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Geoff Steurer, MS, LMFT
Friday, August 30 2013

A Response to Miley Cyrus: Where are the Men?

By Geoff Steurer, MS, LMFT Notify me when this author publishesComment on Article
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Miley Cyrus, who has appealed to youngsters as Hannah Montana, gave a raunchy exhibitionist display, stripping down to a nude-colored bikini at the MTV Music Video Awards last Sunday.

"MTV has once again succeeded in marketing sexually charged messages to young children using former child stars and condom commercials -- while falsely rating this program as appropriate for kids as young as 14," Dan Islett, policy director of the Parents’ Television Council complained. Ironically, Miley’s father, Billy Ray Cyrus is on the Board of Directors for the group.

The headlines the morning following her display in front of millions of people both celebrated and criticized her. In the midst of all of this buzz around her shocking performance, I wondered to myself, “what about the men?” Why is it that young women have absorbed the message that to gain notice and acclaim, they have to bare all. Why do so many in the public eye believe that they must not just push the limits of decency, but explode them? Do the men share some of the responsibility for this terrible trend?

One of the photos displayed next to the headline showed an older guy dancing with her. I discovered that he is married with children. Why did he go along with that routine and allow her to be exploited like that? Surely there were men who helped produce the program, there were men in the audience, there were men all around. Where were the men? Or at least, why do men support and celebrate the exploitation and objectifying of women? Why do women allow themselves to make these compromising choices?

For all of the criticism and shame heaped on Miley for her behavior this past weekend, I haven’t heard one commentator mention the fact that she was surrounded by men who did nothing but encourage her. Granted, she’s a 20 year-old adult woman who is more than capable of choosing what she’ll wear and how she’ll behave. However, isn’t there at least one man in her life who might share his concern for what this might be doing to her and others?

I don’t pretend I can or should do anything to influence Miley. I feel genuine sadness for her. All I can do to protect her is not watch her.

I know this is a long shot, but imagine what would happen if all of the men in that building and around the world turned away from her performance to let her know that they weren’t going to take advantage of her body, even if she didn’t have the self-respect to be decent.

I remember hearing President James Faust mention in a BYU devotional that a real man would look away if a woman inadvertently leaned over too far and exposed more than she intended. He said that this is how men protect women. They don’t take advantage of them, whether she intentionally or unintentionally exposes herself.

I also appreciate Elder Richard G. Scott’s admonition about how men share some of the responsibility for how many women focus on the wrong things to find acceptance and belonging. He said:

So many of our sisters are disheartened, even discouraged, and disillusioned. Others are in serious trouble because of the choices they make. Satan has unleashed a seductive campaign to undermine the sanctity of womanhood, to deceive the daughters of God and divert them from their divine destiny. He well knows women are the compassionate, self-sacrificing, loving power that binds together the human family. He would focus their interests solely on their physical attributes and rob them of their exalting roles as wives and mothers.

Brethren, we can and must help them. I fear that much of their plight comes from our own neglect or misdeeds. As a priesthood husband, father, son, or brother, each of us absolutely must help each daughter of God we can to realize what sacred characteristics Father in Heaven has given her. Many are being cheated of the rich, full life and the blessings God would have them receive. Will you help them understand what they are sacrificing as they are led as innocent, blind sheep by those who, for personal gain and self-justification, would rob them of their priceless womanhood? Because it is their nature to give and please others, many women do not realize their intrinsic worth. That loss makes them vulnerable to those who would convince them that their major role is to be physically appealing.

Brethren, as we honor womanhood, each daughter of God will be encouraged to do likewise.[i]

Even though women have individual responsibility to protect their own bodies and dignity, men still are called to protect by creating an environment where women are not taken advantage of or rewarded for demeaning themselves.

President Boyd K. Packer, taught that “some roles are best suited to the masculine nature and others to the feminine nature. Both the scriptures and the patterns of nature place man as the protector…” [ii] When men and women are put in dire physical danger, it’s not even a question about the responsibility and expectation that men will step up and protect women. However, when the danger is spiritual, the roles aren’t as obvious to the spiritually unaware.

You may be wondering how men can protect women, especially since today’s world doesn’t provide many opportunities for men to physically protect women, which is often what we associate with the word “protect.” And, unfortunately, these days, many women (and men, for that matter) think it’s misogynistic for a man to believe that a woman needs to be protected.

Perhaps it helps to expand the definition of “protect” to include words like respect, honor, and cherish. Protecting a woman doesn’t mean that she’s powerless and needs someone to think for her, tell her what to do, or guard her from risk. Instead, protecting is really about men helping to create conditions where women’s divinely designed attributes can thrive.

