Miley Cyrus is not shy.
You only have to take one look at Paper magazine's NSFW summer music issue to understand that.
The closest thing we've had to a flesh and blood Disney teen princess has grown up and been replaced by a topless (and mostly bottomless) woman covered in mud and wrestling a pig.
But aside from her willingness to strip down to practically nothing and publicly celebrate what her achy-breaky daddy gave her with a soon-to-be pork product, Miley is also not shy about speaking her mind, especially when it comes to her feelings about the queer community.
A quick Google search surfaces story after story about the pop singer's dedication to equality. Here she's showing off the tattoo she got in support of same-sex marriage; here she's discussing her foundation to help homeless queer youth; here she's urging her hordes of fans to "stir some shit up" and make some trouble for an anti-queer politician.
But Miley may have just outdone herself in the interview that accompanies her photo shoot. Aside from discussing how, as a 14-year-old, she told her mother she had romantic feelings towards women -- an exciting enough moment for a pop star of her caliber to be sharing -- these 21 words are perhaps the most important words Miley has ever said:
"I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn't involve an animal and everyone is of age."
She adds, "Everything that's legal, I'm down with. Yo, I'm down with any adult -- anyone over the age of 18 who is down to love me... I don't relate to being boy or girl, and I don't have to have my partner relate to boy or girl."
Girlfriend is not just DTF -- she's ready to rumble with anyone who piques her interest and she's apparently up for anything that feels good. She's "literally open to every single thing." Take a second to let that sink in. Every. Single. Thing. In our still shockingly Puritan culture in which sex simultaneously shames as it sells -- and women and queer people are told that their sexuality is at best something to be policed and at worst is evil -- her statement is nothing short of radical.
Her comment especially speaks to me as a queer person who isn't interested in assimilating into a heteronormative culture that privileges and enforces a binary gender system and who believes that sexual liberation is the cornerstone of queer liberation (and, what's more, that queer liberation is the cornerstone of human liberation).
How do we become sexually liberated? Owning not only our sexuality but also our sexual desires -- that we are inherently sexual creatures and that sex is something inherently positive, as Miley is proposing -- has the potential to reboot and reconfigure everything about how we understand and treat each other and ourselves and, ultimately, how we live our lives.
Until we realize that the way we have systematically designed our relationships and families has been and continues to be flawed, we're going to be stuck making the same mistakes and saddled with the same problems, from cheating and divorce to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections to depression and anxiety.
I think this is especially crucial at this specific moment in history with the Supreme Court about to rule on marriage equality sometime in the next three weeks. Yes, queer people should have all of the same rights as our non-queer counterparts. I'm hoping for good news from the Court but buying into the broken system of marriage without overhauling it to include new ways of looking at love, companionship, family and -- yes -- sex doesn't feel like progress or winning to me.
By speaking out about her desires -- desires that she seems to be implying involve the possibility of interactions and activities that many of us wouldn't necessarily consider vanilla -- Miley is taking a giant step towards changing the way we think about sex: who has it, how we have it, who we have it with and how the feel about it and ourselves before, while and after we're having it. And by changing the way we think about sex, we start to change the way we think about women and what they're worth. And we start to change the way we think about queer people and what they're worth. And we start to understand that if sex isn't a commodity whose production and distribution is controlled by a select few in order to organize our culture in a way that's most advantageous to rich, white, straight men, it's capable of destroying the roots of so many of the things that ail us -- from sexism to homophobia to transphobia.
While Miley is obviously not the first famous woman to talk about her sexuality or sex (requisite shout out to Madonna), she is the first with the kind of exposure to and influence over young people that she has and since, as Whitney so eloquently put it, the children are the future, that's huge.
So what does this really mean for us? What happens now? How do we move this from just an interview with a pop culture publication to a potentially culture-changing moment? Here's what I humbly suggest:
We take Miley's cue and we come out -- and not just about our sexuality and our gender identity but also about our sexual appetites. We own up to actually having sexual appetites -- and not just for procreating and not just the missionary position with the lights out -- and then we actually own them and use them to live happier, more productive lives. If we're queer, we stop being ashamed of being queer or being attracted to partners who fall outside of the range of who our society has told us we should be attracted to. If we're not queer, we affirm our queer brothers and sisters and not just when they look and act like non-queer people. We embrace whatever makes gives us pleasure and doesn't hurt anyone else (unless they're asking us to hurt them) and we stop feeling guilty about giving and receiving pleasure. We celebrate being impressively talented bottoms or our love of big feet with beautiful arches or just how good it feels to be with someone (or several someones) who wants to make us feel good. If we're not open to "every single thing," as Miley is -- and we don't have to be, understanding our limits and boundaries is healthy! -- then at the very least, we're open to respecting each other's desires and decisions.
Of course, most of us don't have a platform like Miley and most of us probably aren't comfortable broadcasting our desires in such a public way and I'm not saying that we all should or need to. But we should work to be honest with ourselves about who we are and what we want -- or don't want. If you're not a sexual person or the missionary position in the dark is your thing, by all means, go with that. The point is that our desires, whatever they may be, shouldn't be ignored or left untended to rot or they'll be our downfall.
Sex is not the enemy, it's the answer. So let's start getting dirty so we can join Miley in cleaning up our sex-shaming culture (pig and mud to wrestle him in sold separately.)
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