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Monday, 28 April 2008


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Thanks for the Monday morning spew of coffee on the monitor. It's good to know that you have a plan for dealing with this!

You just saved my sanity. For months now I was highly irritated by the worldwide puritanisation of morals. Any kind of hint of nudity - even more remotely than the one example you pick on - seemed to be 'a scandal', 'showing the downward spiral of mores', 'the worst kind of [insert term of choice]'. The media became addicted to getting naked ankles, naked scalp, uncovered genitals. And even if the way to get these photos, particularly the last category, got more complicated and inanely intricate, the scandal was with the persons not wearing undies. Or standing naked in the shower.

This spring I happened upon a perfectly innocent case of nudity [for Central European societies] in public, which was scolded by some obviously not so innocent bystander seeing the naked human body as inherently sinful.

Now we are at a point where showing the innocently uncovered upper back of a real person is bad because the [not inncoently?] covered one of an imaginative person played by the real one should be the model for everybody's little girl's back?!

I don't see a problem with women liking sex. The problem occurs when they flaunt it and get pregnant too early.


I am sure that your name is on a list.

(On a less serious note, do you realize what a mystery your country is to the rest of the world. You are pretty much the go-to country for sin of all kinds: the world-wide illegal drug trade depends on affluent US buyers, you have a huge porn production industry, gun action on the streets and in schools, ok-to-shoot-trespasser laws in Texas, but the daytime gossip TV shows freak if a girl bares her back.

Is it all a put-on?

You are going to drive future archaeologists and historians crazy. The debates and analyses are going to fill librairies.)


Boy. A dissertation length response would be appropriate here; and constructive comment is difficult and prone to degenerate into polemic without the facts and footnotes to back it up. I actually sat here staring at the "comments box" for a good ten minutes trying to think of something coherent to say on this subject . . . and so far I have failed. Who in the world knows what goes through the head of a 15 year-old kid even absent the millionaire star-of-stage-and-screen status of this one?

FWIW, I have never thought that Leibowitz's photographs were all that interesting. Their "cuteness" (e.g. Whoopi Goldberg in a tub of milk) usually leaves me with the feeling that when viewing them I am learning more about Leibowitz than about her subjects -- not, in my mind, he mark of an able portraitist. This assumes of course that she was setting out to commit portraiture . . . not a safe assumption at all, I would guess.

Well, I have written and deleted several more paragraphs of unhelpful ranting on the role of parents and protectors, the sexualization of children, teen sexuality, and the insanity inherent in industries driven by celebrity.

Anybody seen my 10-foot pole?

Ben Marks

We're only 231 years old. For a country, that's adolescence. Does that explain it?

Mike J.

there is nothing like denial of the not-so-obvious to create a ruckus.

reminds me of some Timbuk 3 lyrics -

We were raised in Eden Alley
Where the music plays all night long
& children make love in the shadows
While the elders pray for kingdom come

That, and some Saturday morning breakfasts with the sleep-over girls - then in 8th/9th grade - while they talked about who amongst their peers was giving head.

The head-in-the-sand mentally regarding teen sex/sexuality of so many parents is responsible for so many sex/sexuality problems that it would be laughable if it weren't so tragically stupid.


Nah.....scandal is when we find out that she has been having an affair with John McCain (and cindy too)

By the way I just got a wrong # phone call asking if this was prison?

Small potatoes.

Meh, Brooke Shields made it through ok, she seems to be doing just fine considering she was doing this sort of thing when she was about 11..At first, she didn't even get to wear a sheet and later on, all she got to wear was a snake.

Just a point of clarification, please, Mike. You are or not in favor of the increased sexualization of young girls? Most of the "Hannah Montana" fans are in the 9-14 range, and even some people who wouldn't qualify as "prudes" have suggested that in light of the worldwide sex/slave trade, teaching American pre-teen girls to present themselves as sex objects - and teaching males to view young girls this way - is potentially problematic.

