The Slut Shaming of Miley Cyrus

I didn’t watch the VMA’s earlier this week.  But while it was on I kept seeing posts on Facebook and Twitter about Miley Cyrus, how shameful she was, people wondering what happened to her, or commenting how her parents let her down.  Not having seen her performance, or even knowing she had performed I wasn’t sure what was really happening.  I thought maybe this was another case of a young starlet on a downward spiral.

Then I saw the video. To be honest, I didn’t really see what the issue was. Yes, it was a sexually charged performance.  But so what?  It’s not like this is the first time the VMAs have gone down this path.  

I think what bothered most people is that the former Disney “good girl” is now a 20-year-old-woman embracing her power and sensuality. Our puritan society does not like that — or when any woman is sexually free, for that matter. But we especially don’t like it when our sweethearts — our “good girls” “grow up” — we assume that they must be spiraling downward. Something must be wrong with them.

But there’s another issue at hand, and one many seem to be missing: There’s an uproar over Miley being too sexual but nothing is said about Robin Thicke grinding on her or singing about the “blurred lines” of consent. This double standard is exactly why we have rape culture.    

Robin Thicke was an equal partner in that exchange, yet he’s received very little criticism. Even his mother talks about Miley’s grinding on her son and not her son grinding on Miley. It’s the same reasoning behind why women who date younger men are called cougars but men who date younger women are just men.  Or girls who get pregnant in high school are chastised and considered trash. The boys who got them pregnant get little more than a slap on the wrist. 
In our society if a woman is overtly sexy or sexual, if she shows too much of her body, or if she, heaven forbid, likes sex she’s a slut and should be ashamed. And if she’s raped after being overtly sexual or showing too much skin, then she was asking for it.

As a mother of a young girl I’m often torn between society’s belief that I should raise her to “respect herself” by dressing modestly and the feeling that I want her love her body, no matter what it looks like. I don’t want my daughter growing up to think there is anything wrong with her body, that it’s dirty or shameful. I don’t want her to feel that if she is showing “too much” skin she’s diminishing her value. I want her to embrace her sexuality, not hide it or feel ashamed of it.  I want her to not only find strength in her sexuality, I want her to feel power in it.  

Why must we deny that we are also sexual beings to do that? We don’t just have sex to procreate. We have sex because we enjoy it. It feels good. It’s fun. It’s a way to connect with another person. And that’s all okay! It’s not that we don’t, or at least I don’t, want men to think of us (me) as sexual beings. It that we don’t want them to see us as just sexual beings.  

 Even if you don’t agree with me that Miley and Robin’s sexually charged performance was just fine or that Miley’s outfit wasn’t that big a deal, at least make sure you are holding both of them to the same standard. Don’t chastise Miley for being sexual but ignore that Robin. And don’t give him a pass for writing a song perpetuating rape culture and trying to pass it off as a feminist statement.

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