Miley Cyrus Has Become the Poster Child for Consent

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America’s sexual revolution has been underway for some time now. And at least as far back as 1967’s so-called “Summer of Love,” traditional and biblical understandings of the purpose and place of sexuality in our lives have been under open assault.

But what began as a countercultural movement has in the ensuing decades become anything but countercultural. Those voices are now in the ascendant, to say the very least. And those of us who’ve continued to hold to a more conservative viewpoint are now the counterculture.

I write all of that as a preamble of sorts to my topic today: Miley Cyrus. Plugged In has commented about Miley many times before, of course, as the 22-year-old entertainer’s words and choices have provided plenty of fodder for discussion about mass entertainment, cultural influence and moral values since her arrival on Disney’s Hannah Montana in 2006.

Today it’s about things she recently said in an interview with Paper magazine (which was accompanied by nude photos taken of her … with a pig). Specifically, I want to focus on what Miley said about her understanding of sexual ethics in 2015. What she said is important for those of us who are part of the new counterculture to grapple with, because I believe it might be the most concise and accurate summary of the mainstream perspective on sexuality that I’ve seen recently (and maybe ever).

Miley’s entire perspective on what’s appropriate and what’s not when it comes to sexual expression between (she qualifies) adults can be boiled down into a single word: consent.

I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn’t involve an animal and everyone is of age. Everything that’s legal, I’m down with. … As long as you’re not hurting anyone, your choices are your choices. I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl.

In other words, as long as there’s consent, there need be no other questions. That’s the beginning and the end of any conversation about sexuality as far as Miley Cyrus is concerned. While that may sound somewhat shocking, this young woman’s stance is increasingly one that’s echoed throughout mainstream culture. She’s just managed to boil it down to its bare essence.

And the essence of Miley’s worldview is something we need to deal with because she’s both the product of a culture that’s jettisoned any and all other sexual norms and someone who’s powerfully reinforcing the mores (or, in many ways, the lack thereof) that she’s come to embrace and embody.

To deal with the consent-only sexuality worldview that Miley Cyrus represents, we must ask a couple of simple but crucially important questions: What is the purpose of sexuality? And who gets to decide?

Historically, Christian theologians have identified two primary answers to the first question. 1) The purpose of our sexuality is to create a union—“oneness,” the Bible calls is—between a man and his wife. 2) The purpose of our sexuality within that marriage bond is to produce new life when that is possible. Because those purposes are so sacred, so fundamental to human existence, God has placed protective parameters around sexual expression to protect us and to allow our relationships to flourish—which leads us to the answer for the second question. Our sexuality is beautiful, powerful and life-giving in its God-ordained context of marriage. Outside of that context and its divine origin, it can be a source of deep pain and vulnerability, not to mention the tragedy of creating new life without a loving, protective family to nourish it.

Our mainstream culture, in contrast, answers those two questions in a radically different way. The purpose of sexuality, Miley and so many others would argue, is personal pleasure and self-actualization. As for the second question, well, we already know the popular answer there: Each individual—not God, not Scripture, not any religious or cultural tradition—is sovereign over his or her body and sexual choices.

In such a worldview, the concept of consent is all that remains. The only sexual “sin,” in the world’s eyes, is forcing someone to do something against his or her will. And apart from coercion or sexual assault, there is no other sexual ethic to guide anyone’s choices. In other words, as many, many songs have said one way or another throughout the last five decades, “How can it be wrong if it feels so right?”

Those of us who are concerned about the culture’s direction—and especially its influence on those growing up in it today—have a critically important job to do with regard to this clash of worldviews. Namely, helping those we have a chance to influence understand and take hold of exactly what God’s good and beautiful purpose for sexual expression in marriage is.

That’s no small task in our oversexualized culture, especially with sirens such as Miss Cyrus advocating “anything goes” more blatantly than ever—and being praised for it.

I’d like to wrap up by quoting Christian youth culture expert Walt Mueller (of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding), who has already written about Miley’s latest articulations:

It’s easy to grieve over Miley’s values, attitudes, and behaviors. For me, my faith, my children, and my grandchildren are filters through which I see Miley Cyrus, and I am sobered. But being sobered should always lead to action. And so I want to encourage you to 1) Pray for Miley Cyrus (“God, make yourself real to this young lady. . .”), 2) Pray for the children you know and love (“Lord, reveal yourself, your will, and your way to our kids. Make them hungry to know the incarnate Word Jesus and your revelation of yourself in the Scriptures. May their hunger be insatiable!”), and 3) Know and unashamedly speak the Truth that transforms. Yes, God is sovereign and in control of all things. He has not and will not abandon His Creation or His people. What a blessed assurance. That’s great news!

