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article imageOp-Ed: Sexualizing our Children

By Mr Garibaldi     May 3, 2008 in Lifestyle
Miley Cyrus has publicly apologized for the controversial photo shoot for Vanity Fair magazine, but what does it say about our society when such a picture is taken by a professional photographer in the first place?
It's becoming a national epidemic. Every day it seems the news carries a story of a teacher who has had sex with a student, or some adult in a position of authority has had some sort of sexual relations with a minor. The FDLS compound stories have uncovered an entire sub-culture in which underage girls are married off to older men.
And the public is, understandably, outraged when these stories come to light. But is this something that shows that there is a problem with our society in general?
Miley Cyrus is a 15 year old hot item celebrity, and when I say "hot item" I'm referring to her marketability. Her "Hannah Montana" series on Disney is a huge hit with young girls nationwide, and in her own right, forgetting that she's the daughter of country star Billy Ray Cyrus, the girl has an incredible singing career of her own already. She's also slated for the silver screen with an upcoming Hannah Montana movie due out next year, having one huge silver screen debut of a concert in theaters this year.
And now, thanks to the session with photographer Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair, she's been sexualized, and has issued a public statement in regards to the scandalous situation in which she finds herself.
"I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be 'artistic' and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed," Cyrus said Sunday in a statement through her publicist. "I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about."
The photos, appearing in the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair, were taken by Leibovitz, a renowned celebrity photographer whose edgy, silver-toned portraits have included subjects such as Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson and a naked, pregnant Demi Moore.
Sex sells, without a doubt, but should the object of setting the price be a 15 year old girl? I think not.
And yet this is not only time in recent years when underage girls have been put into situations such as this. Sexualization of young rising stars seems to be the "norm" in the celebrity circles, if one looks at such examples as Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, the Olsen Twins (I actually heard one man state that he was glad the Olsen twins were turning 18 a couple of years ago so that he wasn't breaking the law by lusting after them). Turn back the years a little further to Brook Shields in Pretty Baby and Blue Lagoon. These are only a few of the more high profile cases. The average model is between 16 and 25 years of age.
But there is a flip-side to this as well. As recently as 100 years ago, a girl was considered to be a spinster if she was unmarried when she reached her 18th birthday. Shakespeare's Juliet was 14 years old when she took her life in grief over the death of her beloved Romeo, and yet the bard's tragedy is considered to be one of the greatest love stories of all time.
Does our morality today lie in contradiction with our biological drives? Is it normal to see a young girl and consider her to be old enough for "adult activities" even if she isn't of legal age? Or are those who would still push minor girls out in the public eye as sex objects deviants from what is and should be acceptable to modern society?
As for Miley Cyrus, I hope she truly is uncomfortable with having seen the pictures after the session, and that she, and her family, have learned a lesson from this experience that keeps her from the meltdowns of Spears and Lohan.
More about Miley cyrus, Sexuality, Teenagers
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