In the wake of all of this Miley Cyrus VMA performance controversy that I’ve been forced to take note of by my Facebook feed, I’ve been thinking a lot about the issues of sexuality and appropriateness raised by her performance (I may have also been influenced to write about this because I noticed someone else wrote about this while scrolling through the blog posts; sorry if I stole your idea!). There are a ton of things I could discuss in regards to these issues, but I one of the most basic questions raised by the performance and the world’s reaction to it is whether or not Miley Cyrus should be ashamed of what she is doing. My belief on this particular matter is that Cyrus has every right to do what she wants to do with her sexuality, and I suppose this idea stems from my broader belief that people should be allowed to be sexually liberated and unashamed of that liberation, if that is what they choose. But why is it that I believe the latter?
I would guess that my belief that sexual liberation is not inherently wrong or shameful stems from a variety of factors in my life that are distinctly different from the majority of most of my peers in the South. For starters, when I was growing up, sexuality was never a shameful or taboo topic, and my father has never been shy when discussing sexual matters with me (sometimes to my embarrassment, other times to my amusement). Another general principle that was embedded in me growing up was that people ought to be free to do what they want to do and that I should probably just mind my own business unless what they are doing directly affects me. This extends to many areas of my life, and sexuality is one of them. As long as a person’s sexual choices do not have a direct effect on me, I have trouble finding myself caring very much because of the way in which I was raised. Another factor besides my upbringing is the type of people I surround myself with. Because I’ve been socialized to not be judgmental, I have tended to surround myself with like-minded people who affirm these beliefs. All of my close friends from my hometown are very open about sexuality and do not choose to slut-shame promiscuous girls. I have also been active in a feminist group the past two years of college and this has further influenced me to view a person’s value as something completely independent of their sexual choices, since all of the friends I have made in that group hold that belief as well. Lastly, although I was raised in a predominantly Christian society and have been influenced by it, I always interpreted the “love thy neighbor” part of the Bible as more important than the “fornicators will be punished” part. Again, I think this stems from my family’s attitude about leaving people alone and not judging them for their choices, even if they happen to be different than my own.
I can definitely see why many of my peers from my small, Southern hometown have different views of sexuality than me. For starters, the brand of Christianity they’ve bought into has convinced them that sex only has a place within marriage, making all other sexual acts shameful. This is compounded by the fact that their parents have told them the same thing and have told them from a very young age that good girls/boys do not participate in sexual acts outside of marriage. Their peers socialized them in a similar way; even if they were themselves engaged in these acts, they would deny it to their friends and talk badly about other people engaged in these acts. Having been told by every trusted friend and adult that sex outside of marriage is shameful their entire lives, it is hard for them to develop a view of sexuality that does not make it shameful outside of marriage. According to this logic, a person should not be sexually liberated because that liberation is unfair to his or her future spouse. For people socialized in this way, if sexuality does not have a place outside of marriage, it certainly would not have a place on the stage of the VMAs, which is probably why they so strongly disapprove of Miley Cyrus’s actions.