star’s nude Polaroids, shouldn’t we applaud a young woman proudly, and
happily, enjoying her sexuality?
Cyrus greeted us from her bathtub this morning, standing naked with one
arm behind her towel-wrapped head and smiling insouciantly beneath her
bubble bath beard. A bubbly fig leaf covered her most feminine parts.
The image is one in a series of nude and semi-nude Polaroids of Cyrus featured in the February issue of V magazine and taken by her friend, Cheyne Thomas, during her Bangerz tour.
are grainy, sun-drenched photos of Cyrus hanging out naked by her pool,
blowing a dandelion or spraying herself with a hose. Others show her
eating an apple or chatting on the phone in black lingerie, her bra
pulled down to reveal one or both of her rosy nipples. She makes weird
faces, wears a red wig, sits naked on a messy pile of books, sticks out
her contortionist’s tongue.
Splashed all over the web with
“full-frontal” and “NSFW” headlines, the photos prompted plenty of
hand-wringing and howls of feminist horror: there’s Miley Cyrus
exploiting herself as a sex object again, corrupting young female fans
with her nudity and lewd gestures!
“I’m like, ‘How are you taking something that’s such a good thing and turning it into such a dumb story?’”
were Naked Miley Cyrus celebrants too, commenting on her sexy body,
many presumably with tongues dangling from their mouths like the pop
It matters little that we’ve seen it all from Cyrus before, from her Latex-clad twerking performance at the VMAs to Terry Richardson’s photos of her diddling herself
in a red leotard. Because while she flaunts her body again and again,
drumming into our heads that she’s content being eye-candy, we continue
to project our conflicted feelings about it onto her.
But she just doesn’t care—this is a young woman enjoying being naked
in front of a camera, likely being told she looks great (which she
does), and playing up to her youthful, irreverent vanity.
It’s understandable that some of us feel uneasy when we see Cyrus straddling a wrecking ball.
We’re struggling to reconcile our associations of her as the pre-teen
star of Disney’s Hannah Montana with the exhibitionist she’s become
today. But it’s foolish of us to expect her to be as anguished about her
body as we are.
Cyrus’s V magazine Polaroids are not about
an exploitative music industry pushing her to be sexy. Nor must these
playful, personalized images of her reflect a larger issue about a
culture that sexualizes young women.
Cyrus is simply posing for a
friend to show us her (bland) interpretation “artful sexuality,” perhaps
inspired by Ryan McGinley or any number of photographers who have been
selling this aesthetic for years. (Cyrus tells Marie Claire
in their February issue that she has no qualms spending money on “Good
art, [like] the Ryan McGinley I just bought at the amfAR auction.”)
Later in the interview, she says—pointedly—that she has no patience for “red-carpet paparazzi.”
guy interviewing me was like, ‘So what do you think about your pose for
Viva Glam—it’s so provocative…do you think you have to sell yourself in
that way or people won’t care?’ I’m like, ‘How are you taking something
that’s such a good thing and turning it into such a dumb story?’”
And so, posing nude in the bathtub, bubbles barely blurring her
vagina, Miley Cyrus is again having fun on her own terms. All the
anguished blah directed at her says more about our panic over youthful
female sexuality than it says about her. Cyrus has shown she’s all grown
up. It’s time we grew up too.