Let Them Grow Up!

ImageThis just in! Miley Ray Cyrus will be posing for Playboy.

Ok, not really. But I had to throw in that tease to make a point. The recent uproar (both social and political) over the “Vanity Fair” photos of Destiny Hope Cyrus, or Miley Ray Cyrus now to you and me, has me baffled and bothered.

Can anyone who’s seen THE photo in question tell me exactly what is wrong with it? Apparently something is so egregious about the shot that Miley herself has come out publicly to apologize for it. She said the photos were not of the same nature as she was told and promised, and that these pictures embarrassed her. The one picture getting most of the attention is a sepia/black and white shot of her, with only red lipstick highlighted in true color, sitting at a side angle, head turned right to look at the camera. Cyrus has most of her back bared in this photo, and she clutches what looks like satin bed sheets covering her frontal personals.

Seriously, I ask again, what is wrong with this photograph? It is far from pornographic; it is soft, delicate, and yes, it is a tad sensual. But even still, it is only sensual. It is not sexual. There is a large chasm between sensuality and sexuality. Add to the fact that this photograph was taken by famed photographer Annie Liebovitz and not Larry Flint, and I’m not sure where all the Quaker-ish outcry is coming from.

Is it the bed sheet and the possibly tussled hair?

Maybe. I can certainly see how some parents or conservative people might take issue with the suggestive nature of those two particulars. But I wonder if these same parents and too-tightly wound people also go into a hissy fit every time a beer commercial comes on. Or better yet, a shampoo or body wash advertisement. Hell, once, at a park, on the basketball courts next the kiddie jungle gym, at 3:30pm, I had a bunch of scantily clad women literally walk on to the court, disrupt our game and hand out promotional cans of Red Bull. None of the parents flinched or ran to cover up their kids’ eyes.

So what exactly is it that is so scandalous about Miley’s tussled hair and boney back (seriously, look at it, you see ribs). It certainly can’t be the slightly suggestive content of the picture. Then the only thing that comes to mind is not the content of the shot, but the context of it all. Miley Cyrus is a “tweener,” which makes her not a little girl, but not yet legally an adult.

Miley is 15 years old. And we all know that in this country, at 15, girls don’t know anything about sex. They’ve never even thought about it, let along actually experimented with it. And yeah, in case you missed it, that last thought was dripping (sorry, pun not intended) with sarcasm. I don’t know about you, but it makes me laugh my ass off to see the shallow, shabby attempt at a tattered veneer of propriety that this nation tries to put on.

For a culture driven by sex, by visual images that suggest and oftentimes denote sex, we are now suddenly outraged and distressed by a slightly suggestive photo of a 15 year old? What is wrong with us. The girl is 15. It’s not like she’s 12. For those that say 15 is still three years from 18, and those three years make a big difference, well, so do the three years between 12 and 15.

Do any of the outraged and flummoxed have any inkling, any direct idea as to what most girls in our country have already done, not just thought about or been tempted to do, but already done sexually by the time they turn 15?

I teach at the college level. Most of my incoming freshmen are 17, 18. When we discuss sexism in class, most of the girls nod and laugh when we talk about sex not because they’re uncomfortable, but because they have first-hand knowledge. When jokes about guys with “morning wood” are tossed out, all the girls laugh that knowing laugh. Or in their boys versus girls debate, guys will ask “does size really matter?” and 90% of the girls smile and shake their heads. The other 10% say yes, so it’s not like there are girls that haven’t had sex. Several girls openly say they’ve been having sex since 13 or 14. Some, even earlier.

We go crazy, in show only, every time something like this Cyrus incident happens. Remember when Brook Shields said in a jeans commercial back in 1981, “want to know what comes between me and my Calvin Kleins? Nothing.” Oh boy, the feigned affront that came from that. However, the same people that were suddenly piqued about the suggested “commando” nature of Brooke Shields were sitting in theaters trying to catch a peek of her in “The Blue Lagoon” just the year before.

What about Phoebe Cates stepping out of the pool, dripping water from head to toe in slow-motion photography in 1982’s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High?” Or Britney Spears’ seductive, Catholic school girl in her “Hit Me, Baby, One More Time” video back in 1999 when she was only 17?

For crying out loud, we are a culture driven and motivated by sex and images of sex. Can we stop pretending we’re not?

And, for crying out loud, not only are we a culture driven by sex, we are a culture particularly intrigued by “illegal sex,” by the so-called taboo of sex with girls who aren’t quite legal. How else would a douche bag like Joe Francis of “Girls Gone Wild: Barely Legal” fame get so, well, famous?

For crying out loud, let’s just admit who we are, what we like, and most importantly, what secretly tickles us in our favorite place.

And for crying out loud, can we please stop pestering these young women who are just practicing their own bloom? Can we please, please, just let them grow up?

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