Sex Is Not the Enemy

"Sex Is Not the Enemy" was a single released from Garbage's fourth album Bleed Like Me in June 2005 in United Kingdom. It was released as joint-second single from the album—around the same time the song "Bleed Like Me" was released in the U.S. and there was a parallel release for "Run Baby Run" in Australia and Europe. The release of "Sex Is Not the Enemy" followed later that summer in Australia.

Following on from the top ten chart position for their previous single "Why Do You Love Me", and despite the band promoting the single with a headline show at London's Brixton Academy, "Sex Is Not the Enemy" failed to replicate that success in the UK, peaking in the top thirty, and was their last Top 40 hit.

Song profile

"Sex Is Not the Enemy" was written in 2003 at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin. On August 15, singer Shirley Manson wrote on her online journal that it sounded "like old school Garbage".

"Sex Is Not the Enemy" was influenced by the February 1, 2004 Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy, which led to a censorship row in the media after singer Janet Jackson's bare breast was exposed by Justin Timberlake in what was referred to as a "wardrobe malfunction". Manson noticed that the incident was featured on the USA Today cover for three days in a row with no mention of the Iraq War. Manson felt the media "was only focusing on Janet's beautiful tit, which I thought was bizarre". The singer declared that there are "a lot worse things to have your children see on TV that parents are happily plopping their kids down in front of", and thus she wrote a song "sort of dealing with that and dealing with the idea that this administration is really clamping down on reproductive rights and stuff like that. So it's sort of heavy, but it's coated in this really anthemic, upbeat party song."

Over time, Manson would work on the lyrics to the song, writing in her view that the Bush administration had clamped down on gay rights, reproductive rights and people's civil liberties. Later, she recalled "'Sex Is Not the Enemy' is sort of a manifesto in a way. I had no idea it was until I looked back and thought, 'This really is an anthem to my sexual politics'". Guitarist Steve Marker added: "At first it wasn't supposed to be anything other than a party song."

Musically, "Sex Is Not the Enemy" was changed a number of times during writing; after some changes the band went back to the song's original verse melody, Manson writing on her journal there was "at least three different versions of this song".

On May 25, Garbage confirmed a list of 14 songs being worked on for the record, including "Sex Is Not the Enemy", and on December 14 confirmed that the song would be included on the finished album Bleed Like Me.

On March 28, 2005, Garbage performed the track on Canal+ Album de la semaine before debuting the song live on stage at the Paris Olympia the following day.

"Sex Is Not The Enemy" would later appear as a regular item in the band's Strange Little Birds and Rage and Rapture Tour during 2016–17, with the latter tour normally seeing the song performed second after "No Horses".

Single release

On April 10, Garbage drummer Butch Vig confirmed to fans in Los Angeles that "Sex Is Not the Enemy" would be the second UK single released from Bleed Like Me.

In the weeks prior to release, XFM was the only major radio station to playlist "Sex Is Not the Enemy"—neither Radio One or Radio 2 did. Garbage did not perform any television promos for the single bar a few interviews on TRL, Popworld, CD:UK and hit40uk. On June 9, Garbage headlined a sold-out concert at Brixton Academy and a day later performed at the Download Festival in advance of the single; on June 19, they returned to the UK to perform the single along with "Why Do You Love Me" at T4's televised Party on the Beach show.

On June 13 "Sex Is Not the Enemy" was released in the United Kingdom on CD, DVD and limited edition 7" vinyl. At the start of that week, the 7" was issued in white vinyl in a regular picture sleeve, but by the end of the week, stores were stocking copies with a limited red taped cover. "Sex Is Not the Enemy" debuted on the UK singles chart at #24; the next week falling to #66 before leaving the chart. The single performed only slightly better on the Scottish chart, reaching #22.

Warners serviced a few remixes of the tracks to clubs and on July 3 a digital download bundle of the single and B-side "Honeybee" was made available from iTunes but these did not improve sales of the single. By August 29, new unofficial 12" vinyls were in circulation featuring remixes of the song by Freaks (Justin Harris & Luke Solomon) and by DJ Hell/Fischerspooner side-project Naughty.

Despite rumours of a U.S. release for "Sex Is Not the Enemy", and a July 4 video premiere on Music Choice, no single was released.