In today’s sex-saturated environment, women are pressured to emphasize only one area, namely, their physical selves. A protective man will go out of his way to appreciate the women in his life for all of the other attributes she possesses.

President James E. Faust listed out the following attributes of true womanhood: the capacity to love, spirituality, goodness, delicacy, radiance, sensitivity, creativity, charm, natural grace, gentleness, dignity, intuition, and quiet strength.[iii] To that we can add intelligence, depth, leadership, talent, dynamism. Imagine if men were to recognize and celebrate these attributes in their wives, daughters, and sisters.

Protecting women is rooted deeply in understanding the eternal truths about not only women, but also men.


  1. THIS Man is so sick of so called "celebs" degrading themselves for media attention, and the foolish media giving it to them, that I haven't seen the act, only the ongoing hype about it. What would happen if we simply gave them the attention they deserve - ie None... would they shrivel back into normality, or simply resort to increasing extremism (think terrorist mentality) - either way these people will be in for a shock when they come face-to-face with Him who treats us all equal - no respecter of persons - that's the attitude I have now for them - will they handle that when it's universal?
  2. I couldn't have said this any better myself. Thank you very much for this article. I wish we did live in a society where women respected themselves. I appreciate the way you worded this, and let all of us know how to respond when things of this nature happen around us. I feel like this is not the last time we will have to deal with this in our society and it is helpful to know how we can respond in the future.
  3. Let me get this straight. Miley Cyrus did her level best to be as provocative as possible, in order to capture the attention of a thoroughly jaded audience -- and this is somehow the fault of men? I'm all for teaching men to be spiritual leaders, to honor their covenants and honor virtuous womanhood, and, yes, to avert their eyes when necessary. But my experience is that sluts respond to the righteous man who turns away by trying even harder to get in his face. In other words, Joseph was not to blame for Potiphar's wife.
  4. excellent point! zion begins one man or person at time
  5. Thank you so much for speaking out for what women need. I joined this church partly because of the way women and men are the same as far as sexual purity. I wish that, growing up, just one good man would have seen my desperate advances were because I desperately sought for someone to love me. Fortunately I found a really good man who did! Again thank you
  6. Wow! Thank-you
  7. Thank you so much for this thoughtful and articulate article. It is powerful! I especially appreciate the author explaining what "protecting a woman" looks like today: "Protecting a woman doesn’t mean that she’s powerless and needs someone to think for her, tell her what to do, or guard her from risk. Instead, protecting is really about men helping to create conditions where women’s divinely designed attributes can thrive." That is so helpful on many levels. Thank you again.
  8. Thank you for an incredible article, well written and uplifting. Definitely sets the bar for all of us
  9. That was beautiful. Thank you for being such a man.
  10. As I read your article I was a little dumbfounded at your suggestion that men play a big role in women dressing immodestly. I and other men I have talk too, are amassed at how immodest women have become,even many lds women,you cant even go to church now days without seeing cleavage and often a good deal of leg. I was talking to a general authority a few years ago and he said he wondered if some women in the church even new what modesty was anymore. I have talked to guys that have told me if they say anything to their wives about the way they are dressed they are quickly accused of being controlling. I also talking to the seminary teacher in our small town and he told my wife and I that he was told by his superiors to quit teaching modesty in his class because he is offending to many girls and upsetting their mothers.He said the problem is "mother" don't even get it. We cant go any where without seeing immodestly dressed women. It is constantly in our face,and I think women forget that we are men and God put into us a powerful urge. Women are not making it easy. Our gospel doctrine teacher one time directed some comments to the women in the class about modesty and some of the women there were offended. You cant even teach out of strength of youth on modesty. Because many women are not following it and would get offended. If women truly loved their fellow man they would dress modestly.Too many women want to look like Hollywood.Its bad enough to look at porn, but to watch it on the Sabbath.Get rid of the TV. that's what we did 8 yrs ago.As Pres. Hinckely use to put it ,it's full of filth and sleaze.
  11. It is reassuring to know that there are people out there who still understand the sanctity of the temples we have been given. Thank you for your article.
  12. In the grand skeme of eternal history Miley Cyrus who?
  13. An article about Miley appeared on our SAfrican news 24 today, showing Miley in all her glory, ostensibly naked excepting for the skin coloured bikini. They also articulated how she had "fallen" from a child star to what she is now. Also in the news was the fact that her fiance was in the audience and was shocked at her performance, and has subsequently broken off the engagement.. At least he turned out to be "one of the MEN".