I do like the Lisa Simpson and Dora refs, but let's not cloud the issue too much.

I think I'm more interested in the Bobby Kennedy cover article. VF, for all its vapid celebrity coverage, commissions some very good hard news reportage, text as well as photos. This year's World Press Photo winner was shot on assignment for VF, for example.

You know I really hope she doesn't suffer from what's a perfectly fine portrait. It's a girl in bed, who looks she just woke up taken by one of the world foremost respected portrait photographers.

*groan* You'd think this country was founded by Puritans or something...

This whole thing brings to mind Bill Jay's excellent commentary that there is no fine art without commercialism. I believe that this is just another publicity stunt where she "acts" upset that these pictures came out like this and that she thought that they were just doing "art" photos. Her stock will shoot up as we all pretend to be upset and the media storm ensures that we get a heavy dose of Milley. She has been selling the whole "teen sex symbol" for a long time and this is just an extension of that process.

Dear Mike,

Faced with a very simplistic take on complex sociology, I feel a lot like Ben-- run away, run away. So I'll keep it (relatively) short and then I'm using the 10-foot pole I stole from Ben's kit (sorry, Ben, that's what happened to it).

1) Contemplate whore/madonna syndrome.

2) Contemplate the sexualization of GIRLS via today's versions of makeover kits, Bratz dolls, and lingerie.

3) Contemplate that the *norm* for BOY singers is not to indicate adulthood by a "oooh, I've just been f***ed* and my sheet is gonna fall off" presentation (and I said "norm", pointing out an exception doesn't negate that).

4) Contemplate the career options Cyrus must think she's limited to if her step up is "Im a f**k toy."

5) Contemplate that maybe some parents think there's WRONG with all the above.

6) Readers might contemplate that this is not about how 'people' get viewed and treated, unless by 'people' they actually meant 'girls and women.'

After putting some SERIOUS thought into all of those points one might have something worthwhile to say. But not before.

pax / Ctein

Everyone is so focused on the sex issue here.

Miley was NEVER a role model for young girls. NO ONE UNDER 18 IS A ROLE MODEL FOR ANYONE! Notice how there aren't any males under 18 who fill a similar role?

Our society is sad. We have no problem taking non-adult females (under 18) and putting them in adult roles! Then we insist that somehow this is what a young girl should aim for.

Even more appalling is that we take young girls and make them work very hard so that they can perform for all of us (Tara Lipinski, Britney Spears, Jennifer Capriati, etc.). If this process were similarly done to young men, I think it would have been banned years ago - as it should have. (...and don't tell me how these girls dreamed of these things - no child dreams of 16 hour days so that they could be berated by the public whenever they fail to meet expectations!)

Hmmm! Maybe young girls should aim to become women (when they reach adulthood) and have women as their role models!


I for the life of me can't understand why some people get bent out of shape when someone suggests that kids growing up too fast is not a good thing, and I do think this is over the top for a 15 year old. If one of my twin daughters posed like this at age 21, I would feel quite differently about it than I would if she were age 15.

As far as the bare back in this photo just being a bare back - is it? I don't think so. I would be very suprised if anyone denied this photograph has a sensuous quality. A bare back shot by a professional photographer printed on a foldout for a chiropractor has a completely different context than what is seen here.

Mike -- this country has more than one birthdate. Yes, there is the founding that everyone speaks of; but we were arguably refounded on the ashes of the Civil War; again with the New Deal; and the undoing of the "postwar consensus" may eventually come to be seen as the beginning of a new era as well.

Of these "refoundings", the least debatable, in my amateur opinion, is the Civil War. What's interesting about that is, many countries in Europe were going through massive changes at the same time. Italy's founding as a unified (ish) state is of similar vintage to the U.S.'s, for example.

So I don't know that we can plead adolescence. The U.S. state in its modern form is older than the modern states of France or Germany.

