Miley Cyrus Can’t Stop, But She Should Stop. ~ Jenna Penielle Lyons

Via Jenna Penielle Lyons
on Aug 26, 2013
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miley and robin

I cannot believe that MTV let this performance be a part of its VMA lineup.

And the fact that they did sends an important message about female sexuality today. Let’s all put our clothes on, grab a cup of coffee, take a deep breath, and have an honest talk with ourselves about the direction in which our moral compass is pointing.

When I watched this portion of the VMA performances last night with my mother, we were both appalled and disgusted that this would occur on national television. I felt embarrassed for Miley (and her followers!). I felt sad that kids who used to watch Miley on Disney watched her gesture and dance in repulsive ways.

I have always admired classy male and female artists for having some sort of standards in terms of nudity and provocative behavior—I thought Miley Cyrus was one of these artists, but that is evidently not the case.

But the performance, if anything, was thought provoking. If anything, I guess it took a performance full of giant twerking teddy bears, Miley Cyrus licking Robin Thicke, and the use of a foam finger that doubled as a penis to get me to realize the status of femininity in young girls today.

The fact that Miley Cyrus’s pelvic region also doubled as a guitar was particularly thought provoking. The fact that she screamed like a banshee and gyrated thousands of times really drilled into my head the thought about today’s girls and their ideas about femininity, sex and how they display those things in public.

It was raunchy. It was ugly. And I am sure that, on the inside, Robin Thicke’s wife did not like watching a 21 year old girl/woman grind on and lick her husband. Miley Cyrus’s dad is probably crying right now.

And, an otherwise catchy pop song turned into a symbol of a blatant effort to assert rebelliousness, sexuality, and “freedom.”

I hope and pray that girls know that this type of behavior isn’t okay. 

And this type of behavior is Miley’s own fault; she could have said no. There are no Blurred Lines here. It was trashy, not sexy. It was a call for help and a cry for attention, not a display of strength.

Impressionable teenagers and young girls everywhere [and boys!] need to know that in order to be successful or talented, you do not have to show the world how well you can shake your ass, how vulgar you can be, or how wild you are when you party.

You don’t even have to party. You don’t need to drink. And you shouldn’t hit on older men–or any man–just because you can.

Girls, don’t show your boobs to boys at parties. Boys, don’t approve of girls who are acting irresponsibly.

Girls, don’t wear shorts or crop tops that show the world your inner sanctum. Boys, don’t tell girls that you like these clothes. Let’s all act like adults who respect each other.

Let’s respect ourselves and be…classy.

The men and women we should be respecting are those who are talented performers with a set of irremovable standards. We should respect and be proud of those who are sexy, beautiful and talented in their own distinct manner.

We should applaud those who have a personality that is set in stone. The phase Miley Cyrus is going through should be a personal journey…not one that is traceable on public television.

We need to stop and reevaluate what is okay in terms of nudity, behavior, and language in our social media, TV, music, and literature.

While I am highly opposed to censorship, there is a difference between what we hide from the readership and viewership and what we allow to be popular within the canon.

We can stop this and we will stop this.

Girls, put your clothes on and stop twerking. Please!


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Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Jenna Penielle Lyons

Jenna Penielle Lyons was born in Portales, New Mexico among sage and sand. Raised in Pocatello, Idaho among the black rock and juniper, she grew up wandering in cowboy boots, running, riding bikes, skiing, climbing, painting, and studying classical ballet. She is a scholar of English Literature, a poet, painter, photographer, musician, and outdoorswoman. She winters in Missoula and spends the summer working for Snake River Hotshots. She is a lover of mountain bluebirds & elephants, tea & good coffee, Carl Jung, Salvador Dali, skiing, climbing in the desert, yoga, harp music, and sagebrush. Her favorite foods are borscht and any combination of chocolate and cayenne pepper. Follow her adventures here.


33 Responses to “Miley Cyrus Can’t Stop, But She Should Stop. ~ Jenna Penielle Lyons”

  1. NewAgeGranny says:

    Growing up in the spotlight must be very very hard. All I can offer is compassion because judgement simply puts people in opposite places. We are all doing the best we can wherever we are.

  2. @amaaanda says:

    I'm sorry, but there are enough opinions about this on the Internet now. People are upset that a Disney princess dances around half naked and shakes her booty. I mean, totally cool if Gaga does it, but not our precious Miley Cyrus, right? She's held to higher standards? Why?

    Everybody seems to forget that the VMAs are built on shocking performances. The very first VMAs included Madonna humping the stage and she got the SAME EXACT REACTION. A performance like this isn't new or revolutionary and least of all shocking.

