I was distinctly unsettled when I saw the August cover story of American Vogue, with Madonna ostentatiously posing in riding habit and boots on a horse whose reins she is awkwardly and incorrectly holding. We are told she has been throwing herself into country pursuits to please her macho husband, Guy Ritchie. As a professionally trained dancer, tireless jogger and practitioner of extreme yoga, Madonna is an accomplished athlete. But riding is not just another routine challenge that she can master through sheer willpower. Along with physical skills, riding requires relaxation and self-subordination, an intuitive opening to the horse. Knowledge of horses needs to be accumulated by riders over a lifetime.
A hyperactive planner with a draconian daily schedule, Madonna may not be the ideal rider. Her tension and distraction can easily be picked up by a skittish horse, as evidently happened here.
It might seem that this diagnosis, with its implied argument that Madonna must be a lousy lay, is Paglia's revenge for the pop star's long-ago indifference to her attentions. But the always-agile Paglia manages to give the whole thing the air of a public service message—she's not angry, just concerned for for well-being of the Ritchies:
On this day, she was just back from the US—a point missed in news reports. It was certainly ill-advised for Madonna, a 47-year-old novice rider, to mount a strange new horse the next day in Wiltshire—a thoroughbred that had just been trucked in as a birthday gift from her husband. That misjudgement [sic]—which could have had more severe and even fatal consequences—suggests there are dangerous lacunae in the Ritchies' horse sense.
Reason interviews Paglia here. Paglia rages against the dying of high culture here. Counterpart Camille Froglia gives relationship advice here. Man dies during sex with a horse here. Catherine the Great's royal horse sense here.
And when is Paglia going to do a guest spot on The Sopranos? I know she's railed against the show's stereotypes of Italian Americans, but what better way to keep up that fight than a supporting role as a wacko college professor? Is the daughter still supposed to be going to Columbia?