Miley Cyrus’ recent performance at the Video Music Awards is modern love in microcosm.
Yes, it’s true. Within the nightmarish teddy bear choreography and foam finger make-out session is the dynamic of today’s romantic relationship.
Let’s get this out of the way: There is little that hasn’t been said about Miley Cyrus’ performance. It was awful, but its awfulness isn’t something worthy of debate. It’s the one thing everyone agrees upon. Virtually no one is willing to try and defend it.
This post isn’t about bashing Miley, I actually feel bad for her. It has been correctly pointed out that Miley was merely following the dictates of the culture. Our culture praises the individual who is not merely comfortable with their sexuality, but so enamored by it that they are compelled to display it whenever possible. And we’d better like it or we’re troglodytes. I get it. No situation is above “sexing up.”
Unfortunately I am not shocked by Miley Cyrus’ behavior, and I’m certainly not threatened by it. This is not another missive on the perils of immodest dress.
It would be easy to say that sexually infused behavior and provocative dress is a cry for attention, and that people become addicted to that behavior. That is true, but there is a little more going on here than that.
Miley Cyrus is in a relationship with her public, and they demand provocative displays or their interest wanes. They’ll move on to a more sexually overt act if she doesn’t keep upping the ante. Witness Lady Gaga being upstaged by Cyrus at the VMA awards. The public always wants new and more provocative spectacles. There are few things sadder than an aging vamp trying to maintain her sex appeal, unless it’s a once-edgy vamp who wants to be taken seriously as an artist.
So, as the hot young thing on the scene, if Miley Cyrus wants to steal and keep that attention she has no choice but to out-edge her last performance. Her music is hardly memorable. To keep the adoration of her public, she must show a little more of herself each time. She must promise a little more with each display.
This is what a relationship is like when it is based on raw emotion. Without a foundation of something more real, it’s only a matter of time before attention wanders and the body follows. Trying to maintain our hold on a partner by stoking sexual feelings (or any kind of feeling) almost inevitably leads to physical expressions that cross the line. After that, premarital sex is probably a given.
It’s tempting to think that premarital sex is not a problem for two people who are deeply in love, but reality does not bear this out. Sex creates a bond and when that bond is reinforced through repeated connection, it clouds the vision. We end up staying with partners who are not good marriage prospects because breaking that bond is painful. Long after we should have parted ways, we find ourselves living together. After that we drift into marriages that are not based on affirmative, deliberate steps. We know we were in love at some point, but since we no longer “feel” in love we are confused. What could have gone so wrong?
I’ve often heard men complain that they pursued a woman that they were nuts over, only to have the whole thing fall apart time and time again. I’m willing to bet that they were not pursuing the hearts of these women. I’m willing to say that they felt an attraction, spent time and money trying to keep her attention, and then when it looked as if it wasn’t going to work out they blamed the woman for “playing games.”
Women will often base their self-worth on the attention they get when they accentuate their sexuality, whether through clothes or actions. Once a relationship has begun, it often leads to sex. Much of the time the relationship does not survive because when the thrill of the sexual chase is gone, the man moves on. The woman is bewildered, and she is hurt because her self-worth has taken a blow.
When we base our self-worth on physical attraction or conquest, it leads to an endless cycle of relationships based on illusion. I was in my forties before I stopped chasing after women based almost solely on how I felt when I was around them. I often felt I was in love, but had no idea what love really was. It’s no mystery why single men in their 40s chase women in their 20s. It’s no mystery why single women in their 40s often dress and act (and talk) the way they did in their 20s. Both scenarios have a whiff of desperation.
So the next time we feel compelled to criticize Miley Cyrus’ desperate attempts at remaining desirable, we should ask ourselves: have I done anything recently that was deliberately provocative? Have I acted in a way that was designed to gain attention, and was my action unchaste? Is my relationship based on mutual respect and the desire to discern whether or not we are moving toward marriage, or is it based on what I am getting in terms of emotional or sexual satisfaction?