As uninspiring and uninspired as Leibovitz' work usually is, I have to admit this image is not nearly as terrible as much of her heavily produced but ultimately dull and entirely forgettable celebrity portraiture.

I think of it as career development and brand building. She is a Disney product, and she and her audience ages, she will have to keep up. She should be just in time to replace the former disney product (Britney Spears)when she wears out. How else are publishers going to sell entertainment mags? No reason for anyone to be concerned. It is just the first brand adjustment by HM!

Have you seen the Vanity Fair exhibition at the Royal Academy in London? So many women who like to take their clothes off. Womens' Lib got trounced and left in the dust sometime during the past very few years. Women have gone back to mewing and fluttering.

The public arena is not the same as the private arena. Some of what I do in private I would not want to do or be seen doing in public -that is as it should be.

Not knowing the distinction between these two is half the problem. And the more of it there is, the more desensitised we become.


I think you may have it right. Maybe I am just cynical but photo spreads in major magazines don't happen by accident. This is marketing and product placement, pure and simple. I presume that someone is trying to position that actress for different types of roles in the future, and they saw this as one way to do so. Using a famous name-brand photographer legitimized it. If I had taken that shot, it would be near child porn and I would be in trouble.

The whole thing reminds of the wardrobe malfunction during that Super Bowl a few years back.

There are roomfuls of MBAs earning top dollar producing this stuff. It's no accident.

Is that too cynical?


Hannah Montana as a role model? "Role" is a very apt word here, for Miley Cyrus is just playing a role. Hannah Montana is not a real person, she's a Disney character, created probably to part the kids' parents from their money. Young girls look up to "her"... or maybe it's the parents who do? Ah, the power of marketing.

So now comes this episode. What are we to make of it? Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, there's a real person behind the Hannah Montana character? Though I wouldn't be surprised if Disney had a hand in this too. Whatever it is, it's good publicity.


What is it was full frontal nudity? I mean...it's in the interest of art right?

We need to have some standards.

A 15 year old girl posing as an adult is seen as no big deal and that someday she may like sex? Not an excuse. She's 15 NOW. Sure, someday she will like sex, but what about letting a young girl be a girl?

What is too young for you?

I don't remotely care about this, in any way whatever, and if this young woman was struck in the head by a meteorite tomorrow my only reaction would be, "Glad it wasn't my kid," and I might even whistle a happy tune whilst going to the supermarket to buy cantaloupes.

However, to see this as simply an exposed back is silly. It's a fifteen year old girl in a major magazine whose exposed back says, "Yes, I'm nude under here," and whose coyly held sheet says, "Wouldn't you like to see the good stuff?" If you think it's all right for a fifteen year old, no skin off my butt. My opinion - as applied to my daughter -- would have been different; but as applied to somebody else's daughter, well, you know, it's not my problem and somebody's else's naked 15-year-old rich kid seems to me to be a lot less of a problem than, say, a starving 15-year-old poor kid in Bangladesh. YMMV.


I don't know why you thought you should waste TOP bandwidth with this story -- it was on all three of the major networks' evening news tonight.

Miley Cyrus's agent realises Miley is growing up and will not be able to be Hannah Montana forever. They want to show their stars potential to a wider audience. At that moment Vannity Fair come along with the offer of a piece, its just what everyone wants except Disney. Disney see the shots and cry foul and contractual obligations. Out comes the planned excuse "I didn't think the shots would be like this, I feel exploited". Everyone does well out of the ensuing ruckus. Cynical? Maybe. But I bet contracts were carefully drawn up stipulating who, what, where and how by an army of lawyers.

As a middle-aged woman I have no trouble remembering that age 15 was a very sexualized time. However, this photo is (as so aptly noted previously) market placement. Ms. Cyrus has been marketed as a fantasy figure for many years, but a fantasy figure for 10 year old girls. Those girls don't need to be told that their central goal should be sexiness, they should be reminded that a healthy life has many facets including the mind, athletics, and so on.

