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Prince: The Sexplorer

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Around the same time my hormones kicked in, I discovered Prince’s third album, Dirty Mind, on my dad’s shelf. Maybe it was the cover — Prince in tiny black briefs, an open jacket, and a neckerchief, eye-humping anyone who looked at it — or simply the title itself, but I knew this was my aural sex education. I listened to it the way other people studied hidden porn stashes hidden in their older siblings’ closets, sure it would unlock some awesome lesson. Which it did: that the world is full of beautiful, sexual, freak-deaky people, and Prince was their king.

He exuded the kind of pansexual charisma that made people feel like he wanted to sleep with them, no matter their preference — a true gift. Onstage, he knew how to grind a guitar, thrust a pelvis, and pout a lip in a way that made it really easy to imagine what sex with him would be like. (Great.) His style was genderless, androgynous, ever evolving but uniformly designed to hug both nut and butt, which fueled more fantasies than we’ll ever know. He was so comfortable in his own sexuality that there wasn’t a single corner of sexiness that wasn’t his to explore and challenge and openly enjoy. And his sexual fluidity created space for everyone’s desires and impulses, allowing him to write the best, most empowering fuck anthems, which soundtracked their own explorations.

For the woman who wants to sleep with whomever she wants in wanton disregard to other people’s feelings? Here’s “Little Red Corvette” and a pocket full of Trojans. For those who want to explore a whole world of cybersex, fire up “Computer Blue” and go crazy with the webcam. Did you want to pull a Nikki in a hotel lobby with a magazine? Other people might stop you, but Prince would not, and in fact he composed your naughty heartsong. I still have no idea what “Scarlet Pussy” is about, but it really speaks to someone out there.

It doesn’t matter if you want your sex tender (“I Love U in Me”), or nasty (“Do Me Baby”), or if you want to have it with multiple partners, just one person, or really just yourself (“Cream”) — even if you want to pay for it, be paid for it (“International Lover”), or beg for it (“How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”). Prince has a song for every desire — but with one overarching principle: Everyone who listens better get off in a fashion worthy of his sex jams.

This piece originally appeared in the April 22, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.