Indeed, amid so much bad news in our society today, we still have the privilege of living out the Good News, the gospel of forgiveness, freedom and purpose Jesus has given us. And it’s a gospel that’s so much bigger and more fulfilling than our culture’s false gospel of sexual consent.

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Thomas Howard More than 1 year ago
That is my prayer too (“God, make yourself real to this young lady. . .”), and Let her come to saving faith In Jesus Christ. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"...Culture's false gospel of sexual consent"?  You do realize that consent is not only an ethical/spiritual issue, but also a legal issue, right?

To an extent, I actually agree with Miley.  We can chose how we want to live and how we want to raise our kids, but when it comes to sexuality, consent is something that we absolutely have to have in every sexual situation, whether that be biblical or non-biblical.  The number one thing that we need to teach in schools and to our children is the importance of the word 'Yes.'  Without it, the situation is not one of love, but of sexual assault.  As a personal victim of a mild case of this, I can tell you that it is damaging.

But what if you think that you or your children will never have sex outside of marriage (non-biblical sex)?  Then consent is still important!  Even within a marriage, you or your spouse should constantly be asking permission and asking what makes the other person comfortable.

Instead of criticizing everything that Miley says, be proud that she is at least standing up for a real issue.  And please PLEASE teach your kids that no always means NO in any sort of sexual situation, whether it be touching, kissing, or actual sex.  Please don't oppose the idea of consent just because some of the proponents participate in premarital sex.  This is about what kind of world you want to live in, because I don't want to live in one where I get catcalled, or church boys say something was okay because "did you see what she was wearing?", or people think it's okay to grab people's butts, or that people refuse to promote the idea of consent just because it was mentioned outside of their religious community.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Humans are sexual animals.  So are dogs, cats, whales, and other mammals.  If she wants to have sex like an animal, she'll be treated like an animal.  Eventually this will all implode and she will lose her human dignity, causing a catastrophic emotional collapse.
A life out of balance is never a good thing.  Nature is all about balance (matter/antimatter; positive/negative...).  Obsession or addiction to anything (sex, drugs, money, even religion) is never good.
Often the theme of Jesus' ministry was "calling people out" and saying "Get off your butt and get your life back in order.  Quit the 'Poor Me' "  It's never enough to just say "Drug use (or whatever) is bad for you."  It is imperative to find the cause of the obsessive/addictive behavior, educate, remove the element, and help the person get back to living in a balanced lifestyle.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pray, YES, but that's not enough!! We have to lead by example, be involved and TEACH. How many only pray and hope for the best. You can't send your children away. into the world for 8 to 10 hours a day and expect them to miraculously have a relationship with God or you. Every moment of everyday has to have God woven into it or there is no chance. The world wants our children and is tirelessly working around the clock to have them.....are Christians doing the same.? 3 or 4 hours of church or youth group a week is not enough to counter the culture. Every moment of every day people, every moment of every day for our LORD and our Children!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great blog.  You got it exactly right!  As Christian parents we need to be talking to each other, our church leaders, youth pastors and our kids about this and not turning a blind eye.  The battle is raging, let's suit up and speak up!  Praying for my, and all, of our kids.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She was pimped out by those in her life who should've been caring for and about her rather than cashing a check off of her. Luke 17:2 seems sadly apt for them
Tom Robinson More than 1 year ago
Excellent read - concise, and spot on!
seraph_unsung More than 1 year ago
I especially love the prayer at the end--the reason for our hope is not circumstance or convenience but our risen Lord who saw much worse and overcame much worse and holds power over much worse, and He is big enough of a God for me and for everyone.  Blessings to all of you.
Ethan Rogati More than 1 year ago
Adam, from personal experience, is an authority on this topic as he is very much in contact with where the rubber meets the road. What you read is what you get.

Thanks, man. Keep it going.
Rosa Sanchez More than 1 year ago
Thanks, Adam. I so appreciate your encouraging comments. May God continue to bless your work to further His kingdom. 
Marissa More than 1 year ago
While I agree that sex should only be between a woman and her husband and that popular culture's "anything goes" attitude is sinful, I'm also a bit disturbed that this blog post glosses over the actual importance of consent itself--and even seems to paint it as a negative? I certainly hope and assume that no one on this site condones rape (including rape between heterosexual married couples, which is certainly possible), but I don't think labeling sexual consent as a "false gospel" is wise considering that countless women are victims of rape every day. Just look at the rape epidemic on America's college campuses. It's important to teach young people about God's plan for sex, yes, but that and sexual consent are not mutually exclusive.