Miley Cyrus, Sex, and Corinthians 6

In case you’ve been fasting from television and social media the past few days, here’s a brief summary of Miley Cyrus’s performance at Sunday’s VMA awards:  She stripped down to her underwear and twerked and gyrated before a live audience full of celebrities with their mouths on the floor.  At one point, she stomped around the stage aimlessly as if she was looking for anyone or anyTHING to have sex with.  Crass, I know, but there really is no other way to describe it.   Facebook and Twitter were in a frenzy, and talking media heads were using words like “gross, perverse, sad, and shocking.”  It certainly was all of those things,  except one:  I don’t know how anyone could be shocked.  When it comes to sex, our culture becomes more saturated with poison by the day.  Are we really acting surprised that someone got sick?  For so many people, this story seems to be about another ex-Disney star breaking bad.  For me, this is a symptom of something much, much deeper.

Our culture celebrates sexual perversion.  It’s used by advertisers to sell just about everything, sung about on the radio, and used as a punch line for the most popular comedians.  Pornography is an acceptable form of entertainment, and it’s normal to go to strip clubs the night before you get married.  It’s probably the biggest reason Dan and I don’t plan to have kids any time soon.  We can’t stand the thought of bringing a daughter into a world like this.  She’ll have to stand in the grocery store line and look at headlines about how long it took the next Kim Kardashian to lose her baby weight.  Some boy will inevitably ask her to send him a picture of herself in her underwear over social media.  She’ll be bombarded with images on billboards of what she should look like.  She, like any other young woman in our culture, will grow up worrying that she’s not enough.  I can’t stand the thought.  If I have a son, he’ll start receiving pop-ups while he’s on the internet in elementary school.  He’ll be bombarded with those same billboard images as my would-be daughter, shaping his expectations in a way that no real woman can really satisfy.  Sex in our culture is about performance.  It’s not about intimacy.

Miley Cyrus’ demonstration of this wasn’t very subtle, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary either.  Every year during my unit on Human Sexuality, I ask students to bring magazine ads that use sex to sell their products.  Here are just a couple that students have brought in in the past, mostly out of men’s magazines.

Warning:  graphic images ahead.




We are literally using gang rape in advertising now.  I challenge my students to count the number of commercials, bill boards, and magazine ads that use sex to sell in a subtle or obvious way, and the answer I get is always, “Almost every single one.”

Part of my job is to teach the young women in my classes that they’re worth so much more than this…and to convince the boys not to see women in this way.  Last week during an event on campus, I attempted to give our seniors some good, innocent fun by renting a big waterslide.  I told them all to wear dark shorts and t-shirts:  Church of Christers, you would have been proud!  A collection of neighborhood boys started to form near the site, and they started shouting degrading sexual messages at our young ladies.  Security had to run them off several times.  I watched as a couple of the girls ran across the street, looking nervously over at the boys who were shouting at them.   I’ve walked with my female students through their neighborhoods before, and watched them quickly pick up speed as a car full of men slows down beside them.  It’s an instinct:  a product of the reality they live in every day.  I’m overwhelmed with deep sadness every time I look out over my classroom and see all of the beautiful young girls who are so desperately trying to get the sexual attention they’ve been taught to expect.

Miley Cyrus is no different.  She’s trying to get the kind of attention her culture tells her she should get.  The poison has desensitized us.   It’s everywhere…in forms we recognize and in forms we don’t.  It’s hurting all of us.  It’s giving us false expectations, it’s making us feel insecure, and it’s creating the worst kind of disease:  the kind that keeps getting worse because you don’t know you have it.

Regardless of how you feel about the sanctity of Scripture or the concept of sin, it’s hard to deny the wisdom in these words from 1 Corinthians 6:  “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.”  That’s why we were all so disturbed by Miley’s performance.  We were watching her essentially commit a sin against her own body.  She was disrespecting herself in front of millions of people…something most of us only do in secret.

It discourages me to see so many religious people up in arms about things like gay marriage and Obamacare while this poison spreads like wildfire.  If you’re going to be upset about anything, it should be this.  I’m not sure there’s anything we should be more worried about for current or future generations.


About mrshenderson2010

I live in Midtown Memphis with my husband, 2 dogs, and 2 cats. I'm the Health teacher at a wonderful inner-city charter school. I love my city. On the rare occasion that I have free time, I'm probably planning a dinner party, walking my dogs, or reading Bleacher Reports about the Grizzlies. I love working with teenagers. I try to live by the wise words of Kathleen Kelly: Whatever anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.
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7 Responses to Miley Cyrus, Sex, and Corinthians 6

  1. makondefrasers says:

    Preach it, Rachel! You are absolutely right. There is nothing we should be more upset about than this. It might actually be worth shouting about rather than the things I hear people shouting about. Love you, Sarah

  2. Thanks, Sarah. Another article I read about it was a commentary on how much criticism she’s gotten, but how the male performer has received none. Another terrible message.

