She’s Only Seventeen

Today, I saw the new cover of Revolver Magazine. The cover model was Taylor Momsen of the Pretty Reckless. Momsen is best known for being on Gossip Girl. Now I don’t watch Gossip Girl but I’m pretty sure the image she portrays in the show is probably quite different from her Pretty Reckless style. She’s highly sexualized in her purposefully trashy lingerie. Here’s the thing that raises red flags is that she’s barely 17. What is with rock and roll’s jailbait obsession?

In the 70’s, it was the Runaways. On one hand, the Runaways were attempting to take the power back by using sex as a weapon. But that doesn’t change the fact that there was a 16 year old Cherie Currie dressed in stockings, corsets and not much else. So the question has to be asked, was their feminism lost upon a large chunk of the audience who were just caught up in the shock of it all.

A decade later, there was Bow Wow Wow. The band started off as a way for infamous Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren to advertise a clothing line, but it became something more. Bow Wow Wow’s career was littered with controversy surrounding the sexualization of 14 year old lead singer Annabella Lwin including the band’s version of the Manet’s painting Le déjeuner sur l’herbe with Lwin as the naked woman. Lwin’s mother was outraged at how her daughter was being portrayed. Still, McLaren swore he wasn’t pushing Lwin as a “sex kitten”. Take a look at the video for “I Want Candy” from a year later and it’s clear that he was still pushing her sexuality.

In the 90’s, there was Samantha Fox. She was appearing topless in UK newspapers at age 16. Fast forward two years, she’s got a singing career built around innuendo filled songs like “I Wanna Have Some Fun” and not so subtle songs like “Touch Me (I Want Your Body)”. Meanwhile, those underage pictures were shopped around as posters and other bits of memorabilia. I can remember seeing ads to buy them in the back of the heavy metal magazines I bought as a kid.

What is the obsession with half naked youths in rock music? And why is Momsen marching down that road? With the Runaways, there was Kim Fowley helping to craft that image; McLaren was the puppetmaster behind BowWowWow; and Samantha Fox’s parents helped mold their daughter into being a sex symbol. What (or who) is fueling the 17 year old Momsen to do music videos like the Pretty Reckless’ “Miss Nothing” where she writhed on a table dressed in barely anything before a group of male onlookers? Now, I know that it’s supposed to be some sort of art statement with the men representing the Last Supper and her as Mary Magdalene, and the moral is “I don’t need to be saved”. But when does acting like a stripper at a bachelor party cry out liberation?

And why does the music world promote it?


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