Janet Jackson asked the fashion photographer Herb Ritts to direct a sensuous video to accompany her seventh single release from her Rhythm Nation 1814 album. Herb Ritts shot the video in black and white in the desert, with Janet clad in jeans and a tank top. Also in the video was a young Djimon Hounsou, who was then a model, but became a reputable actor starring in films such as Blood Diamond, as well as another model: Antonio Sabato Jr. It marked a turning point in her career showing the previously shy, sweet Janet in a whole new light. The video won a MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video and was nominated for Best Choreography and Best Art Direction in 1991.
The song became the last of seven singles from Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 album to reach the US Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first artist with that many hits derived from one album.
This was written by the team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who also produced the track. They worked on many of Jackson's hits of this era.
Jam and Lewis originally planned this song as a duet and considered Prince as a possible partner for Janet. When she came into the studio, Jam remembered, they prompted her to "sing it low like some guy would sing it" and loved the results so much that they ditched the duet idea.
The background vocals were recorded first to strengthen her voice after a hiatus from singing, a tactic also used for "Miss You Much," one of the first songs they recorded for the album.
The song "Sadeness" by Enigma (the one with the chanting monks), got its name from the French novelist Marquis de Sade, who believed sex had to be painful in order to be pleasurable - thus the word "sadism."