Miley Cyrus and a Criticism of Pansexuality

Miley Cyrus recently “came out” as pansexual.  I’d like to believe her position represents enjoyment of the freedoms of postmodern liberation, but unfortunately this may be too optimistic.

My suspicion is that Miley Cyrus’ pansexuality, gender fluidity, and hyperbolic sexual exhibitionism cover an equally massive sense of emptiness.

What this all means to you has a great deal to do with what you think motivates sexual activity and gendered behavior.  What do you think we’re doing when we’re having what we like to call relationships?

She says she is driven by das Es, I say she is driven by das Über-Ich.

You don’t have to care who is driving, but I sometimes wonder where the car is going.

After The Orgy

There is a joke that goes like this:  A man finds himself waiting at a glory hole until a stranger enters the stall next to him.  Excitedly he asks the stranger “So, what are you into?”  The stranger replies “Anything.  Everything.”  Horrified and filled with disgust the first man flees from the bathroom.  After all, he thinks, a discriminating taste is something all decent people share.

“I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn’t involve an animal and everyone is of age. Everything that’s legal, I’m down with. Yo, I’m down with any adult — anyone over the age of 18 who is down to love me. I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl,” Miley Cyrus in Paper Magazine

Sounds like someone who isn’t a person except by virtue of her odd preoccupation with the only two powers she acknowledges –  love and the law.  Perhaps there is something there about love for the law…or what the law might symbolize…

Clearly I have some issues I am projecting here.  However, I maintain that what comes across from Miley as countertransference has nothing to do with her sense of enjoying herself and everything to do with her needing others to know there is nothing to be ashamed of. Enjoy thyself!   It’s not encouragement, it’s an injunction.

Miley doesn’t enjoy sex.  She’s an activist for other peoples freedom from oppression.  If she enjoyed sex that much she’d be at the bottom of a naked pile of writhing lubed up genderqueers.  It’s about being right and good as an activist in flight from guilt and shame.  She’s still the good girl Disney and her father wanted her to be, she just has squirrelier friends.  After all, those who can, do – those who can’t, advertise.

What actually relieve shame is empathy.  To empathize with shame requires that you realize shame is natural, as is the injunction that you shouldn’t be ashamed.  Empathy requires identification and sympathy and you can’t sympathize with shame if you have to be right that there is nothing to be ashamed about.  In the long run it is intepretation which cures – the understanding of subjective process.  Not just the intellectual understanding, but the experience of the feelings along with an identification of their meaning.  My interpretation is that Miley tries to rid herself of shame and guilt by relieving it in others.

She spent too long being an object for other peoples use, and is now trying to solve that problem by being a better object, you know, the right kind.

It probably sounds like I’m saying she shouldn’t do this.  It’s all quite ordinary at 22.  Rather I’m saying she can’t enjoy doing it on purpose.  After all, then she’d realize she got it from her mother.

Before the Ceremony

“I’m very open about it — I’m pansexual. But I’m not in a relationship. I’m 22, I’m going on dates, but I change my style every two weeks, let alone who I’m with,” Cyrus, Elle UK.

This doesn’t sound like someone motivated by love, or even possessive erotic drives.  It sounds like finding a look you can live with.  Again, all too ordinary at 22 – but how one resolves the ordinariness (or not wanting it to be ordinary) is the telling part.

Freud’s most sinister insight is that the conscious pursuit of pleasure baits the superego.  As Adam Phillips notes, “There is no one more moralistic, more coercive, than a hedonist.”  Miley is pursuing righteousness, not pleasure, and as such should be understood as a temple prostitute. 

“Coming out” can be an attempt to eliminate an uncomfortable secret which closes the distance between you and those you care about.  It can also be an attempt to forestall anxiety about future criticism – trying to control peoples future response to your actions by controlling the narrative.  Think Brother Rabbit telling Brother Fox not to throw him into the Briar patch – anything but that.  Which of course the rabbit only said after getting caught in the tar.


All that being said, I hope you realize I am writing this because I have a crush on her.

Mary Douglas in Purity and Danger showed us how to some extent all cultures have an obsession with some form of moral, hygienic or aesthetic purity.  One way this used to show up was gender and sexual purity.  The new religion is being free of prejudice, judgement, and privilege.    Who then are the new heretics, and what parts of oneself must be denied to achieve this new purity?

As the purity project of neo-liberal identity politics nears the final solution, new targets of blame and projection of disgust, hatred and bigotry will be sought and needed as the internal awareness of having these (impure) feelings becomes increasingly intolerable.

You know, male cross dressers are still viewed as perverts if they admit they do it because they enjoy it.  But if you’re authentically transgendered, you’re a fucking hero.