    Mtv has shows like Teen Mom and Jersey Shore. At what point did anyone consider it to be a classy TV station? That's the biggest joke of all. People let their kids watch that crap, but suddenly dancing to music provocatively live on stage (as opposed to in half of the music videos out there) is. Sexuality isn't bad. Miley Cyrus doesn't claim to be a role model. She's almost 21. She's acting like a 21 year old.

    Trust me, the VMAs aren't the first time kids are seeing this. They have the internet now, it's a whole different world than when I grew up and my parents wouldn't let me watch Mtv until I was 15. Guess where I saw this performance? On YouTube.

    My reaction isn't necessarily to just your article, but the hundreds of others out there like it. Listening to grown adults call a young girl a "slut" and "whore" all day makes me sick. Teach your kids that it's OK to say things like that about a girl only ends up in them saying those things about each other.

    She's a young girl who clearly felt trapped by the Disney upbringing and is just trying to show people she's an adult now. Maybe it's not a class act, I feel sorry that she has to go through it publicly instead of privately like the rest of us were able to.

  3. ECS says:

    The universe (well, the media) is slut-shaming Miley Cyrus pretty damn hard today for her performance at last night's MTV Video Music Awards. She wore little. She gyrated. She was sexual. This is the least of our problems–or it should be the least of our problems anyway.

    Cyrus used her sexuality–which is hers to use–throughout the performance. This is not something we as viewers should be shocked by or disgusted with. What should be shocking is Cyrus' appropriation of a culture she knows nothing about, and her use of black women as props in her most recent music video and in last night's performance. Most, if not all, of the dancing bears were women of color. At one point, Cyrus motorboats one woman's ass, which adds to the weird, circus-y feel of it all. Cyrus is the "Ring Leader," and women of color are hers to play with however she likes.

    I felt super gross during and after watching her performance. Her "sluttiness" was nowhere on my mind. I was more disgusted by the apparent unawareness/unconsciousness of Cyrus with regard to the culture she has been appropriating and the women she has been exploiting. People will say, "Oh, but she's young"–this isn't an excuse. She has money. She has many privileges. If she cared to learn more, this knowledge would be easily accessible to her.

    Our society chooses not to worry about other issues, though. This society doesn't care about black boys being killed while walking freely. It doesn't care about trans women being murdered. It doesn't care about people who are homeless and starving.

    Sadly, we live in a world where the sexuality of young women is more threatening (and more terrifying) than anything else.

  4. Sarah says:

    Mick Jagger's done the same thing for 50 years. Where were your puritan views then? So women are supposed to sit down and be nice while men like Robin Thicke get to sing disgusting songs about women who say no and mean yes?

    You are blind to your own sexism! Wake up America! Its a sexual culture not one honest young girl out of hand!!!! Get over yourself.

  5. The lyoness says:

    1. I was not alive when MJagger was rocking.

    2. Mick Jagger is not a 21 year old girl.

    3. The reason women are subjugated is because of behavior like Miley’s.



  6. Emily says:

    The difference between Miley, and Madonna, and Gaga, and Beyonce is talent. You don't hear so much protesting when Gaga or Beyonce gyrate about because they're amazing dancers and performers. Madonna diddo. Miley should stick to singing. And eat ALOT more. No one wants to see a skeleton twerking. She's also disobeying the cardinal rule of keeping one body part covered – belly button, or legs, or arms or boobs. Something! No class.

  7. Russ says:

    This might be the more enlightened attitude. However, while I can affirm compassion for Miley Cyrus, I'm all for judgment against the corporate bastards of Disney and MTV who get rich from using people to create these controversies.

    On the article, it's beyond naive to be surprised that MTV "allowed" this performance. MTV created it and couldn't be more thrilled that to have people defending/trashing those involved on the internet the next day. When she's used up (remember Britney Spears? Remember she was a Disney girl too?) they'll find another young girl to exploit with greedy parents thrilled to sign her over. Yes it was raunchy and ugly, just like every other MTV award show.

  8. Julie says:

    I can't believe this article, I'm totally disgusted by the sexism and misogyny contained in it.

    "3. The reason women are subjugated is because of behavior like Miley's:" Just read that again, are you serious??

  9. Sumari says:

    As a nice human being (who happens to be male), the gender-based hypocrisy, the judgement, and the sheer misogyny of this article is disgusting!

  10. AMH says:

    I'm thinking ahead 10, 15 years — will the VMAs include nudity and sex? Why not? It seems that's where we're heading.

  11. Mandy says:

    21 year old woman.

    Mick was 21 once, and he gyrated plenty then. I don't think he should get special privilege because he's a man.