  14. AMEN--Geoff!! Thank you for telling it like it really is. If women who show off their bodies to the world, knew how Godly MEN shamefully think of them -- They might never consider exposing themselves. An Honorable, Respectful, Godly Man--A Man who can be fully trusted--Is always mortified when daughters of God expose and dishonor themselves. What does a REAL Woman want from a Man ? Does she want to be held in Reverence, Honor and Respect -- or to be Cheaply and Maliciously Lusted after?
  15. AMEN!!
  16. A lot of truth is spoken here, but we also need to remember is that women should also do the same for men.
  17. Thank you for your article!
  18. Well said!! Thank you!
  19. Thank you for this beautiful article! It was very thought provoking and so honoring of women. And, it looks like you have written some incredible books! Thank you for standing up and being the kind of man you wrote about.
  20. How sad she came so far and then lost so much in such a short span of time. It's so sad when "Disney Stars" forget it was family entertainment that put them where they are and turn their backs on decent performances. Sad, just so sad her life has turned this direction.
  21. We all know how Hollywood has destroyed the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people, all for money.
  22. I didnt watch the show but the NEWS put it out there enough. when I see something lewed it makes me sick literaly. I feel ashamed for her. her moral nature has changed and it begs the question of who she has been hanging around. I noticed that there were african americans in the dance routine and they loved it. if you watch any blacks dancing on Tv they do the same thing and no one says a thing. its as if its expected. well, its imoral when anyone does it or this kind of dancing...the rest of her behavior was just a disgusting as well and tells me she must have low self esteem...why I dont know..because she has gotten tons of attention. apparently its not enough..everyone said she was trying to throw off the little hannah montana personality...she wants to show she is an adult...i have been noticing she is chosing very imoral ways of doing it..which only shows me how immature she is..and must have never grown up.
  23. Thank you for writing such a well written and beautiful description of how we need to support and protect each other, physically and spiritually. We do need men to stand up and help these young woman their potential and not exploit them, but rather show them their true worth. Thank you again! This was just what we all needed to hear and now we need to act.
  24. Answer to the question posed: Because it gets them media attention. You're playing into it. Cut it out.
  25. Excellent article. My husband and I feel the same way. It seems as though so many men enjoy seeing someone like Miley Cyrus become a "bad girl."
  26. I have not seen the video but heard plenty about it. The men at the scene of this performance are in the same cultural boat as Miley, so what can we expect? This is about her, a self-centered ego-propelled entertainer who feels that she has to push the limits to stay relevant. She knows right from wrong and has chosen to exercise her agency. At some point, she will "come to her senses", make some sort of apology and we, the audience will love her all the more. Rubish!
  27. It's interesting how women are so often defined through their relation to mae (i.e. mother, wife, sister, daughter). Your article is a good response on how men can help to prevent the objectification of women. I really appreciated how you didn't discuss modesty, as that is too often a means of policing a women's sexuality, or implying that there is something so overtly sexual about womanhood that it needs to be policed. Over all really good article.
  28. Thank you, Geoff, for writing this article. What a great perspective about the way women should be treated.
  29. And what I notice in all these displays, the men are fully dressed. They are trusted enough to display their talents fully dressed, but the women can only achieve the same thing by being skanky. And why independent, liberated and 'intelligent' women don't see it is beyond my capacity to understand. Your article is correctn where are the decent men?
  30. Very well written. I wonder the same thing about th Mormon feminist movement that going on right now. Do these women not have good righteous men in there lives . A sad commentary.
  31. Geoff Thank you for this post. I run and facilitate the support side for women with spouses or loved ones with the addiction to pornography. We are starting a evolution of women respecting men! Seeing them for who they truly are. Women have so much power to help with this world image. Not in just supporting other women trapped but with our men. If women are taught to focus on mens godly traits and purposes then I feel we sill win so many wars and bring so mush peace to families. Thank you so much for being a light to the world of who men really are
  32. An excellent article, and I appreciate all the comments, including the one about the “dangers” of being a man and attempting to teach Modesty to the sisters, even at church. As a Primary teacher and a Sunday School teacher, I've been accused by women in the ward of being controlling when I teach that the standards set forth by the prophets are for both the men and the women.
  33. Lon you said it all. I was reading, thinking and STEAMING about how to respond until I read your comments and now I don't have to add anything. Thanks, you said it for me.
  34. I agree that men play a role and other people play a role in encouraging such displays, but I also believe each person has their individual agency and it appears that Miley is in some kind of rebellious stage. I don't think her family members or most of her friends are really impressed by it. But why she is going this route I cannot say for certain. But there does seem to be a common theme among adult entertainers to try and be as shocking as possible, take Madonna and Lady Gaga for example.
