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Sex (Warner Books; $ 49.95)

By Madonna. Photographs by Steven Meisel. Art direction, Sabien Baron. Editor , Glenn O’Brien. Produced by Callaway Editions.

Varieties of human sexuality abound as Madonna makes a memorable, expensive and inevitably controversial debut between metal covers and atop satin sheets. Those looking for coitus will be disappointed, however.

Plot is Material Girl reaches out to fondle whatever comes within range. Clad in dominatrix leather, Madonna’s maiden literary effort shows to good effect her boffo breasts and a boundless imagination. There’s a comic book included with a colorful rumpus at the Chelsea Hotel plus a Mylar-wrapped freebie CD cooing, “Turn out the light. I’ll be your sorceress.”

But turn out the light and you miss not just the Steven Meisel photos but text, too.

This is one of the busiest books of the year, with more subplots than Dickens: In one shot Madonna shaves a man’s pubes; in another Madonna gets her buttocks powdered.

Everywhere she goes there’s action: She strips down for some soul kissing, watches over a bunch of boys in leather at the urinal, hitches a ride wearing only a ’60s retro handbag.

Madonna vamps down a Miami street; Madonna is naked at a formal event where half the men have forgotten more than their waistcoats and mostly have eyes for each other. Or she’s in white knee socks, come-hithering by a bicycle next to a massive oak. Madonna as bookish high school student comes in for some rough handling in a gym from two skinheads.

“The best way for human beings to show love is to love one another,” she writes in a foreword urging safe sex.

Fortunately, her friends feel the same way. There’s Madonna beneath a man, a man beneath Madonna, Madonna with several men, several women, Madonna sucking toes, Madonna with the old, the young and the canine.

Others get into the act–among them Isabella Rossellini and Naomi Campbell. There’s enough sun-screen squirting, intense nude soul kissing, digits in belly buttons and fancy fingering to go around.

Of course what you really want to know, is how dirty is it? Well, anyone with a regular subscription to Juggs will yawn. Those of European background will be delighted to see just what a rock star in an innovative mood is willing to do to her prudish American audience.

Doubtless others will join Wal-Mart and America’s police chiefs in the long line protesting Time Warner’s sense of corporate responsibility. For “Sex” is without doubt a remarkable act of … synergy.

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