LOS ANGELES, December 21, 2014 — Miley Cyris is back in the news. This time because boyfriend Patrick Schwarzenegger’s mom, Maria Shriver, has asked that he not bring his girlfriend home for the holidays.
Cyrus’ penchant for bad performances reached a new high (low) last at the August 2013 Video Music Awards (VMAs), when she “twerked” suggestively before the loins of the much older Robin Thicke.
“Twerking” is now in the American English lexicon, teddy bears have been completely stripped of their innocence, and Robin Thicke, the son of one of America’s favorite ‘80s dads, sang a song about date rape while allowing a girl almost half his age to “rim” and “ratchet” him while performing obscene gestures with a Styrofoam finger.
Thicke is now divorced from wife Paula Patton, so we see how well this display worked for him.
Some writers and commentators were outraged by the dancing, others by the sexuality and obvious misogyny. A few found racial degradation in Miley’s treatment of her dancers and the obvious co-opting of moves and mannerisms that are particularly embedded in Black Hip Hop culture.
But Miley wasn’t the only story about unchecked sexuality during that time.
More than four years ago, 49-year-old Montana teacher Stacey Dean Rambold raped 14-year old Cherice Morales, his student at Billings Senior High School. While trial and sentencing were being carried out, Cherice committed suicide just shy of her 17th birthday.
Judge G. Todd Baugh, in his infinite wisdom, gave the now 52-year old Rambold the deferred sentence of 30-days in prison. Baugh felt Rambold had already lost his job, marriage, and reputation, so he claims the sentence factored this into account.
Judge Baugh went further, saying of the victim, she “seemed older than her chronological age”, and declared that Cherice was “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher.
Lest we think America is the only Western society circling the drain, we need look no further than Slane, Ireland. During an Eminem concert at Slane Castle in August 2013, a 17-year old girl publicly performed oral sex on a male purported to be her boyfriend.
In our 15-minute society, cell phone cameras were immediately trained on this, and the photos quickly uploaded to social media. “The Slane Girl” pictures and video went viral, and the girl was subjected to “slut shaming”.
The girl, distraught over the incident and its subsequent aftermath, was then admitted to the hospital, and is claiming sexual assault. More videos and photos have surfaced showing the girl kissing another person, and a particularly disturbing one of the girl surrounded by at least eight men, being pushed and verbally abused. Irish law enforcement are rightly investigating, and the videos, pictures, and social media accounts connected to the incident have been taken down.
Miley Cyrus, Cherice Morales, and the Slane Girl all have this in common: they are trapped in a society that serves mixed messages to young girls and boys about sexuality. These schizophrenic signals abound in our modern world.
Sixteen year-olds can now get the morning after pill without parental consent; condoms are given out freely in most public schools; sexual education is being pushed on children of younger and younger age.
To be sexually curious is not only encouraged, but a supposed requirement of social acceptance. Until, in the case of the Slane Girl, you are publicly slapped with a Scarlet “S” and shamed for doing the very thing society encourages.
Cyrus’ contemporary Taylor Swift is held up as the sweetheart of her generation, with breakup songs that wring your heart, and a psychic connection to her Tween, teenage, and now-young adult audiences. Yet, her serial dating and break ups are part of her street cred. Swift personifies sweetness on stage, but her personal life does not seem to match up. More mixed signals that merely serve to confuse a generation.
Then on the far end of the spectrum, there are those who still encourage not expressing your sexuality until you, or your parents, feel it is appropriate. At the 2008 VMAs, the now-defunct Jonas Brothers band were the focus of host Russell Brand’s jokes because of their choice to wear purity rings. They found an unexpected ally in singer Jordin Sparks, who called Brand out on his tomfoolery:
“I just have one thing to say about promise rings. It’s not bad to wear a promise ring because not everybody – guy or girl – wants to be a slut.”
Nick, Kevin, and Joe Jonas, and Jordin Sparks have moved into relationships and have admittedly put purity pledges behind them. Nick is partnered with a model, Kevin is happily married, and Joe has dated some of music’s leading ladies, including Demi Lovato, and the aforementioned Taylor Swift (who wrote several songs about their breakup). So does this prove a pledge for purity is useless? Not necessarily. That boundary not only inspired many young people who admired these artist that they have a choice not to engage in explicit sexual behavior, but gave the artist themselves guideposts that probably kept them from some pretty awful decisions and situations until they were emotionally mature enough to handle them. Also note these individuals are all adults now, and making adult choices. Do a Google search or tabloid sweep of any of their names, and you will not find any of them pushing the envelope with slut and man-whore behaviors.
From the look of both Sparks’ and the Jonas Brothers’ life and career, their choice to keep it pure in their youth has served them well.
So, why do other artists (and modern society) feel the need to push young boys and girls onto this no-holds-barred path? Is not the point of a free society to offer options and choices, and to encourage our children to make wiser ones than we did?
Lindsey Lohan, Amanda Bynes, and Britney Spears have all been poster children for bad behavior.
Miley Cyrus acts crazy for the cameras, and despite rumors of drug rehab and pregnancy, nothing has been proven yet. Why she felt the need to break from her squeaky-clean Disney “Hannah Montana” image and become a caricature of a sex-crazed banshee is uncertain, but the banshee is not coming for Christmas carols around the Kennedy-Shriver Kennebunkport mansion.
There are still consequences to cultivating such an image, and Cyrus is just beginning to experience them. Maybe Momma Maria could provide her with a good role model? If nothing else, she could teach her a thing or two about class.
Why are youth not given the choice to contain their sexuality for as long as they wish, and build emotional maturity first, before attempting explorations that will have heavy emotional and societal fallout?
In terms of that fallout, more often than not, it rains down hard on the female side.
Jennifer Oliver O’Connell also writes for Examiner.com on Los Angeles Faith and Community, and has her own blog, As the Girl Turns. Follow Jennifer @asthegirlturns on Twitter and at As the Girl Turns on Facebook.