    Frig, the guys of lmao get to shake their penises in gold lame underpants, and no-one says boo.

    Definite double standard here.

  12. qt8625 says:

    Crazy for fame. That's it in a nutshell. Whatever it takes to shock and put your name out there is where Miley's handlers are taking her. I really believe that she should fire them all, run not walk to Selena Gomaz's handlers and carve out a new image because they know what they are doing. And that doesn't mean a carbon copy of S.Gomaz as she can be as edgy and hard rock if she wants to. She has now, and I don't realize if she has figured it out-she has been stereotyped because she looks like an insane clown and you forget what she is suppose to do for a living. It's like, "oh yeah, she does sing, doesn't she?"

  13. Pat Campbell says:

    Women and girls — please let's take back our pride & our strength & show who we really are in a better way than that.

  14. Dax says:

    I just don't get what the Miley Cyrus outrage is all about…

    Everyone, please stop complaining about Miley Cyrus… If we must, let's at least just complain about the act of Twerking in general. A few points:

    1. "Twerking" has been around a long, long time and nobody's been complaining about it until Miley Cyrus does it? (There are about 2,920,000 videos on YouTube if you search "Twerking")

    2. There were about 20 black women on stage with Miley also "Twerking it", and nobody's concerned about their moral compasses or wondering where it all went wrong for them.

    3. Everyone was freaking out when Elvis was shaking his hips too, remember?

    4. There are very graphic commercials on regular TV (not cable) and during prime time (not after hours) for other shows with serial killers and dead bodies, crime dramas, drug and gun cultures etcetera, yet it's a white girl shaking her assets on stage at a concert that's getting everyone concerned about the negative influences on our youth.

    5. Lastly, Twerking is NOT sexy. Please, I wish ALL of you girls/women would just stop doing it. Please. (Related: Please don't stick your tongues out when you dance either. Also not sexy.)

  15. Miranda says:

    I appreciate this article and Lyons’ insight and honesty. To me Miley’s behaviour was just another product of rape culture. We stick a young, scantily clad female on a platform and reward her with money and attention if she sexually performs us in a way that can later be mocked. We reduce her to a cheap, throw-away object that we know will be replaced by another girl of the hour at a later date…this IS something to be disgusted and worried about.

  16. Tamar says:

    Jenna, You're a terrific writer. Keep on keepin' on.

    I haven't seen the video. (I probably won't because I'd rather have Flight of the Conchords' Foo De Fa Fa running through my head in all its retro Jaques Brel-iness.) What I do think is intolerably cool is that you watched the VMAs WITH. YOUR. MOTHER.

  17. Mary Sherman says:

    Dear Jenna,
    Thank you for this thought provoking article. You sure have ignited a spark! I don't agree with your take on things. The whole issue of sexuality, how a woman presents herself sexually and how our society/culture encourages a certain kind of sexualization not only towards women but men as well goes far deeper than Miley or the MTV Awards.
    I'm not interested in Miley's style of music nor do I hold MTV as a venue of interest for my spiritual (or for that matter any form) of my human evolution. You say Miley could have said, "No". You say "…And you shouldn't hit on older men or any man-just because you can." I'm wondering Jenna, could we also ask, why didn't Robin Thicke say "No"? Wouldn't it have been a beautiful thing if he had defied whoever had planned this debacle and instead of grinding away with Miley if he had taken his jacket and covered Miley up making a statement of how a "real" man knows how to show respect to a woman (even when it appears she's not respecting herself? You say, "I hope and pray that girls know that this type of behavior isn't okay." And, you use the term "popular canon". This is the same thinking many have regarding rape and sexual assault. They say, if she hadn't been drinking, if she hadn't worn that sexy, revealing out fit etc., etc. Somehow, when women exhibit their sexuality it means that they "want it". The burden of responsibility is ALWAYS on the woman.

    As I said earlier, I'm not into Miley or MTV. I didn't even watch the video posted here, I don't need to. You know, you could have turned the TV off, it's a free country, you could have "censored" yourself. I'm sure MTV knew exactly what was going to occur. Was Miley's behavior a call for help? Only she and those closest to her know the truth. Honestly, I wish her only the best and (my judgement) hope she pulls herself out of the rat race long enough to take care of her self. You might find it enlightening to read the work of Eve Ensler who has worked tirelessly to deconstruct our cultures stereotypes around sexuality and the male and female form. It is time for respect for ALL of humanity.

    Jenna, you sound like you have a beautiful life, bravo. Here's wishing all the Miley's and her male counterparts find their own way in this crazy over-sexed, over moralized world we call planet Earth.