This photo attempts to move Ms. Cyrus to a sexual fantasy figure for men considerably older than 10, and often considerably older than 15. Presumably that is a considered decision by her marketing team (aka mom, dad, etc., all of whom are profiting along with Ms. Cyrus), but they should realize that they can't have their cake and eat it too. If they have decided that it is time for Ms. Cyrus to move to a different audience, let go of the one she has.

Vanity Fair and Annie Leibowitz should be ashamed of themselves for the image and for the "Well, it's art" dodge. IMO, it's really about $$$$ and fame.

I paraphrase someone famous who said giving Annie Leibowitz a camera is like giving a child a hand grenade.

Okay, I guess I should confess that I see "Miley Cyrus" (the public persona, anyway) and "Hannah Montana" as fictional characters on a sort of continuum with "Lisa Simpson," and I was playing this for laughs. Mea culpa.

If you want a serious deconstruction of the portrait, it strikes me as simultaneously more restrained and classical that Ms. Leibovitz usually produces and also blatantly sexual as opposed to sensual, which, since it's a set-up as opposed to an authentic document, amounts to a cynical sort of soft-core titillation move. Ms. Leibovitz usually goes for excruciatingly broad gimmicks that make her work blatant, obvious, interesting to a mass audience, and completely uninteresting to me; I can't think of one of her color portraits that I couldn't live without, with the POSSIBLE exception of her portrait of the pregnant Demi Moore, which strikes me as the best of her formal, color pictures. As to the implications of the M. Cyrus portrait, it's true that it's needlessly titillating, but I agree with the commenters who said that its true significance is probably likely to be more closely related to marketing than to sexual politics. I suppose I assume that Ms. Cyrus herself had some say in how she would be presented; she does own the franchise, after all, and I don't see her being forced into a pose that she objected to, if she objected to it. Quite the opposite--this is the sort of star whose every whim gets catered to. From a political standpoint (with the caveat that I don't see the picture primarily politically) and assuming there was a consensus of consent (which we don't know was the case) to the pose by the various parties who were likely to have had influence (her parents, the VF editors, the photographer, perhaps some other sorts of advisors, and Ms. Cyrus herself), then I suppose I am most disposed to blame the photographer for the result. Ms. Leibovitz is a very mature woman, an artist of considerably stature who thus enjoys considerable autonomy, and she's a lesbian who had a singificant relationship for years with one of this nation's leading intellectuals (not just feminist intellectuals, but intellectuals, period), and who therefore can't possibly be assumed to be unfamiliar with the implications of the pose from the standpoint of sexual and gender politics. But then, I usually do give too much credit to photographers--it's their attitudes and efforts I care most about, after all.

Despite all this, I suspect we're making too much of what probably deserves the status of just a shallow stunt, and that is fundamentally unserious and undeserving of careful interpretation. The pose and thus the portrait and whatever it implies is most probably just a knee-jerk attention-grab. I'll bet the word "buzz" was used many times during the planning sessions. The only reason I feel at all dirtied by any of this is that here I am, buzzing away.

I really do think Lisa Simpson is a better role model for girls. She does suffer the disadvantage of not being real, but we don't hold that against other celebrities' public personae.

Mike J.

"I don't remotely care about this, in any way whatever."

...Except that you cared enough to write a comment.

"However, to see this as simply an exposed back is silly. It's a fifteen year old girl in a major magazine whose exposed back says, 'Yes, I'm nude under here,' and whose coyly held sheet says, 'Wouldn't you like to see the good stuff?'"

You're forgetting one very important distinction, which is that the picture is faked. That is, it's not her bed, it's a studio set. She's not actually just waking up or going to bed, they're not her sheets, she's not really naked under them. Her hair didn't get that way because she was sleeping on it but rather because of the ministrations of hovering hair stylists, etc., etc. So we can't look at the implications of the picture as if it were real. We can only look at the implications of what the people who conspired to contrive the pose wanted to convey. Those are very different things.

