One of the biggest stories sweeping through pop culture right now involves pictures that purport to show teenage singer Miley Cyrus's exposed labia. Gossip blogger Perez Hilton posted a picture to his website last week that was angled up Miley's skirt and onto which he had photoshopped genitals. This week he posted another photo (which may or may not be real) showing her leotard riding up a little too high.
This has become a big deal because Miley is 17 and a minor in the United States, and some critics are speculating whether Perez will be charged with child pornography. Perez’s defense is that Miley’s recent behavior excuses him–that through her pole dancing performances and skimpy costumes, she has somehow given consent for these pictures to be distributed around the world (for a different take on this "new" Miley, read this review). Even Reuters, the news agency that owns the latest photo, says that because she was performing for the public, Reuters is justified in selling Miley's image.
But as this article points out, photos like these take power, specifically the power over the most intimate parts of herself, right out of Miley's hands. Perez and Reuters seem to be saying that that it's alright because she asked for this to happen, that her recent behavior shows that she deserves to have herself exposed to the world. This is exactly the same victim-blaming mentality that allows many rapes and assaults to go unpunished: because she dressed sexy, because she flirted, because she went off alone with him … she must have wanted it, so it's fine to forcefully take control of her body. But no one ever asks to be assaulted or raped.
It isn't Miley's age that bothers me so much; rather, it's the idea that people seem to think she somehow asked for nude pictures of herself to end up online. And it's sad that she has to see this attitude displayed against her while she's so young.
Girl Museum Inc.