Slut Shaming & the Censorship of Music Videos

Photo By David LaChapelle

Photo by David LaChapelle

“If you look back in history

It’s a common double standard of society

The guy gets all the glory the more he can score

While the girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore”

– Can’t Hold Us Down, Christina Aguilera

 

Remember when Miley Cyrus released her controversial music video ‘Wrecking Ball’ and masses of young girls took to building sites and started using power tool and wrecking  balls as a means of sexualy objectifying themselves? No? Well that’s because it never happened.  Yet the press and news broadcasters continually use Miley as the beacon for negative sexualisation, sexual harassment, sexual attitudes, and sexual abuse. The ever-increasing debate surrounding sexualisation is seeping into politics, and organisations have begun to call for censorship on music videos featuring sexualised stars, particularly female stars. Whilst I can agree there is a worrying amount of misrepresentation of women in mass media and teenagers are being subject to an increased level of sexualisation, I do not feel compelled to support censorship, and quite frankly I never will.

 

Photos by David LaChapelle

Photo by David LaChapelle

I grew up when Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears were at the top of the charts. I personally remember when Christina released ‘Dirrty’ in 2002, and the backlash that followed. Panic was generated through the extreme assumption that the song could single handily taint a generation of teenage girls. What I could not understand even then at the age of 12, is what was so offensive about a woman confidently displaying her sexuality? Christina then went on to release ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Can’t Hold Us Down’, which promoted self-belief and feminism. Growing up in a generation, where the only place female sexuality was spoken about was in music; Christina seemed like a good person to idolise. Had Christina been censored, I wonder where I would have learnt that it is possible to be both, female and sexual without stigma or shame.

More than ten years later, ITV aired a programme called ‘Pop, Sex and Videotape: Tonight’ discussing the censorship of ‘sexed-up’ music videos. Predictably they open the show with who other than Miley Cyrus; followed by Annie Lennox; a pop-star that had previously sexualised herself during her pop career said “Personally I don’t think it’s appropriate that very young kids are exposed to entertainment in the form of pornography, and what am I saying that I think is pornographic? I think it’s when and I’m being specific, it’s when you stand simulating masturbation with your clothes on or off or bending over with your derriere in the air and thrusting your pelvis, that’s pretty hardcore.” Does this not insinuate that masturbation and sexual desire is shameful, adding to society’s compulsion to shame women’s sexuality, whether that be sex with someone or with themselves?

At the beginning of the 90s Naomi Wolf, penned an iconic book called ‘The Beauty Myth’. It underpinned the fundamental myths surrounding women that western society advocate. Thanks in part to the capitalist society in which we live we have manufactured female sexuality into a myth, reinforced by beauty images, advertising, music videos and pornography. The disconnection between the hyper-sexualised world of media and the ‘hush hush’ taboo reality we live in causes what I believe to be a misguided understanding of sex and possibly promoting harmful ‘solutions’ to sexualisation. As Wolf explains “Sexual explicitness” is not the issue. We could use a lot more of that, if explicit meant honest and revealing; if there were a full spectrum of erotic images of uncoerced real women and real men in contexts of sexual trust, beauty pornography could theoretically hurt no one.”

The hysteria that emerges when sexualisation is discussed in the press or news is a blatant example of the fear surrounding sex, particularly when it comes to female sexual desire. It seems to be both incredibly naïve and regressive to pin this the pandemic of sexual abuse and attacks that exist within societies and cultures worldwide on Miley Cyrus and her peers. The unsatisfactory sex and gender education in schools, in conjunction with the increasing hypersexual imagery younger generations are exposed to, creates a delusional youth. If we really want to tackle this issue, we need to stop looking at the superficiality of sexualisation, and look deeper into societies attitudes towards sex and gender and stop shaming the expression of sexuality. ITV’s programme poll reported that 83% favoured age rating on music video, I’m a proud representative of the 17% that does not.

  • Steel

    There’s a tremendous amount of porn ALL OVER THE INTERNET. That’s a big problem, and people like Miley Cyrus are only encouraging it.