Friday, May 2, 2008

Can a 15 year old have SEX appeal? Miley Cyrus hits the satin sheets... and our culture's Age of Consent Issues

Okay, This (if you don't already know) is Miley Cyrus. A.K.A. Hannah Montana.

She's 15.

She's interviewed in Vanity Fair magazine, who gets the Celebrity of celebrity photographers, Annie Liebovitz, to photograph her.

She poses with no top visible. She has on red lipstick. She's partially covered by a satin sheet.

Is she a girl or is she a woman?

Disney (and many fans) scream GIRL! She should have no sex appeal. She's just a cute girl, that every girl should want to be like. She's the girl that every boy should want to (of course) platonically, date, and the girl every parent should want their child to grow up to be.

Clearly Annie Liebovitz was interested in exploring just how much of a woman is there in this teenager that has the world on a string. (There are estimates that she will be worth a billion dollars by the time she is 18 years old!)

I think it's fascinating that she first poses in a "womanly" and revealing set-up, and then reacts to her fans' supposed outrage by reverting to being "girly" and saying she's now "embarrassed" by the photos. Pure celebrity damage-control.

But the whole episode brings up a HUGE issue for our culture. We want our teens to be consumers, we sell everything to them and everyone else with SEX (have you looked at some ads lately? Abercrombie & Fitch, Guess Jeans, almost everything...), but after all that, we don't want our teens to be sexual... ever.

We see it with the blind federally mandated "abstinence-only" sex education programs. (God forbid we teach sexually active teens how to use a condom and avoid getting HIV/AIDS or pregnant!)

We see it in the different age of consents around the world for "gay" versus "straight" sexual activity.

And we see it in Miley Cyrus' doing a woman's photo shoot when everyone wants to keep her a "girl."

How come none of these adults REMEMBER being a teenager? It's precisely that awkward mix of girl/woman, of boy/man that is so confusing and so powerful. And I guess, so scary to adults that have forgotten...

So how come no one's asking Teens what they think?

Well, I am. Asking, that is.

What do YOU think? Can a 15 year old have SEX appeal? Was Miley Cyrus wrong to pose suggestively, or was she wrong to apologize?

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Sara Wilson Etienne said...

Good questions! Seen the American Apparel website recently? Talk about teens and sex appeal. There is definitely a contradiction between marketing and expectations. And living here in Los Angeles, you see little girls all the time with "Princess" on their butt's and wearing strappy tank tops. I don't have any answers, but I'm glad you're asking the question.

Disco Mermaids said...

Yeah, interesting thoughts to ponder, Lee...

Of course, if this was the seventeenth century, no one would blink, as the average 15-year-old was being married off and bearing children.

This is a tough one, and I can't quite decide where I stand. Yes, the vision of a post-coital "Hanna-Montana" wrapped up in satin, with smudgy lipstick and bead-head and all the rest is a little creepy. Then again, flipping through Cosmo, with it's Calvin Klein and Abercrombie spreads featuring scantily clad teens creeps me out too.

But, if I were still a teen, maybe I'd find these photos appealing, as they represent how some teens really dress/act/behave. Maybe instead of creepy they'd just look...well, realistic.

I guess my issue with the images is that they (the Vanity Fair spread in particular) are created for adults. And adults looking at teens in any kind of sexual way is not only creepy, but unethical and illegal. So, yeah, maybe provocative public images of teens should be reserved for models/actors who are 18 years old.

There. I said. it.

Great post!


Rita said...

Wow, Eve put her finger on the issue for me before I'd even thought it out: teens definitely want to be sexy sometimes and I don't want to repress that. Hello. I remember. But Vanity Fair is particularly adult and may not have been the best outlet.

I couldn't figure out what seemed off, since Annie Liebovitz only did what came naturally to her and what we'd expect of her cutting-edge portrait style.

I am bummed Miley Cyrus apologized, but I get it. It's good for her career at the moment to confuse her Hannah Montana persona as much as possible with her public image, so . . . there you have it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other comments completely, there is a huge contradiction in society about adolescents and sex. I live in England, and parents are buying tops for 6 year olds saying “This would look much better on the floor...” and much worse. It really is worrying, especially disturbing to see young kids being sexualised in such a way that is shameful and disgusting: parents buying their children pole dancing kits like the ones in strip clubs and saturating them in makeup, several ear, belly button and nose piercings, and then the poor kids behaving like provocative pop-stars Mariah Carey, Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears, all living in the false celeb reality that never is not artificial.
Anyway, returning to teens, I think it differs from individual. Some have had poor upbringings so turn to other escapes and regularly end up pregnant, often at abortion clinics. Others just want to fit in, so do what the culture portrays is just the done thing, one night stands and so on. A third of young girls (in Europe at least) are actually coerced into having sex, so it is a sensitive issue as such anyway.
Thanks for raising this though!

Anonymous said...

yes nd no. yea teenagers can have sex appeal but as long as its classy not trashy.most people don't expect Miley Cyrus to be taking picture with just satin sheets. she is supposed to be a role modle as both hannah motana and Miley Cyrus not as just hannah montana.

Anonymous said...

No, I don't believe that Miley Cyrus can have 'sex appeal'. Some teenagers are more mature looking or just generally good-looking and that can be 'sexy', but Miley Cyrus is not mature nor is she good looking. Also, I find this picture of her to be in poor taste, she resembles the girl from the ring or grudge, just not asian.

Everything she has done is wrong. Haha, she is a girl filled with contradictions. Either she can be normal and try to attract the attention of boys and men (in whatever way she pleases) like a normal teenage girl, or she can pretend that she lives in disneyland and is a devote christian. I find neither offensive, but she just can't do both. Hearing about all these apologies is tiresome.

Anonymous said...

well i think miley cyrus is going through a hard time she should be a role model not some slut i know that soon she will realize her really big mistake and think about all her fans that look up to her she is not a regular girl that nobody cares about she is now a rolemodel she should at least be a good one i know 5,6 ,7 all the way to 14 year olds that look up to her she should just think about it

Anonymous said...

No she is not I agree that she should think of her fans my little sister looks up to her.. I would go mad if my sister did that I would kill her just because Miley is a star does not mean she can be a slut... Ye we all make mistakes but that was her desision to take off her clothes for a camera.. She is 16 now and still stripping off she still did not learn I am the same age as her and would not dream of doing that,, Miley Cyrus is starting to lose her respect.. I believe she is a diva.. Just because her daddy got her recognised does not mean she should teach the younger generation that love her to be sluts.. will not be suprised when she is pregnant at this rate she is getting worse.. sex appeal is not nice at her age, it is sick and whoever enjoyes it is sick...