Mike J.

"A 15 year old girl posing as an adult is seen as no big deal and that someday she may like sex? Not an excuse. She's 15 NOW. Sure, someday she will like sex, but what about letting a young girl be a girl?"

Having taught at a girls' high school, I can tell you that LOTS of girls set up pictures of themselves that imply they're more mature, more worldly, and more experienced than they are. It's perfectly typical. It's a form of playacting, a safe way of "trying out" the role of an older person, or trying to grab a little cred or cool that you don't quite deserve.

There were many times I had to tell students, gently, that some of their pictures weren't appropriate to show to me.

One girl got into fairly serious trouble by taking a picture that appeared to show her snorting lines of cocaine off a makeup mirror with a rolled-up bill. She was nearly expelled over it. The picture was pure fiction, a set-up, an act--the girl in the picture was also just the nicest kid, and the last person in the world who would ever actually take any sort of illicit drug. I would bet she hasn't done so to this day, and she'd be in her mid to late 30s by now. She defended herself at the time by repeatedly saying "it was a joke." The powder, IIRC, was talc.

Mike J.

why does this photo give me the eerie and unsettling impression that Annie took this kid's virginity? Or wishes she could? I agree that it's all marketing and there were other people in the room besides the photographer and subject but i can't help wondering what strategy was employed by the photographer to get exactly what she was after. And what she was after was exactly what she got. If Miley is apologetic now it's because she knows that we know that she knows she was had. And i'm not talking the sheet or the naked back or the mussed up hair. It's something far more personal and intimate.

As an Aussi friend once said to me, "Thank God you got the Puritans, and we got the criminals":

It got a laugh out of me Mike. Lisa for President!

Alright, after reading all the comments, especially those talking of the 'sexualisation' of under-agers, the 'deeper meaning' of promised sex, the 'marketing and commercialism' I declare myself insane. Cause I only see a nice portrait of a young woman - yes, 15-year olds are young men and women, not toddlers or cuddly little leaguers -, nothing very exceptional.

Sure the thing is a set-up, just like every other photo or movie, or painting. Still, and though Ms Leibovitz usually plays with this notion, we are asked to suspend our disbelief in that we are asked to see not an artificial set-up but an artisitic expression of an everyday situation.

As I wanted to point in my first comment, and I was obviously not good at it, it is the lecherous old men looking at this and essentially any photo at all making the dirty connection. And let me assure you I subsume under the idiom 'lecherous old men' everyone, regardless of gender [though this should actually be 'sex' but for stylistic reasons ...], weighing anything they see as an expression in connection with sex.

The Puritans of today are not the religious congregation of yesteryear, it is the crowd of Newspeak [or Political Correctness as it has been refashioned], the self-proclaimed secularists, feminists and what-nots. They are quick to label themselves and others. One can easily lose track. BTW, 'self-proclaimed' is the operative, not any of the labels.

In the name of Protection, with a capital 'P', of anybody, they flatten culture and freedom. They have no regard for dissenting opinions and lifestyles, they just see their own agenda, muddled as it is, and would do anything to help others see the light. Zealots all over - of the worst kind.

Unfortunately the poor girl does not yet have the stamina to stand against the tides of PC. Her apologies now are the real problem. She, and her management and parents, are caving in to a completely unreasonable "argument", for the sake of commercialism. They are just afraid this storm in a teacup will shave off their income.

Lewis Carroll would be crucified in today's climate.


OK, here's my .02...

Where were her parents? They signed the model release, and they are the ones responsible for the noise that has resulted - not the girl. She's 15, and does what adults tell her to.

I think it is too much for someone her age, but her parents went along with it. And that "statement" she released: her publicist wrote it. She doesn't have the intellect for any of this. I love that she's "writing" an autobiography. Oh, please. What's it going to be about, her trips to the mall? Who is going to write it for her? Some hack at a third rate publisher. There were going to be plenty of parents who would have bought that drivel, like sheep. Now, with this photo, it will lower sales better than any critic's drubbing.