In September 2005, "Sex Is Not the Enemy" was released to Australian radio up-front of the band's September 21 Australian tour Canberra debut show; and on September 11 FMR released a Bleed Like Me special edition with a bonus DVD, which included the "Sex Is Not The Enemy" promo video and "making of" documentary.

"Sex Is Not the Enemy" ended up being the final single release from Bleed Like Me in both Australia and the United Kingdom. When Garbage disbanded on a self-imposed hiatus following the completion of the Australian tour and the UK release of "Sex Is Not the Enemy", follow-up "Run Baby Run" was cancelled. On May 22, 2007 it was officially confirmed that "Sex Is Not The Enemy" would not be included on the band's greatest hits album Absolute Garbage, most likely due to the song's commercial failure in the UK.

Track listings

  • UK 7" single (A&E Records WEA391) # "Sex Is Not the Enemy" – 3:06 # "Never Be Free" – 4:28

  • UK CD single (A&E Records WEA391CD) # "Sex Is Not the Enemy" – 3:06 # "Honeybee" – 4:02

  • UK DVD single (A&E Records WEA391DVD) # "Sex Is Not the Enemy" – 3:06 # "Sex Is Not the Enemy" (video) – 3:06 # "Making of Sex Is Not the Enemy" (video) – 5:05

  • UK digital single # "Sex Is Not the Enemy (single and radio version) – 3:06 # "Honeybee" – 4:02


    "Sex Is Not the Enemy" was backed with B-sides "Honeybee" and "Never Be Free". Both tracks were recorded during the sessions for Bleed Like Me. An acetate of "Never Be Free" leaked from Chrysalis Music Group in 2003, but the track did not end up on the internet.

    While Vig describes "Honeybee" as "Neil Young-esque, with a druggy feel", Manson wrote the song was "pretty dark and twisted. It's a lusty, yearning moan." "Honeybee" featured drums performed by Matt Walker, while "Never Be Free" credited John5 with guitar. Both tracks were written and produced by Garbage, although "Never Be Free" may have originally been a John Lowery co-write. Producer James Michael may have also worked on the track at one point.

    Music video

    The video for "Sex Is Not the Enemy" was filmed on April 20 and April 21 and was a low-budget video shot by Sophie Muller. On the first day of shooting, both Manson and Muller shot scenes in a hotel room and at Times Square in New York City. On the second day the band filmed live footage at their show at Washington D.C.'s 9:30 Club.

    The video featured a stunt where Shirley was arrested on-stage after exposing her breasts (actually a flesh-coloured bra) and was dragged off the stage by hired actors posing as policemen, visually referencing and almost parodying the song's take on the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy. The audience were not let in on the stunt; and afterwards boo-d and heckled at the venue, many of the audience thinking it had been a Punk'd stunt. The band was filmed rehearsing for the stunt, and footage was included on a mini-documentary on the "Sex Is Not the Enemy" DVD.

    Butch Vig recalled: "We shot a lot of footage of Shirley running around New York. She was getting up on a soapbox with a bullhorn and just yelling at people. And it was funny, 'cause people thought, 'Oh, another crazy woman.' They just ignored her."

    The video first aired in the United Kingdom the week of May 16, after a full day of exclusive streaming from Garbage's website and premiered in the U.S. on July 4. In 2006, the "Sex Is Not the Enemy" video became available to download on digital stores worldwide.

    Alternate versions

    Release history

    Comprehensive charts

    Credits and personnel

  • Recorded and produced by Garbage
  • Recorded at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin
  • Engineer: Billy Bush
  • Mixed by Butch Vig at Smart Studios
  • Mastered: Emily Lazar (The Lodge, New York City)
  • Mastering assistant: Sarah Register (The Lodge)

    Additional musicians
  • Justin Meldal-Johnsenbass guitar

  • Written by Garbage 2005 Deadarm Music / Almo Music Corp. (ASCAP) and Vibecrusher Music / Irving Music, Inc (BMI). Administered by Rondor Music.

    Other personnel
  • Art direction: Big Active
  • Design & montage: Mat Maitland at Big Active

    Other credits
  • Shirley Manson appears courtesy of Radioactive Records.