  3. Vern Hibbard, Iron Bridge Canada who worships in Thessalon Ontario. says:

    Women who act like Miley, either don’t know, don’t care or just don’t give a rip about what they do to men. I can remember being so outraged at hearing – EVERY MORNING for weeks on end – the song by Springsteen, “I’m On Fire” at 7:30 a.m., just as all the horny guys (please excuse my French) were going off to school!! It made my blood boil, because I’m made of the same hormones they go off to school with… and I had three teen girls in high school at the time. Even young women in the assembly on Sunday morning (yes, I attend the gathering of the saints at the church the Lord built and purchased with His own blood) don’t care, don’t know, or don’t give a rip what they are doing to guys. Being a guy is difficult enough!! Having low necklines or high skirts and dresses is simply like throwing gasoline on a fire!!!

  4. Vern, I understand where you’re coming from. I do think we have to be so careful not to place more blame on the young ladies than on the young men. Our culture around sex is victimizing men and women alike. I’m sure you agree!

  5. dawn says:

    I do agree with you that we live a society too saturated with sex and lust. However, I do feel the need to calm your fears about having children.
    I lived in a big city and went to a huge public schools. I was never once asked for dirty pictures. and no boys(or girls) tried to get in bed with me. I never once felt like I was sexually inadequate, and I although I saw those bad magazines in the grocery store I didn’t bother looking at them twice(if I looked at them a first time it was to get a laugh at the ridiculous headlines.) I drove all around the country and wasn’t influenced by any billboards to raise my standards to unrealistic heights. And I can count on one hand the number of dirty internet-pop ups I’ve seen in my life let alone just in elementary school.
    And not every ad has blatant sexual connotations, I’d say less than a fifth. I say blatant because some people have the amazing ability to see sex everywhere.
    I was actually really surprised you didn’t mention music. I think music is the most pervasive form of sexual immorality in culture today. Because those catchy songs are everywhere, get stuck in your head, and in some places(like a store) are nearly impossible to escape from(One reason I often have my mp3 player with me…)
    I believe there are two reasons for this. First, the statistics are really, really wrong. There are lots of reason those are unrealistic. Namely that kids lie because they’re afraid that their peers will somehow see their answers or because they enjoy boasting. Also because in some places those stats are real, but mostly in low income area(where I hope you’re not planning to raise your children.)
    Second, I had parents that cared enough to teach me from a young age that certain things are morally wrong. And they didn’t just say that something was bad(and therefore make it forbidden fruit) but they taught me that good and bad things can have serious consequences. I recently had a discussion with a peer who believed that dressing decently was an outdated social issue. She couldn’t see how dressing immodestly can set you up as a target for unwanted attention. Because I was raised to do everything with a moral consideration, I did so. And because I acted that way, my peers at school could see that I wasn’t the kind of girl to show them my panties. Not a single boy tried stupid tricks like that with me because it was obviously a waste of time.
    One thing that really bothers me is the idea that we have it worse than anybody in history. Unfortunately, it’s just that our grandparents had it easiest of all. I mean, have you seen the statues the Romans and Greeks made? Jesus was raised in a culture that considered paying temple prostitutes to be an act of worship. Almost all the of the major works of art at the time were in the nude. And yet, God still thought it was ok to send him to earth and let him be raised by humans among other dirty humans.
    The best advice I can give you is have a little more confidence in your future children, and your ability to teach and raise them up in the instruction of the word. And if you’re concerned about internet ads, try a blocking program. I have Adblock Pro on my computer. It’s free and integrates right into my browser. I don’t even get the nasty little header ads.

  6. Jordan Morgan says:

    Thanks for posting this, Rachel. We’re blessed to be trusted by the kids we work with so that we can have some of these tough conversations, especially with the boys on Kellen’s basketball team. The thing that keeps coming up in those conversations is “expectations”. As a culture our expectations are made ridiculous because of the images, songs, and conversation around us that fools us into thinking that absolutely everyone is either having sex or always thinking about it. Don’t even get me started on how frustrated I am that hardly anyone is talking about how gross it was that Robin Thicke, a married (and much older) man stood there while a twenty-year-old danced all over him. And I understand the fear about raising kids in the midst of this, but I see the kids we know that have risen above it and I can have the hope that my (future) kids will too. Even if I do raise them in a low-income neighborhood. 🙂 “Those” kids need to see concrete examples of pure relationships and marriages, and we’ve found that it’s easiest for us to do that when we live here. I’m so thankful for the impact you’re making in Memphis!

  7. Philip Cunningham III says:

    Took me a while to read this because I was avoiding everything Miley for a few weeks. But good take, Rachel

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