Anyone who’s watched Madonna‘s revealing 1991 documentary Truth or Dare remembers the unforgettable scene where Madge, despite warnings of arrest from local police, simulates masturbation while singing “Like a Virgin” on her Blond Ambition Tour.
Today, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of that unusual Canadian controversy.
On May 29, 1990, Madonna was preparing to take the stage for the third night at Toronto’s SkyDome on her Blond Ambition Tour. Right around that time, her crew received a visit from officers who threatened to arrest the Queen of Pop for her salacious onstage simulation. Christopher Ciccone, who was assisting his sister on tour at the time, relayed the message to Madonna, explaining “a representative from the D.A.’s office” was worried about her “immoral live performance.”
Her response? “I’m not changing my fucking show.”
While the incident understandably seems absurd now, it’s fair to point out that her staged version of “Like a Virgin” during the Blond Ambition Tour was far more explicit than her infamous performance of the song at the inaugural MTV VMAs. While that performance mimed sexual intercourse, there was no implying this time around — Madonna groped herself, writhed around and humped a bed in front of tens of thousands during the explosive finale of that Middle Eastern-tinged performance.
Just before she went out on stage, Madonna joined hands with her dancers for a prayer circle. In typical Madonna fashion, she opened with “Dear Lord, this is our last night in the fascist state of Toronto,” and concluded by praising the United States for protecting free speech. As she crossed paths with the officers en route to the arena’s stage, Madonna and two singers chanted the chorus to “Holiday” as a defiant olive branch.
Presumably God heard her prayer and complied. As anyone who’s seen the movie knows, Madonna got off — not just on stage, but from the long arm of the law. She’d called their bluff, and by doing so, opened the gates for everyone from Marilyn Manson to Miley Cyrus to shock and awe on stage in the decades to come.
Speaking of Miley, she recently advised fans that “a masturbation a day keeps the haters away.” It’s funny to think that two years before Miley was born (and a half-year before the Divinyls released their ode to female masturbation “I Touch Myself”), Madonna was pretending to orgasm in front of thousands in the name of free speech and artistic expression.
You can watch Madonna’s touching performance below.