  18. elephantjournal says:

    Julie: This piece may not be for everyone—I get it. The author gets it. But can you add some constructive thought to this conversation? Can we have a real dialogue? ~ ed.

  19. elephantjournal says:

    So write something that explores that—open our eyes. Rather then attacking the article for being disgusting, join in the conversation. ~ ed.

  20. Sumari says:

    I am glad you acknowledge I am attacking points in the article, not the author personally. I can only state my opinion, which is that several of the points in the article strike me as latter-day Archie Bunker ('girls were girls, and men were men'). Were I in Herbert Hoover's era, I would be frustrated having to write to a paragraph about 'why racism is bad'. But, back then it would have been a serious issue. I think that by 2050 (hopefully WAY soon) the views in this article will appear antiquated. I will just add that gender-behavior expectations and stereotypes are a big negative for males, as well as females.

  21. Annette says:

    What about how trashy and disrespectful Robin Thicke’s song is? What about the unrated video to Blurred Lines in which he dances with naked women? It is easy to pin all this societal controversy on her but why don’t we hold males to the same standard? They perpetuate this message as well! Yet we dance to their music and sing their songs. And turn around and freak out when a woman does what she did. I’m not saying it was right. But if you want to target someone for the message they send about women you should target all who are involved in perpetuating these kinds of things.

  22. Roz says:

    Ms. Lyons, I couldn't agree more, but I also think Robin Thicke is equally guilty. He is an older, married man who allowed an 18-year old girl to grind, gyrate, and lick him. He supposedly left a reality show called 'The Real Husbands of Hollywood' because he thought it was bad for his image. However, after watching the 'Blurred Lines' video in which he has balloons that spell out "Robin Thicke has a big d*ck" and seeing his "performance" with Miley Cyrus, I wonder what image he's trying to promote. Miley Cyrus may come off as trashy, but Robin Thicke just seems desperate for attention. I really wish someone would tell them both, "Everyone has seen you. Now get your a$$ somewhere and sit down."

  23. Kathleen says:

    *jumping in*

    Like it or not, Cyrus is legally an adult. Whatever career she may have had as a minor with Disney or any other company, she is not obligated to hold to that line for her entire performing life. I completely agree with plenty of previous comments that the MTV awards performances have a history of trying to shock viewers and stir the pot of controversy. It's free (or nearly free) advertising and exposure for them. This shouldn't surprise anyone.

    What surprises me the most is the helpless attitude of many who oppose these kinds of exhibitions, some of which I heard in this article. We're very quick to judge and to condemn women (especially young women) who perform routines of this nature, and we cry out that they are spoiling our young girls' opportunities for innocence and femininity, yet we're not "putting our collective money where our mouths are" and undermining the "cool factor" of these things by exposing young people to it in an educated manner before they can discover it themselves. By hiding it from them, labeling it "inappropriate", or admonishing them to "wait until you're older", we propagate the mystique of initiated worldly sophistication that has existed around sex and anything "adult" for younger generations. If we're waiting to have the "the talk" about sexuality (and femininity, and self-worth, etc . . . ) with our emerging young women until after they've seen this video and others like it, we're too late.

    Many observers believe that this routine was Miley's way of transitioning to her adult career: doing something that would ensure that children's programming and networks wouldn't want her back. That may very well be the case. Personally, I wish that she had done it differently, but I'm not Miley Cyrus. I'm skeptical of those who want to write it off as "a cry for help". Certainly it offended many sensibilities (as it was designed to).

    I'm particularly troubled by the language used in this article—statements like "The reason women are subjugated is because of behavior like Miley's"; "Girls, don’t show your boobs to boys at parties"; and "Girls, don’t wear shorts or crop tops that show the world your inner sanctum"—because it is a small step from those admonishments to, "She was asking for it" and "She made me do it". It goes all the way back to the Christian narrative's story of Original Sin: "Eve gave me the forbidden fruit". Never mind that Adam still chose to eat it. By making women responsible for not "tempting" men, we're telling to control something that is outside of their control. Clothing doesn't prevent rape, or anything related to it; men can (and do) still find women attractive when they are completely clothed.

    Do the young women in your lives a favor: stop freaking out about Miley, and find a positive role model who has confidence and class.

  24. nancy says:

    Her career is over. And what moral compass? 🙁 Its alway about $$$$$$$$

  25. Love U thank U says:

    The problem with our worldwide attitude towards sex, sexuality, women and men is based on ancient and universally reinforced self hatred.

    Sex is what we all come from. It is the act which causes creation, manifestation, life in human form.

    Sexuality is synonymous with life force.

