Does anyone else find it ironic that men in a polygamy cult in Texas are being locked up for sexually exploiting teenage girls while here in medialand, a half-nude photo of 15-year-old Miley Cyrus in Vanity Fair is being touted as art?
Is it OK to sexualize a fifteen-year-old if it is in the pages of a high falutin' magazine and her parents seem OK with it? Or is this really not much different from parents in a cult acquiescing to having their teen daughters wedded and bedded?
I'm not sure that it is all that different. In both cases 15-year-olds, who are well under the age of consent, are being exploited because they are viewed as sexually attractive. And in both cases, their parents are allowing it to happen.
Miley may not have been forced to have sex with a creepy old man but she is being put out on display like a modern day Lolita and you can bet a lot of creepy old men will be eyeballing her bare shoulders and back and having nasty thoughts about her other parts that appear to be bare. Yuck!
"Parents aren't supposed to let their 15-year-olds pose in sexily suggestive ways," points out Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and author of Living the Truth. And I have to agree. Parents are supposed to throw a fit when their teen daughters try to leave the house dressed in skirts that are too short and tops that are too tight. Parents are supposed to try and protect their teen daughters from becoming sexually active at an early age.
They aren't supposed to allow them publicly to declare themselves to be sex objects especially if they happen to be role models for even younger girls. "Hollywood has planted a flag and the hill they've taken is that you don't have to be 16, 17, or 18 to announce that you want to be sexy," points out Ablow. Fifteen is now OK.
It almost makes the controversy over Britney Spears dancing in a short school girl kilt and knee socks in her "Baby One More Time" video, when she was 17, seem so antediluvian. The Cyruses would be wise though to learn a Big Lesson fast from the Spears family, now awaiting the birth of 16-year-old Jamie Lynn's first baby, as they also try to cope with Britney's bipolar disease.
Exploiting and Lolita-izing your teen daughter for fame and fortune runs a high risk of leading to heartbreak for the very one that you claim to love and cherish.
Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus have said that the half-nude photo of Miley was taken after they left the Vanity Fair photo shoot with famed photographer Annie Leibovitz. But does that really let them off the hook? First of all, Leibovitz is a brilliant photographer who brilliantly got Demi Moore to pose nude and nine months pregnant for the cover of Vanity Fair, and also recently convinced A-list actresses Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson to pose nude together for another cover. Leibovitz knows the news value of a nude photo, especially a really provocative one — as in an underage nude photo.
Secondly, I can't believe Miley's parents were somehow ambushed by these semi-bare photos of their daughter. They had to be aware the photos were taken. Miley would have told them. She was probably excited by it all! She may have even brought home polaroids of the photo from the shoot. Even if she didn't, her parents could probably have asked to see the photos if they were concerned. After all, she is underage and the whole Cyrus feature was done co-operatively with the magazine.
Finally, if Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus were truly outraged by Miley's sexy photo, they could have raised a ruckus with Leibovitz and Vanity Fair, long before the ruckus that started when the pictures went public.
So what exactly were the Cyruses thinking? Is it part of the Miley career plan to sexualize her at 15 as a way to wooing an adult audience that will see her as more than Hannah Montana? Are her parents worried that she might never be able to make the crossover? Isn't a billion dollars of Hannah Montana revenue in 2008 alone enough to give the girl a break and just let her be a teen girl?
"She was an icon in our house. I am so disappointed. She was our last idol standing," laments Sally Lee, editor in chief of Parents magazine and the mother of two young daughters, 7 and 11, who also happen to be huge Miley fans. Sexualizing 15-year-old Miley is part of a juggernaut encouraging teen sexuality believes Lee. "It's a slippery slope and we're going down it fast."
Well Lee is probably right, sexual activity among teens is big and Miley's sexy poses won't exactly discourage other 15 and 14-year olds from wanting to look sexy too.
Chandra Czape-Turner, executive editor of CosmoGIRL! thinks Miley is a good kid. "She is a good role model and while she may have slipped, we have to give her a break. I think she's learned a lesson and I do think her parents are loving and very involved."
OK, I agree that Miley deserves a break. She is just 15. Let's just hope that her parents have learned a lesson too — a BIG ONE!