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Let's Get Some Better Lady-Bators Out There!
Editor's Note: This article is written in the context of the larger hetero-patriarchical society, where cis-sexism and homophobia persist. Our use of the terms 'men' and 'women' and 'lady' is meant to include any and all folks who identify as such. We want to acknowledge that trans, gender queer, and other non gender binary conforming folks are a part of this situation and are affected by the images which dominate the media and objectify women. Hopefully we will be able to delve farther into the topics of masturbation, sexuality and gender in future articles. And we welcome submissions from you if you have something to say on these topics!
I enjoy being a journalist, but having to watch crap like Miley Cyrus has got to be the low end of the things I do for work.
But I did it, y'all, for you. I watched Miley Cyrus' "Adore You" video. I expect to get some thank you's and flowers in the mail for taking that one for the team. The video was boring, lacking luster, and mostly involved Miley's duck face and implied masturbation. Yawn.
When I was in elementary school, my cousins and I loved to sing Billy Ray's "Achy Breaky Heart" on the school bus. Somehow, I don't think Miley's song has what it takes to make it into a 4th grader's repertoire. Not because of the implied masturbation, but because I found the whole thing to be musically impotent.
Which perhaps speaks to a larger theme going on here. Shock and Awe and Sex being used to sell products rather than good old-fashioned talent and skill.
I don't care if Miley Cyrus masturbates. I hope she does, it's good for you. Slut shaming is never okay, and I think folks should be able to express their sexualities as much as they want and how they want as long as it doesn't involve crossing other people's boundaries. And frankly, what they show in this video isn't particularly shocking in my opinion. The important thing here is not to spend much time to defend Miley, a White Woman Celebrity, from slut shaming. She will be okay, what with the protection of privilege. Acknowledge that slut shaming is bad, and, move on.
I am critical about what Miley has a history of doing with her music and videos, which is to uncritically adopt a sexual stance that involves things like racist objectification of back up dancers, appropriation and mocking of other cultures, and perpetuation of rape culture and patriarchy. It's not liberation if it involves oppressing others.
Let me break these down for a minute. And keep in mind these are just the first examples that pop into my head:
• Racist objectification of back up dancers: Smacking the asses of dancers in her performance at the VMAs
• Appropriation of other cultures: Using twerking in her performance at the VMAs
• Mocking of other cultures: Wearing a fake grill in "We Can't Stop" video
• Perpetuation of rape culture: Supporting Robin Thicke and his consent violating song "Blurred Lines"
• Perpetuation of patriarchy: Ugh, Robin Thicke, ugh.
The shallow approach to feminism (white feminism) which could be read into Miley's activities is definitely not nearly enough to get me on board the Miley train (oh hey, there's an idea for the next music video). Being sex positive is a complex stance, which frankly isn't enough. It is far too simple to announce sex positivity, but that is not necessarily a liberating thing to do, if you go about it in oppressive ways.
I masturbate (hold the applause). But I don't masturbate because I adore someone else. I masturbate because I adore myself. I hope all folks have the opportunity to explore and pleasure themselves. Who knows what turns you on better than you, and who safer to experiment with?
The taboo of women masturbating, and masturbation in general, does persist. Some say it is a sin, that you will go blind and grow hair on your palms as a punishment. I need glasses and do have some tricky chin hairs, but I'm thinking this is not the result of masturbation, but rather, genetics.
I've noticed more and more media representing male masturbation in comical ways. From American Pie to Bridesmaids, jokes are cracked about, and movies like Don Jon, put a lot of focus on male masturbation. The depictions of male masturbation are rarely (if ever) intended as turn-ons for the female audience (within a heterosexual context). There are jokes about teenagers, and even commentary on the practice. But where are the lady-bators?
It is not that society fails to represent the sexual side of women. It is more that women are overly sexualized in the media as objects for male consumption. Female masturbation as a joke, or an eye roll topic is not something I recall seeing. Instead, scenes of female masturbation are meant as turn-ons for men. Miley's video, "Adore You," falls into this category.
Miley's video isn't particularly interesting, well done, or edgy. Masturbation for an audience, or for a man, is not what women are lacking. I hope we could have better role models and spokepeople for women masturbating than Miley Cyrus. "Adore You" is just another video situating women in a context of objectification for men, implied masturbation or not.
Sexual positivity or liberation, when done properly, will actually be a part of challenging the patriarchical system, fighting racism, fighting transphobia and removing women from the role of objects for men's pleasure. Men try to control women, and repressing the sexuality of women is just one of the ways this happens. Sexually liberated women, capable of pleasing themselves, are a threat to male dominance and macho ego. I would love to see more positive depictions of female masturbation in the media. But not from Miley Cyrus, and not like what we see in this video.