    Limiting our sexuality, for any reason, is self abuse. And all of the twisted, exaggerated, indulgent, hateful acts around sex and gender issues are the result of repressing our human sexuality.

    Covering up our bodies has zero effect on what anyone does, thinks or feels. All of these come from within each individual being. Every man (and woman) is 100% accountable for what (s)he thinks, feels, does. Whether it's misogynistic, misanthropic, cowardly or inspiring.

    Judgement comes from fear. All judgement.

    Only infinite love and appreciation will ever effect a shift in our overall perception of breathing . . . oops, I meant another human necessity, digestion . . . oops, wait, I actually meant sexuality.


    Each of us must find that truth for ourselves because I am the only one who came here to live my life. Neither you, nor he nor even 'God' came here to live my life. I did. And my view of and interaction with my sexuality is entirely my responsibility. I make my choices. I choose to be influenced by money or fame or approval or fear. And endless external effort to change my mind will only succeed if I allow myself to be effected. There is no switch in my head that can be flipped by any other being.

    I am horrified by the blatant denigration of feminine sexuality. And I accept that is one of my life challenges.

    I am horrified by the glorification of the masculine unwillingness to be accountable. And I accept that it is one of our social diseases.

    I am horrified by the results of our cultural focus on greed, acquisition and callousness. And I accept that this is the point to which ALL of the human thoughts, feelings and actions have propelled us.

    This is the challenge. We are the ones who have the generosity of heart and diligence of mind to embrace this challenge, at this moment in our evolution. When we expect our children to withstand the influence of the whole of human history in a way that even we have been unsuccessful at doing, we are exacerbating the problem. There will always be those who actively chose the easy way, the hateful way, the feeble way. This planet is an experiment in duality. Without duality, we wouldn't be here.

    How will you address ALL THAT IS?

    The author of this article chose to address it with fear. And it's possible that she knows this. Or that she simply doesn't care to know it. Anything's possible. That's planet earth.

  26. Mgt says:

    Roz is making a good point , that type of sexual 'dancing' by man or woman sends out a message that says our sexuality is cheap et anything goes with no strings attached . Many of the audience are at an impressionable age et hormones are pumping ! Tis even more provocative when either the man or woman are scantily clad. I think there were many parents who strongly objected to Elvis et Mick Jagger in their day too. Just because 'our youth' can view worse stuff on T V , video etc still doesn't make it ok……does it ?

  27. Cameron says:

    Amen. I couldn't have put it better. I racked my brains for days trying to put my feelings into perspective but I couldn't until I read your post. To the parents of young kids out there… if you let them watch Jersey Shore and the Housewives, etc., and all the other crapola on TV, then don't be surprised if they act like Miley Cyrus whenever then can. Madonna is still acting like that and she's in her menopause years! Gross! Tell me what's worse… Miley or Madonna? You aren't born with class, you are taught class. Parents, bottom line, it's your responsibility… all of it.

  28. nunh says:

    You have read my mind! I am not a fan of Miley but, I don't see what the big shock is here. I think people are too judemental and not consistent with all performers. Glass houses.

  29. nunh says:

    Agree 100%.

  30. The lyoness says:

    I totally agree with you, Roz. EVERYONE, regardless of gender, needs to be accountable for his or her own actions. Thanks for reading and responding in a constructive manner 🙂



  31. nunh says:

    Lol! Like when Madonna's career was over. Reality will trump critics every time!

  32. Craig says:

    30 years ago Madonna was criticized for flaunting her sexuality in her music videos, in a risqué book, and in her (now considered iconic) performances at the MTV awards. Others lauded her for championing the right of women to celebrate their sexuality as they saw fit, just as men had being doing for years. She asked us, or maybe forced us, to take a fresh look at the age-old virgin/whore dichotomy, and the evolving definition of feminism. Suddenly behavior that had long been viewed by many women (and men) as immoral, lewd, anti-woman, and just plain dirty (in a bad way), was being reconsidered as sexy, fun, pro-woman, and dirty (in a hot way).

    I'm not sure what the current commentary says about where we are now, but it does feel like the same questions are as relevant, and controversial, today as they were in the 1980's. Are we more awake now, more aware of oppression and sexism when it shows up on occasions such as this, or are we just as judgmental as we've always been?

    Who could have predicted that the MTV/VMA Awards show would still have the power to shock almost 30 years after Madonna first writhed on and humped the stage floor in a white wedding dress singing "Like a Virgin".

  33. James Fraser says:

    IMHO the best reaction to this sort of thing is to ignore it…the less attention it receives the less it will perpetuate itself. Silly, doesn’t even hit my radar screen- in fact I haven’t even seen it …