Miley Cyrus writhes around on the floor in a plastic red second skin, aggressively grasping her curves with her claw-clad hands down to her studded crotch. “Don’t f-ck with my freedom.” She lectures again and again through her lyrics, as the phrases “virginity is a social construct” and “tough titties” flicker strobe-like on the screen.
The unabashed vulgarity of the once-child star who gave us the best of both worlds now defying goodness in this hellish spectacle was disgustingly hypnotic — I couldn’t believe what my eyes were absorbing. This is what my mind flicked back to as I took in the hyper-sexualized Super Bowl LIV halftime show.
Frankly, the Shakira and J. Lo spectacular looked a bit like an episode of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” compared to the Miley smut, but nonetheless, a sexcapade it was. The only interruption from the bedazzled cleavage, stripper-pole suspension and booty-shaking extravaganza was the introduction of a child dance troupe, including Jennifer Lopez’s 11-year-old daughter, continuing the ongoing trend of subjecting minors to unfettered promiscuity and sexualization. If anyone should be shielded from the pseudo-empowerment of self-objectification, it should be 11-year-old girls, yet here we are, thrusting them into the center of it.
While some lauded the show as fierce and full of “feminine energy,” others pushed back. One USA Today opinion article probed whether the Super Bowl ought to come with a parental warning, and National Review disputed J. Lo’s characterization of the display as “empowering.”
Sex Is Everywhere
Sex here. Sex there. Sex everywhere. Our culture is overwhelmingly desensitized to sexual content, and that prompts quite a set of problems. Besides encouraging ongoing female objectification and pornographic sexual expectations, a hyper-sexualized display in the middle of the Super Bowl, a network television prime-time sporting event, cripples parents and corrupts children. In the age of Me Too and clinical consent culture, it’s staggering how much eroticism is pushed onto unwilling children and parents, who are left to police halftime entertainment and even commercials if they want to be responsible.
On the flip-side, why are we pretending we’re surprised? I expected to see a carnal halftime show. I didn’t expect to see viewers shocked that prime-time television could include such a sexualized performance.
“It was disappointing that the millions of NFL fans — including families with young children — watching the Super Bowl were treated to a sexually-charged halftime show,” said Melissa Henson, program director for the Parents Television Council. “It’s too bad the little girls on stage during the halftime show were watching the pole dancing instead of the Olay STEM commercials. It’s unfortunate that such hyper-sexualized content was given a main stage at this event.”
Of course, the sex show wasn’t a net benefit. It was arguably a degenerate 15 minutes, further debasing what seems to be one of the final vestiges of our monoculture, tilting the world a little more toward depravity and away from decency.
Pornhub searches for “Shakira” and “Jennifer Lopez” skyrocketed, increasing 1,401 percent and 381 percent, respectively. According to Pornhub Insights, “The per-minute data also shows us that as soon as halftime began, a large number of people immediate headed to Pornhub before returning to the show. Then just before the beginning of the third quarter, we see more people return to Pornhub for a quick break.” “Super Bowl” and “Superbowl” searches shot up 5,000 percent on game day, with huge spikes in searches for cheerleader-related content.
“I don’t expect the world to act like the church,” evangelist Franklin Graham said on Facebook. “But our country has had a sense of moral decency on prime-time television in order to protect children. We see that disappearing before our eyes.”
Since When is Prime Time TV Wholesome?
Moral decency on prime time? Really?
The scanty outfits Shakira and J. Lo sported resembled nearly every costume displayed on “Dancing with the Stars,” which has been filling ABC prime time since 2005. Do you prefer television centered on an unmarried couple in an open relationship banging in a windmill? Sure, switch over to an episode of “The Bachelor,” or turn it up a notch with “Bachelor in Paradise.” Welcome to weekday prime-time television, folks.
Part of the shock about the halftime show comes from the fact that it occurs in the middle of a football game, which should be free from that sort of corruption and safe for children. Is nothing sacred? But football has proved that it, more than most things, isn’t safe from influences: politics in national anthem kneeling, social justice in rainbow Coldplay halftime shows, consumerism in advertising, and sex — everywhere.
The reality is this: Sex sells, and the demand for it will never run out. The higher the ratings climb, the more the profiteers supply. And why wouldn’t they? In the economy of sex, we never run deficits.
Hyper-Sexualized Entertainment Is the Expectation
So despite the best efforts of those who are rightly concerned about moral bankruptcy, over-sexualization will never go away. The Overton Window has shifted leagues to the left, making sexual impropriety itself the standard. For conservatives, this isn’t a reason to stop fighting cultural battles with vigor, but it should remind us that wins for wholesomeness are the exception, not the rule. For Christians, in parenting as in personal affairs, we were never meant to feel at home here.
If J.Lo weren’t dangling from a pole, the cameraman would still be shoving his lens right up into some Dallas cheerleader’s cleavage. Cosmopolitan magazines would still be littering waiting rooms. Lizzo would still be naked on her album cover. Miley Cyrus would still be gyrating mostly nude. And “Dancing with the Stars” commercials would still interrupt otherwise child-friendly programming.
It would be really great if parents could cart their kids off to a fun Super Bowl party without relinquishing remote sovereignty and compromising their kids’ innocence. Prudence requires acute attentiveness. But the hyper-sexualized Shakira and J. Lo halftime show wasn’t uniquely corrupt. It was right on brand with the rest of cultural depravity.