Her publicist's repositioning backfired. I'm crying in my beer.

One more thing: I'm going to buy some clothes for my cat. I now realize how naked he is.

"Lewis Carroll would be crucified in today's climate."


Possibly deservedly so....

In any event I don't think you can look at history except through the lens of contemporary culture. Consider the case of Dan Sickles, a Congressman from New York. In 1853, when he was 33, he married a 15-year-old girl (the same age, note, as Miley Cyrus is now) despite the objection of her parents. After a short "honeymoon period" during which he did treat her like a wife and lover, he then proceeded to seriously neglect her while he carried out other love affairs. As his young wife grew into an adult woman, she fell in love herself and had a love affair of her own. Sickles forced her to write out a confession, then, deliberately, and with obvious premeditation, murdered her (unarmed) lover in the streets of Washington, D.C. He was acquitted of the crime and didn't even lose his seat in Congress, went on to be a general in the Civil War, died at an advanced age covered with honors, and is buried at Arlington.

Is it too much of an understatement to say "social norms and conventions were very different at that time"?

Mike J.

P.S. Sickles is the subject of Australian author Thomas Keneally's entertaining book "American Scoundrel." (Keneally is also the author of "Schindler's List," originally titled "Schindler's Ark.")

I prefer being titillated by models of legal age. I’m clicking on that Artistic Nudes link RIGHT NOW!

Apparently, it was shoot digitally. The subject, her agent, and handlers were all there, and approved the image.
As stated above, the image serves its purpose. Sales for Vanity Fair, protestations for the Disney Market interest, helps her transition or begin to adjust here target market, for the future, (i.e. the Spears business model).

Mike, either you do not know much about Lewis Carroll or you don't mean it serious. I could have taken, actaully thought about that when composing the post, any other portraitist, be he photographer, painter or sculptor. From the ancient Greeks and Romans to the Imprssionists and Picasso. If I look hard enough I might even find naked or partly naked or essentially non-naked but Hannah-Montana's-actress-as-photographed-by-Leibovitz-like under-age models.

Let's be fair, this is not just a US phenomenon, I've seen stupid, inane and inhuman comments on nudity in Germany, too, lately. For the time being there still is a difference: over here, in Old Europe, it is a fringe movement [if a movement at all] to equal nakedness with sin - religious or secular.

Well, I guess bloody violence is less offensive than a naked baby on its belly on a polar bear fur.* Let's go kill some poor souls ...

*That's 'bloody' in both senses; and the naked-baby-on-dead-polar-bear is doubly condemning nowadays [apart from the aesthetic PoV].

I read them all, and then realized that not a single one concentrated on the really important thing: the photograph. So I really looked at the damn thing again.
My opinion: it is a great picture.
100 year from now, when none of this social masterbation matters, it can take it's place on museum walls with the best of Goya, or Velesquez, or Manet.
It is a fine photograph, and Leibovitz (whom I do not normall care for very much), has created a masterpiece!

I only wait for the day when the people in the States will have to start covering the legs of tables cause it's indecent to have legs exposed.

So yet another naked back. Film at eleven.

Where are the cries of outrage when they parade those _little_ girls in the stupid so called talent shows? When parents force 5, 6, 7 year old girls to parrot the adult appearance and behaviour, and while judges decide which one is the most successful in aping sexually blatant behaviour? Where are the widespread cries of outrage for the kids who have had their childhood destroyed because of the stupidity of their parents?

So Miley Cyrus is underage. But did she show anything more than she would show on a beach? Remember, she's 15.

Geez people, lighten up about human body. This is exactly like that Super Bowl "incident". It should have been a matter of jokes or a good slap on the wrist for Timberlake. But no, in the States it was an outrage and Janet Jackson's career went into decline. It's a shame what you will allow various self-elected guardians of the morality to do.