  35. I’m sorry to see, based on a number of the comments here, that many have missed the point of the article: that rather than slut-shaming and scapegoating a 20-year-old girl for a larger societal problem, we need to be honest about the fact that men bear at least partial responsibility for a culture that encourages and rewards sexually-provocative dress and behavior in women at the expense of their personhood and character. Are you listening guys? Utah has the highest per-capita rate of internet porn consumption in the country. Can we please drop the pretentious judgement? I’m glad to see this article and its call for both men and women to step up to the plate. That said, I would make a couple suggestions to the author: we need to be careful about the language and rhetoric we use in order to avoid subtle sexist messages that make the problem worse. The repeated references to “protecting” women’s modesty implies that women’s sexuality needs to be controlled by men. Do we feel that respecting women isn’t enough? Consider this: if all men simply respected women by refraining from physically objectifying them at the expense of their substantive qualities, there would be little women would need “protection” from. Unless this is really about protecting women from themselves? (i.e. women’s sexuality needs to be controlled by men). The other issue I take with the article is its message that men should respect/protect women because of their role as wives and mothers. Shouldn’t men respect women simply because they’re fellow human beings and children of God? Not all women are wives and mothers, either by circumstance or choice. If a woman is not a wife or mother or prospective wife or mother is it okay to objectify her? Shouldn’t this be about basic human decency?
  36. Are you kidding me! I am father of two daughters and grandfather of five granddaughters. All seven of these girls are good and morally upright, largely due to their upbringing of which I played some small part. I've never watched MTV - never will and discourage anyone, including my children and grandchildren from doing so. During this past week the Miley Cyrus debacle has dominated news and social media with reactions that range from moral outrage to celebrity acclaim. Deplorable as it has been, those involved are endowed by their Creator with agency and have the constitutional right to act and say whatever they please. But now, according to Mr. Steurer, this is somehow my fault? I am astonished and offended at the notion. There is only one man I can definitively assign blame in the slide-into-slut of Hannah Montana and that man is Ms. Cyrus' father Billy Ray. For anyone else, including Geoff Steurer and the producers of Meridian Magazine, to point fingers at me and other men is objectionable and offensive. It gives me pause as I consider the wisdom in continuing to subscribe to this version of 'the news'.
  37. Many of us men have been discouraged from "protecting" women by their actions. I'll never forget the first time I stood on a bus to offer my seat to a woman, and then took verbal abuse for being a "Neanderthal" who thought that women were "weak and helpless." Cyrus and others have their free agency, and most of them know what proper actions are. I love and protect my wife, daughter and granddaughters, as well as the women who welcome that protection. I can't do a lot for the others who scorn any respect or efforts at protection as being vestiges of chauvinism.
  38. I couldn't watch more then a few seconds of Miley's "act". And more disturbing was her Dad's responce "There are terrible things going on in Seria, focus on that". It is sad that every sexual orientation didn't turn that trash off. Robin Thicke stood there and let her do it to him. It is not just mens job to turn their backs. As for the comment about more cleavage and shorter skirts being show, how about the ultra tight pants I see on the men's suits and the skinny jeans worn to ward activities by men. President Faust's comments are lovely, but I find LDS men to feel "entitled" to a pretty wife. Seen it on the LDS dating sites for a few yrs now (I am widowed). Men are more visual, and being a covered from head to toe pioneer woman will not get you a mate in you SA yrs.
  39. I feel very sorry for the poor half-wit. Her father warned all of us this was coming, and the source is not her own lack of self-respect, but the parasites that surround her, planning her degradation with Machiavellian precision and amorality. This will boost her career, so they can even pretend they're doing her right as well. In every one of these child-star-gone-bad cases, it's the vile and despicable adults that pushed the kid down the stairs. And parasites come in both sexes. Ask Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes about how it's working out for them; these antics might boost the career short term, but never answers in the end.
  40. Several years back, I was leaving the SLC Temple after attending a wedding/sealing with the spiritual lift accompanying only to come around the corner to see 9-10 yellow gowned bridesmaids obviously waiting for the call to picture taking with their bridal party within. Each dress had a deliberate matching decolletage (low, very revealing neckline) for fashion purposes no doubt. It was shocking to me that the design was so deliberately following the world's fashions. Since the purpose of these fashions is to be a prelude to immorality, is it any wonder we have so many moral problems as a people. The world is too much with us.

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