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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Where Did Teen's Sexuality Go?

Recently I have been thinking about teen's expressing their sexuality. I have been thinking about this ever since Miley Cyrus' performance at the Teen Choice Awards. I am not about to defend Miley Cyrus' pole-dancing performance as an expression of her sexuality, because I don't think it was. I think it was a ploy on the behalf of marketers to gain more fans. As Cara Lisa Berg Powers points out in the post "I Don't CareWhat Miley's Parents Thinks...":

It is difficult enough for women in today’s society to have control over their own sexuality. Imagine how much more challenging this is for girls, when corporate male fantasies make their way into performances by teenagers at awards shows created specifically FOR teenagers.
This pole-dancing routine that Miley did was a result of "corporate male fantasies" not from her expressing her sexuality.

But there is something to be said for teens expressing their sexuality when it is actually them doing the expressing and not marketers. In the same post, Powers also defends Britney Spears expressing her sexuality when her first album came out because she was over 18, therefore no longer a teenager. But what's so magic about the number 18? Why is ok for an 18-year-old to express their sexuality (even when it is still a marketing ploy in the case of Britney Spears) but not when it is a 16-year-old?

I think it's about time that people stop ignoring the fact that teenagers have a sexuality. It's not as if everybody wakes up on their 18th birthday with sexual desires that they never had before. Teens should be able to express their sexuality.

But there is something to say for teens expressing their sexuality out of their own desire and not the desire of others, especially not the desires of middle-aged corporate men. Teen stars like Miley Cyrus, who is old enough to know the consequences of her actions, should take responsibility for being a good role model to her fans. Cyrus' fans range in age from 8-years-old (or younger) to twentysomethings (or older). When I worked at a summer camp, our rule was to keep everything appropriate for the youngest camper. I think the same thing applies here. Miley Cyrus (and stars like her) should keep her expressions of sexuality appropriate for her youngest fans, which means not pole dancing.

Expression of sexuality, while completely appropirate, should be left to private relationships for teenagers, especially those in the spotlight that are role models for young children. And teens expression of their sexuality should come from themselves, not from others.

I don't think that stars who are over 18 should be let off the hook, either, for marketing their sexuality when their fans are pre-teens, in the case of early Britney Spears. Sexuality should be something that is expressed by oneself, not mandated by others, and should be expressed with responsibility. If you are old enough to have sexualtiy to express, you should be old enough to take responsibility for that sexuality and how it comes across to the public.


Lady McScamp said...

I'm certain Britney was 16/17 when she recorded 'Hit me baby one more time'.

Teens shouldn't have their sexuality policed but teen stars are role models and whether or not it is their own sexuality they are expressing the adults in their life should step in and point this out. I get the impression though that these 'adults' rub their hands in glee at all the potential controversy & money they will make from exploiting these girls.

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

Great post, Laura (as always!) My daughter, age 7, has been a Miley/Hannah fan for more than a year. (I know a 3 year old who is also a huge fan.) Your statement that Miley should keep her sexuality appropriate for her youngest fans is ABSOLUTELY what I couldn't quite find the words to express.

Have I mentioned before how much I love your blog? :)

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