Unfortunately, when the silent majority opens its mouth it's usually to yawn.

mh. so parents want their female kids to become joyless reproductive vessels.
sounds very 19th century to me. actually, the picture pretty much looks like a painting from that time. so, everything is okay. or what.

Lisa Simpson went out with Nelson Muntz. Nuff said....

Quote from Mike J:

"I don't remotely care about this, in any way whatever."

...Except that you cared enough to write a comment.

"However, to see this as simply an exposed back is silly. It's a fifteen year old girl in a major magazine whose exposed back says, 'Yes, I'm nude under here,' and whose coyly held sheet says, 'Wouldn't you like to see the good stuff?'"

You're forgetting one very important distinction, which is that the picture is faked. That is, it's not her bed, it's a studio set. She's not actually just waking up or going to bed, they're not her sheets, she's not really naked under them. Her hair didn't get that way because she was sleeping on it but rather because of the ministrations of hovering hair stylists, etc., etc. So we can't look at the implications of the picture as if it were real. We can only look at the implications of what the people who conspired to contrive the pose wanted to convey. Those are very different things.

Mike J.

My original post perhaps wasn't clear: I don't care about Miley Cyrus or Hannah Montana or Walt Disney or Annie. What I cared about was what I felt was your perception that there was less going on than meets the eye. I think there's a lot going on in the photograph itself, and much of it I don't like.

Your later comment that the photo is faked is like saying that we really shouldn't get involved in movies or photography or art because really, it's all faked -- this is not a pipe, it's just a painting. Don't get emotionally engaged with "Chinatown" because it's just a movie. But people accept these things as possible realities; the hair a little mussed as it might be after a night of delectable sin, a low-saturation photo with the exception of the smudged red lipstick to emphasize the oral, etc.

To me, the photo puts the question quite clearly: is it okay to sexualize fifteen-year-olds for commercial purposes? The answer may not be clear -- or everybody may not come up with the same answer -- but the question seems straight-forward enough.


Annie has a history of doing just that, photographing women in overtly sexual poses, all the while proclaiming that her hands are clean, because she is so pure, doing it for her "Art" and "Its what THEY wanted". And I've never really liked her images to begin with.

She looks like she just crawled out of bed after having been deflowered, and her boyfriend took a photo of her. More information is coming out that the parents had left and Leibovitz had talked her into the photo.

She's 15 years old, a superstar, and headed where the rest of the self destructive teen idols like Brittany, and Lindsay Lohan went if not taught better. I spend my days investigating sexual assaults on children, so my POV is perhaps a little different than most here.

"Contemplate that the *norm* for BOY singers is not to indicate adulthood"

Take Mick Jagger for instance.

On the other hand my 16 year old son's band
has as "role models" Charles Bukowski , William S Burroughs, and Charles Baudelaire.

Also, whats all this about beds and all those bed associations? The cropped photos show a rather demure draped figure, pretty much in the draped figure tradition going back to whenever they started making those big pieces of cloth. The classical Greeks at least I suppose.

The uncropped wider shots show a kid wrapped in a sheet or a blanket or a parachute for all I can tell sitting on a wooden stool in what looks like someone's backyard. It looks more like an afternoon of amateur hairdressing than anything kinky.

Chico wrote: I paraphrase someone famous who said giving Annie Leibowitz a camera is like giving a child a hand grenade.

It was Norman Mailer who said that giving Diane Arbus a camera was like handing her a hand grenade.

Anyone old enough to remember this 39 yr old album cover?


I find it fascinating how we struggle with things like this. So much of it, I think, is society's own doing. We make arbitrary decisions on things such as the age of majority but then attach moral value to them.

Our "children" become physically mature long before they are emotionally mature, and several years before they are able to obtain sufficient education and training to be able to be economically self-sufficient. Thus, we tell them, and ourselves, to deny their sexuality until they reach and arbitrary age of adulthood.

