Miley Cyrus has released the video for her third single, Adore You, off her album, Bangerz, and the general response has continued to be one that places the onus the pornification of American culture directly on Cyrus’ shoulders. The video sports a scantily clad Cyrus between the sheets and in a bathtub, so caught up in the throes of passion that she can barely be bothered to lip sync to the song. She writhes and bites and touches herself while staring steamily into the camera.
But this display of raunchy sexuality is merely the latest in a long line of outrageous behavior that has garnered Cyrus ample attention this year. From her performance at the VMAs to her naked appearance in her video for Wrecking Ball, or her very public drug use and her excessive tongue antics, Cyrus has given many people many reasons to cry foul. Among the most noteworthy of these backlashes has been the open letter from Sinead O’Connor in which she repeatedly admonished Cyrus for prostituting herself for the sake of profit and fame.
The reactions to Cyrus’ career choices have been swift, loud and incredibly contradictory and her latest video proves to be no exception. The nearly vitriolic slut shaming that has dominated media coverage of her the last year stands in stark contrast to the record breaking sales of her album. The video for Adore You alone has gotten over 4.5 million views since its release on December 26.
The fact that Cyrus’ behavior receives so much attention for being over the line yet continues to grant her practically unlimited success speaks to a serious issue surrounding the objectification of women in America. It is not just that Miley Cyrus is using her body in a way that contributes to the pornification of American culture; it is that American culture has become so saturated with objectified women that it has become nearly impossible for women to get ahead without having to rely on manipulating this constricting system.
Take for instance, Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You video, which was remade this Christmas as a duet with Justin Bieber. The new video features a fully clothed Bieber gawking openly at a far less clothed Carey while she poses sexily against a wall. She winks at him provocatively before beginning to shimmy and pout to the music. As she peeks suggestively over her shoulder in poses that tease a potential up-skirt shot while rubbing herself, the scene alternates between her and Santa handing out coupons to children on the street. Yet, Cyrus draws fire for her antics while Carey’s video inspires little reaction.
That is not to say that there is not a difference between teaser up-skirt shots and blatantly sticking one’s hand down one’s panties while being visibly aroused. The point is merely that with the level of acceptable sexuality permeating American media and entertainment outlets, there is very little room left for “pushing the envelope.” If it is not shocking to be half naked and openly ogled, then what is left for Cyrus to do to gain attention and stand out from the pack? If getting attention is limited to bared flesh and overt sexuality, there are few options left for exploitation other than shocking people into taking notice and there are few shocking avenues left as people become more desensitized to the pornigraphic portrayal of women.
The pornification of American culture has occurred without Miley Cyrus to help it and while she may have chosen to express her sexuality as part of her career anyway, the fact that her considerable talents are not enough to ensure her success surely contributes to her behavior. She is a product of a problem that has already been well established, as evidenced by the hoards of barely dressed women that saturate movies, music, magazines and television.
By Vanessa Blanchard