulnerability with femininity.
Madonna: Yes, it’s absolutely important. And I think the most interesting men I’ve met are the ones who are in touch with their femininity. They are the strongest men.
Becky Johnson: So what would be the kind of man you dislike?
Madonna: I dislike men who totally suppress their femininity.
Becky Johnson: Do you find that a lot of men feel threatened by you, by your self-confidence and sense of sexual challenge?
Madonna: I think only a few men are threatened by it. I think most men are inspired by it or entertained by it. Or may be challenged by it, but in a good way.
Becky Johnson: Isn’t it true that growing up Catholic you’re cursed with the view of women as either virgins or whores?
Madonna: I was certainly aware of it, but I couldn’t understand why you couldn’t be both.