Even if it is unrealistic to expect our teenagers to resist their sexual urges for 6 to 8 years it makes sense from a practical and economic standpoint. Where society gets into trouble, though, is when we put morality into the mix.

When last I checked, there was no "11th Commandment" saying "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's 15 year old daughter."

We don't have to spend much time at all debating about "thou shalt not kill." Why? Because it's pretty much a moral absolute that murder is wrong(we may struggle in such areas as abortion or euthanasia with defining when something is or is not murder, but once something is defined as murder the debate ends there--it's simply wrong). Not so, however, with arbitrary ages.

If I were 19 years old and Miley Cyrus were one day short of her 18th birthday, why would it be wrong for me to desire her? Or, if I were 28 years old and she were 15 years old, why would I be considered a pedophile if I showed too much of the "wrong" kind ofinterest in her?

It wasn't too many years ago that it was common for men to wait until they were financially situated before marrying girls who were much younger than they were (look at Rhett Butler and Scarlett in Gone With the Wind as an example). Immoral? Far from it. Parents were thrilled to have a 35 year old, but well off suitor, asking for their young daughter's hand in marriage.

In much of the world of Islam, women still cover their entire bodies, including wearing veils, in public, while in Western Europe women's bare breasts appear on billboards and in magazine ads.

In the US we are still not over Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl, yet many of us take vacations every year to beaches in Mexico and the Caribbean where we don't even think twice about the fact that girls there Miley Cyrus's age are topless.

It appears that raunch, like so many things, is in the eye of the beholder. When I look at the Annie Leibowitz photo, all I see is a vulnerable-looking 15-year-old looking very much her age, if not younger. I personally find the newspaper ad for the Hannah Montana concert movie much more suggestive, showing as it does a much older-looking Hannah Montana engaged in a vigorous hip thrust, yet, curiously, I don't recall any equivalent foofarah over that photo.

On the social history front, "age-appropriate" relationships and sexuality, which is most of what this debate is about, appear to be an invention of the twentieth century, and may say more about us than about previous centuries. I've been reading Casanova's history of his life, which he wrote back before the invention of childhood. Like many men of his time, he was very much attracted to teenagers, including 15-year-olds, and very nearly married a teenager who was not only young enough to be his daughter, but *was* his daughter -- as he found out the day before the wedding. In the 18th century, this kind of relationship between young girls and older men apparently was considered quite normal behavior -- his daughter was already the mistress of a much older impotent man when Casasnova met her. Likewise, in *Sense and Sensibility* Jane Austen portrayed a 35-year-old captain as a desirable match for a 17-year-old girl.

I wonder if modern protectiveness isn't overdone. When I was a child growing up on the outskirts of Valley City, North Dakota, I spent a lot of time wandering nearby hills and pastures by myself or with friends, wandering out to the airport, and occasionally falling into shallow creeks. My mother didn't know where I was for hours at a time. Today this would be considered neglect by many people, but at the time, unsupervised play was considered normal. Most of us survived it and developed a love of nature as a result. Nowadays, parents spend half their spare time driving their children from one structured event to another. Maybe those children need more time of their own to read (if they read anymore), dream, and develop a love of photography.

As a final note, from what I have read of Miley Cyrus, she appears to be a fairly level-headed teenager, especially compared to Britney Spears. Moreover, she is from a show-business family. Perhaps more than most teenage girls, I think she probably has a pretty good handle on the difference between fantasy and reality.

Once again, I should say that if I had written the original piece just a little better, some of the disagreements and disparagements in the comments could have been avoided. For instance, instead of, "It seems that perfectly innocent young girls keep growing up to be women who like sex," I might have written "It seems that perfectly innocent young girls keep growing up to be women who like to look sexy...." That might have been simultaneously less provocative and more accurate to this particular case, and it might have avoided some of the issues some people had with this post. Sadly, I just didn't think of it.

I keep workin' on tryin' to get better.

Mike J.

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