There has been a further outcry about teenage strumpets this week. Someone close to Miley Cyrus decided it would be a good idea for her to make her debut as a pole-dancer at the Teen Choice Awards, of all places, Taylor Momsett was photographed on the Gossip Girl set looking like a streetwalking storyline was being introduced for her character Jenny Humphrey, while just to add to the bewilderment an abstinence charity in the US attempted to promote a t-shirt reading ‘I’m sexy enough to keep you waiting’. Only in America, as they say…
There is a certain amount of silly season hysteria to all of these stories and there is also not much that is new about middle-aged journalists getting all hot under the collar over jail bait celebrities. Witness how the OUTRAGE over these young girls and their behaviour allows certain family-orientated tabloids to splash the offending pictures all over their pages. So let ten minutes hate attempt to redress the balance, by attempting to explain why you should feel misused, misled and slightly cheapened by all this, as should the disgraceful young floozies in the pictures.
Madonna casts a long shadow here. Her career has provided a twenty-year master class in using your sexuality and people’s implied fear of the strong woman to shift tons of records so it should come as no surprise that the pretenders to her throne would attempt to borrow some of the magic. That said, her age at her first single release being 25, it is safe to assume that she had actually had some experience of the fantasies she was acting out. The song ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ also offered her young fans some clues as to what life might turn out like if they followed her lead before they were ready.
As most parents of a teenage girl can testify, your average 16 year old’s idea of sexiness lacks any attempt at subtlety – it’s the shortest skirt Primark can supply, the reddest lips, the blackest mascara and the highest heels – the Pamela Anderson, pneumatic blonde version of a man’s fantasy of a sexy woman. With age and experience comes the knowledge that putting it all out there is rarely that sexy and that a bare shoulder, neck or back can contain more allure than acres of leg or cleavage. What is really shocking is that these stars’ handlers, often members of their own families, aren’t helping to guide them towards this, instead happy to let them gyrate on T.V. in clothes that would bring an agonised ‘you’re not going out in that!’ from any sensible parent.
Where the abstainers and their supposed opponents Britney, Christina and the other Disney poppets have erred is in seeking to have the sexiness without the sex. They want to have their chaps and their chastity rings too. Cyrus is a particularly cynical example, while she probably acts no better or worse than any other girl her age, including this writer way back when, to do so while attempting to flog a billion lunchboxes on the back of your wholesome image is distasteful to say the least. As Madonna knew, true sexiness comes from knowing and understanding your own pleasure and taking control of it, rather than claiming that you ‘couldn’t say no’ to Vanity Fair and Annie Leibovitz as soon as the moral majority show up.
Another point the teen stars seem to miss is that pole-dancing, stripping and otherwise turning yourself into a sex object rarely allow a woman in the real world any chance at the ‘empowerment’ that they claim for themselves. Watch the girls at the Griffin pub, wandering around in plastic pants collecting pound coins from the beered up City boys and attempt to cast them as strong female role models. I wonder if you can?
I appreciate that this is a lot to expect a teenager to take in. But maybe those responsible for them should and should also take a look to see where it ends: Lindsay Lohan’s whacked out eyes in this month’s Elle magazine shoot are far from ‘fierce’, instead conjuring up the glazed expression of Jennifer Connolly’s crack-addicted prostitute from Requiem for a Dream. It’s a look. But not one that any strong woman should feel she needs to copy, whatever her age.