Betty Denim wrote:David, as usual, I want to agree with you because you’re generally right and eloquently so, but I just want to offer another viewpoint, which is that I don’t necessarily think art and life have to correspond. I honestly don’t see a problem with wanting to be a virgin until you’re married and making sexy music and videos. People know the difference and if they don’t they should. Frankly, women can wear and do whatever the hell they like and still not want to actually have sex; it’s an essential prerogative. If she’d been an actress who advertised her virginity yet had frequent nude and sex scenes in films would that have been hazardous? It's make-believe, showmanship, entertainment...'art' doesn't have to have anything to do with your life. It works both ways in music too. Look at George Michael: a purveyor of mostly MOR heterosexual love songs who, by his own admission, has spent much of his adult life shagging strange men in public bogs, and good for him. Music and art can be about altered images and acting out polar opposites to your actual life; arguably it’s better that way.
I'd normally agree with you completely, Sarah, but I do think that there was something particularly damaging about the concoction that Britney was presenting at the time. Her pronouncements about her sexuality were (as I remember ... this could all fall down if I don't recall it right!) prudish and quite obviously meant to act as an encouragement to others to follow her in abstinence. They were categorical, and representative of a worldview that a lot of her fanbase would have been pressured into accepting from a lot of angles. I don't think that her young, Middle American fans could have made your distinction between art and life; for them, rejecting sex before marriage is a big moral issue which you don't make exceptions for, especially not art.
You might well say that Britney doesn't have any responsibility to give up her right to experiment just because she's got a large following of naive fans. Objectively, I guess you're right. But if she was open-minded enough about sexuality to play about with hers in raunchy songs, she should have been open-minded enough to know that not everyone would share her moral view about sex before marriage. She really shouldn't have made herself a spokesperson for celibacy. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I realise that I don't feel at all outraged about 'Slave 4 U': just the fact that she was bleating on about her piety around its release. That's the part that bugs me.
So yeah, of course she can have a personal conviction about saving herself for marriage and still play out sexual personas in her art - as you say, that's her right. But the issue with Britney is that she made herself out to be this avatar for celibacy who just wouldn't have feasibly had those subtle distinctions. The result was - and I stand by this - damagingly hypocritical. The people who looked up to her as a role model for sexual ethics would have seen her happily be objectified (which she no doubt was
, immaterial of whether she felt empowered by it) while disavowing the right to any of the pleasure or self-fulfillment of actual sex.