What are these parents thinking?

Miley Cyrus at 15: Showing more than she should.

In the past four years, more than a dozen local mothers have brought their teen-aged daughters into my studio and asked that I shoot photos of the girl in a bikini, lingerie or partially nude for use in a “teen model web site.”

Although I do occasionally shoot nude photographs of adults, I do not take such photos of children and, in each case, the girls brought in by their mothers were 14 or 15 or younger.

“Teen model” web sites feature underage girls in sexually-suggestive poses and revealing attire. Many charge “subscription fees” for access.

I tell the mothers to get the hell out of my studio and to not come back. When they leave I usually have to sit down and stop shaking. Such exploitation of children brings out blind rage.

I’ve always wondered what in the hell these mothers were thinking when they sought to abuse their children in such a way. I’m also wondering what country singer Billy Ray Cyrus was thinking when he watched Vanity Fair photographer photograph his 15-year-old daughter, Miley Cyrus (above), topless and covered only by a sheet. With her tousled hair and sultry look, the 15-year-old appears to be in what the romance novels used to call as “post-coital” moment.

Miley, of course, is better known as Hannah Montana, a G-rated creation of the Disney Entertainment Factory, and an apparent role model for children her age. This “role model” told Vanity Fair that the steamy HBO series Sex And The City is her favorite TV show.

Shocked? Don’t be. It is now standard operating procedure for young girls to be used as sexual objects.  The trend is examined in the book: Girls Gone Skank: The Sexualization of Girls in American Culture.

Writes author Patrice A. Oppliger, an assistant professor of mass communications at Boston University:

Instead of advancing women’s social and professional empowerment, popular culture trends appear to be backsliding into the blatant sexual exploitation of women and girls at younger and younger ages.

This study investigates the effects of mass marketed sexual images and cultural trends on the behaviors and attitudes of young girls and describes many ways in which young girls are increasingly taught to go to outrageous lengths in seeking male attention.

Topics include the powerful effects of cultural phenomena such as revealing fashions, plastic surgery, and beauty pageants in influencing teen and preteen girls to willingly participate in and promote their own sexualization.

These chapters also explore other cultural factors contributing to this early sexualization of young girls, including absentee parenting and material overindulgence.

Later chapters focus on the sexual representations of females in the mass entertainment media, focusing specifically on how popular magazines, television programs, films, and the Internet prey upon, promote, and reinforce young girls’ physical and sexual insecurities.

Some feel this is an urban problem but consider this:

Radford photographer Bob Shell is in prison for his part in the death of a young model in his downtown studio. Although the model, who specialized in bondage themes, was over 18, Shell also promoted teen model web sites and many of his photos were shot at his farm here in Floyd County.  In each case, the mother who brought her young daughter for “teen model” photographer, lived, at the time, in Floyd County.

(Photo of Miley Cyrus from Vanity Fair. Copyright 2008: Vanity Fair and Annie Leibowitz.  Book cover courtesy of Amazon.Com)

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