Miley Cyrus Halloween costumes and slut-shaming

If one thing’s been made starkly evident by this whole debacle, it’s that Miley’s understanding of ‘sexy’ is flawed

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Every year America goes nuts for Halloween and, this season, pop star Miley Cyrus is the holiday’s it-girl.

Shockwaves are still reverberating after the 20-year old’s ‘creepy sexy baby’ performance at the MTV Video Music Awards (her words to Rolling Stone), further fuelled by the release of that naked-swinging, hammer-licking ‘Wrecking Ball’ video.

So, come 31st October, the streets will be brimming with replicates. Robin Thicke is an optional extra because, despite the fact that she was duetting with him on his arguably rapey song, Miley’s the real villain here.

There’s a full range of attire available including ‘Twerk or Treat’ t-shirts, foam fingers and teddy bear tees. The nude latex bikini (that one that made her look like an oh-so-sexy naked child) is proving harder to find.

Worldwide criticism of Miley’s recent outings has been relentless, while debates surrounding ‘slut-shaming’ abound – here is a liberated adult, capable of making decisions for herself, so who are we to decide whether her sexual morals are loose, and publically attack her if she fails to conform with patriarchal expectations of how females should behave?

How Miley chooses to express her sexuality is up to her, but the question must be raised – is it really? Modern pop culture continues to dictate that for the average woman to achieve commercial success, gain influence and appeal to men, she must be controversial, flashy and ‘sexy’. For a child star like Miley, palpably eager to rid herself of a squeak-clean Disney past, there is little wonder that she has bought into this unofficial rulebook for 21st century fame.

Stripping, twerking and simulating sexual activity were not the only tools Miley could have used to let the world know that Hannah Montana had grown up, shed her V-plates and become a real woman, but they were the ones most readily at her disposal.

New documentary Miley: The Movement, due for release tonight, overhears her admitting “I’m more nervous than a motherf***er, I’m not gonna lie”, moments before storming the stage in that now notorious teddy bear leotard. Of course she was nervous - the whole situation could not have been less natural for a young woman but a year out of her teens. It was not the ‘real’ side of Miley that the world saw moments later though, was it?

“You’re always going to make people talk, so you might as well make them talk for two weeks rather than two seconds,” Miley told MTV. Maybe, but once upon a time not so very long ago, it was genuine talent that stole the entertainment headlines.

Speaking of talent, Miley has recently admitted that ‘Wrecking Ball’ video was intended to channel Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’. A key difference being that, while Sinead’s iconic shaved head was an assertion against traditional gender stereotypes, Miley’s ‘most modern version’ is the opposite, conforming to pop culture’s prioritising of overtly sexualised behaviour. 

If one thing’s been made starkly evident by this whole debacle, it’s that Miley’s understanding of ‘sexy’ is flawed. Her ‘sexy’ may appeal to 13 year-old boys who have just discovered what images of nudity can do to them ‘down there’, yet it will - or should - fall far short of the mark for real men, whose experience has taught them that ‘sexy’ in the true sense is an altogether more intriguing, exciting concept.

Sexy is about alluring mystery, deep attraction and, most importantly, the desire to learn more about someone who demands respect. Miley’s distorted presentation risks damaging how young people view sexuality, while doing little to encourage the much-needed instilment of important, too-often-forgotten values.

The fact remains that sexual equality can only be achieved when there is one standard for both men and women. But while Miley’s new status as leading Halloween get-up will rightly invite argument over slut-shaming, a lack of self-respect is clearly still seen as ghoulish, and that’s something to cling onto.

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