For the nine-sixteenths of a second that Jackson's nipple was shown during Super Bowl XXXVIII on Feb. 1, 2004, "the FCC would receive a record 540,000 complaints and fine CBS a record $550,000 (the fee was later voided by a federal appeals court, which noted that advocacy groups may have been behind many of the complaints)," says Constance Grady. "Jackson would see her career go into a tailspin from which it would never truly recover. She was disinvited from the Grammys. Her new album was panned. When she showed up on TV for interviews and performances, many stations made a point of announcing they had adopted a five-second delay, lest she be tempted to show her breasts to America again. Her songs stopped playing on the radio, on MTV, on VH1. Sales of her music plummeted. The consensus at the time was that Jackson brought all this on herself on purpose — that she had cunningly plotted to expose her bare breast on TV in a tacky publicity stunt, a sleazy demand for attention from an aging pop star past her prime. Jackson herself maintained otherwise. What actually happened, she said, was that Timberlake was supposed to have removed part of her bustier to reveal a red bra in a sort of PG-13 striptease — but he ended up accidentally ripping the bra along with the rest of her top. This story made little impact. Neither did photographs of the aftermath of the so-called Malfunction, which saw Jackson huddling into her torn clothing and trying desperately to cover herself, with the face of a woman who very much did not intend to show America her nipple. Everyone seemed to instinctively know, back then, that when a woman’s body and sexuality were violated, the person to blame was the woman, especially if she was a woman of color. She brought it on herself by having a body. From the vantage point of 2021, the racial and gender overtones of that credo look fairly clear. Even Timberlake, who despite doing the actual clothes-ripping received almost none of the blame for the malfunction, acknowledged as much. 'America’s harsher on women' and 'ethnic people,' he explained to MTV in 2006. (Earlier this year, Timberlake offered an apology to Jackson for letting her take the fall.) But it’s worth taking a closer look at how the controversy interacted with what had been Jackson’s image up until the 2004 Super Bowl. For much of her career, Janet Jackson was an exemplar for an unusually carefree model of the sexuality of Black women, an icon of a Black woman whose sexuality was neither predatory nor shameful but only unapologetically focused on her own pleasure. The Wardrobe Malfunction ripped that image to shreds, in ways that still have consequences today."