Sex sells, not talent
With her tongue waving to the world, wearing barely anything, a lithe figure strutted onto the stage. A barrage of stuffed teddy bears followed behind and pranced around.
The crowd's bewilderment soon turned to shock once artist Robin Thicke joined the bizarre choreography as she twerked on him, provocatively touching herself with a foam finger. The next day, she was the most talked about person in the world.
Immediately following Miley Cyrus' raunchy and blatantly shocking performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, she got exactly what she wanted — people talking about her.
In show business, when people are talking, sales are soaring. However, what artists like Cyrus gain in publicity, they definitely lose in dignity. Artists are giving in to a shameless, greed-driven, and hypersexualized industry that has no problem letting them make fools of themselves on national television.
If Cyrus and other artists like Katy Perry, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Britney Spears are any indication, sex sells in the music industry. In 2009, a study by psychology professor Dawn R. Hobbs at the State University of New York found that 92 percent of the 174 songs that made it into the Billboard Top 10 that year contained sexual content.
Society's view of women as sexual beings has changed dramatically in the last few decades. We have shifted from viewing women as these conservative figures under a dome of domesticity to somewhat blatant objects of desire and conquest.
Within the world of music, it is sad and offensive to see how the proliferation of this hypersexualized image of females has translated to risque music videos where women are clearly objectified, dancing around half-naked for the male artist. Song lyrics unapologetically use derogatory terms that portray women with this sense of self-subordination.
Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," arguably one of the most overplayed songs of the summer, subtly hints at themes of rape while speaking of these women who "know they want it."
Nowhere is the objectification of women more prevalent than in the realm of rap music.
"Rap has always been feminine; what it has not been is pro-woman," according to a 2012 report in the Journal of Popular Culture.
Some may argue that the overt sexualization of women is just a byproduct, a natural result of an already changing culture in the United States, and one that has shifted toward a more sexualized view over the last few decades. However, male musicians are rarely sexualized as strongly or as frequently as female artists are.
According to research conducted in 2012 by the Journal of Gender Studies, around the 1990s, when female musicians rose in popularity, so did their rates of sexualization. By the new millennium, female musicians were hypersexualized more than ever on the covers of Rolling Stone.
So we know that some male artists use females as sexual objects in their music, but what about females? When I view artists like Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, or Rihanna, there is a part of me that likes that they are so confident with their sexuality. Then you realize that it is just a ploy to sell records — a simulation, and a creation of the music industry itself.
Still, for every Katy Perry, there is an Adele. Up-and-comer Ariana Grande has been noted for her Mariah Carey-esque vocals and has even been deemed the "anti-Miley Cyrus." There are talented female artists who do not radiate this hypersexuality, but there does not seem to be a stop to this cycle of over-sexualized females in the music industry, a cycle that's been running for years.
However, no matter how many records they sell, or how much money they make, their sales tactics end up resembling a cry for attention, and sets feminine progress back years by returning to this sexist depiction.
What about the effect that the way these women portray themselves have on younger fans? Aside from the negative effects on self esteem and body image, female artists' overt sexualization is sending the wrong message that looks and sex appeal are more important than raw talent.
Sure, women can have amazing voices and still show off their bodies, but when the facade of sexual prowess on the outside outshines the talent, which is the case for most female artists, then it just reinforces the music industry's trend of selling sex for money.
The days where artists were the talk of town due to their vocal talents, and not because of half-naked, raunchy performances, seem to be a thing of the past because sex sells, not talent.