published Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Baumgardner: Seriously blurred lines;using Cyrus to teach

By Julie Baumgardner

Vulgar, pornographic and nasty are only three of the words that have been used to describe Miley Cyrus' performance at the Video Music Awards.

If attention is what Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke were after, she certainly achieved her goal, but there really hasn't been much talk about Thicke's role. Cyrus' twerking, foam finger and gestures have definitely made her the topic of many conversations on the air and in homes across the country. Thicke, on the other hand, almost appears an innocent bystander as he sings lyrics many claim are explicitly sexually violent and appear to reinforce victim-blaming rape. Never mind that he is a 36-year-old married man and father to a young boy and he is letting 20-year-old Miley do sexually explicit gyrations up against his crotch.

If it has been asked once, it has been asked a thousand times, "What were they thinking?"

Were her producers behind the whole thing in an effort to market her music? Was she continuing to make her point that she is not Disney's Hannah Montana? In an interview on CNN, Cyrus stated that she knew exactly what she was doing, telling Thicke before they went on, "You know we are about to make history right?"

The VMAs certainly have a reputation for raunchy entertainment; think Madonna, Lady Gaga and other past performers. Why would one expect something different this year?

How does a parent explain what has been referred to as atrocious behavior to their children? For all that women have done to not appear as sex objects, what does that spectacle teach our daughters and sons?

How can parents take what happened and use it as a teachable moment?

Potential talking points

Let's start with teaching our children to respect and be true to themselves. Does anybody know the real Miley Cyrus? Does she even know who she is? This begins in the home, instilling values in your children, acknowledging their areas of giftedness, holding them accountable and responsible for their behavior, and talking about what is acceptable behavior and what is not and why.

What does showing honor and respect to the opposite sex look like? True, this was a performance, but how do young people translate this into everyday life? Since the executive function of the brain, which controls decision-making and problem-solving is not fully formed until age 25, many young people do not differentiate between fantasy and reality. A parent's job is to continually take situations like this and use them as teachable moments. Just because your child is a teenager or young adult, don't assume that your influence no longer matters or that they don't need you or want your input.

Guys are not innocent bystanders. When a girl throws herself at your son, does he know how to respond? The rules have changed. Girls are much more aggressive today and see nothing wrong with this behavior. What guys don't understand is that they could end up being connected to a girl forever in ways they never intended. It is vital for parents to talk with their sons and daughters about sex and what a healthy relationship looks like.

If Cyrus were your daughter, would you interpret her behavior as a loud cry for help? It would be hard not to even if she says she knows exactly what she is doing. Leaving it to the media to teach your teens about sex and relationships could lead to serious consequences. Talk with your teen.

Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at julieb@firstthings.org.

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