If you're a GLEEK - or a geek like me who loves perusing through magazine stands - you couldn't have missed this super-sexy and scandalous GQ cover of GLEE stars Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, and Dianna Agron. Both the infamous stars and magazine have lit some fire and sparked some "hot" controversy (in more ways than one!), adding in butt gropes at the hands of Monteith and lingerie peekaboo's unraveled from the clothes of Michele to the already-conventionally sexualized men's magazine and entertainment industry.
The Parents Television Council, however, believes that GQ, a magazine that clearly targets men, shouldn't be presenting women who portray underage characters in such an adult and provocative manner. They even quote "it borders on pedophilia," which raises the burning question - does it?
Well, to answer that question, we'd have to answer if the photographic theme here also steps over boundaries defining "children" and "pornography" - or "child pornography." Disturbingly enough, if you gallivant the internet or adult video stores, you'll discover youth - or 18-and-19-year-olds made up and primped to appear youthful - dressed up scantily clad in porn designed to sexualize "teen" or "high school" girls. There are even adult magazines that fetishize and search only for girls who just turned 18 to pose! Even if the actresses there really are over the age of majority, the fact that "glamour" but "non-porn" men's magazines are making already-young girls look younger - in their recognizable "high school" level brand, nonetheless - indirectly promotes or implies the thought to contemplate pedophilia.
But, just because the men that will pick up this issue will think about these things while gazing at the girls doesn't mean they'll actually do anything about it. Pedophilia can also be ignited by one's DNA or childhood; some levels of sociopath are born this way, while others, unfortunately, have been raised in abusive households - taught to be violent and aggressive. So, if we conclude that GQ - or any magazine, for that matter - "borders on pedophilia," then wouldn't everyone become a pedophile while reading it? Not to mention what constitutes as porn can be made synonymous to any of the many "sexy" photographs taken by various female celebrities and their young fans on Facebook and MySpace walls. So, you can't say that every source of flesh - ounce of cleavage or leg flaunted in a club or on a beach - fulfills the purpose of pornography i.e. to sexually entice the consumer.
But, when the girl in the photo really is under 18 - and the photo is a little bit sexier than showing some midriff, potentially even having the girl caress herself or perform a sexual act to some extent (especially when it's glamorized by a mainstream publication) - the definition of "child pornography" blurs quite rapidly. In fact, so rapidly that evidence of this type of "photography" or "pornography" featuring female celebrities was born years ago - only these stars were actually underage.
Remember that classic April 1999 Rolling Stone cover of then-newcomer Britney Spears in a push-up bra and short-shorts rubbing against a Teletubbie (I think it was Tinky Winky)? She just turned 17 at the time of shooting (Brit was born in December 1981, so do the math). Let's not forget her also-sexualized high schoolgirl kilt, bra, and vest combo in her debut "Baby One More Time" video (which was ironically also emulated by Lea Michele in Glee - on the show and in GQ. Recall my previous post about the episode a few weeks ago). Britney was still 16, when she shot that video. Despite the fact that the sexy schoolgirl and cheerleader was always a common fantasy for men, it wasn't always for the reason of pedophilia but for the reason of regression to an earlier stage in their lives - when they were adolescents themselves, lusting or crushing after the sweet girl next door or the popular cheerleader princess. But, Britney definitely brought the sexy schoolgirl back, hence Glee's choice of that video and the many girls that aspired to the hiked kilts, unbuttoned shirts, and timeless Halloween costumes after that.
Then, there was Jessica Biel in a 1999 cover of Gear Magazine. She was barely 17, when she shot that cover - and she was topless in a not-so-implied way, covering her bare breasts with her hands. In this case, she was touching her nude breasts to stimulate a sexual response from male readers. Well, at least, that's what the magazine wanted her to do...
Which leads us to our next subject and question. Did the magazine take advantage of Jessica Biel as a minor, or was Jessica Biel fully aware of what she was about to do? Just like was Billy Ray Cyrus, the adult father of a 15-year-old Miley Cyrus who both consented to the backless - or implied topless - photo of Miley perceived to be sitting from a sideview angle? Here, Vanity Fair argued that the photos were permitted by both parties and considered to be "artistic and classy," while the Cyrus family said they gave into Vanity Fair's instructions and "puppy dog eyes."
So, who's really to blame here? The girls or the magazines - or the both? Or maybe the industry that pressures these magazines and girls to work together in the first place? Well, if we took this issue of GQ to a healthy man and a pedophile, could we illicit different responses?