Pop-Culture | Posted by Julie Z on 08/11/2010

Justin Bieber and Double Standards

Justin Bieber: puppies, bunnies and rainbows

Justin Bieber: puppies, bunnies and rainbows

Justin Bieber may be the closest my generation will ever get to Beatlemania. The kid sings purely romantic non-graphic songs about his “baby” (that would be you, dear 13 year old girls of the world) and his face looks a new born puppy snuggling with a bunny under a rainbow. And, really, I have nothing against him personally despite the fact that my cynical heart tends to look at celebrities my own age and roll its eyes in disgust. My problem with him mainly lies in the way our society reacts to him.

I recently got my Bust Magazine in the mail (an epic monthly event for me). I very much enjoy the “Pop-Tart” column, but this week’s analysis of the double standards of Bieber fever, written by Wendy McClure, really resonated with me. Basically, the article is written from the perspective of Miley Cyrus, who claims that while she was expected to be a role model from day one and her every move was scrutinized – all while trying to grow up and find her own identity in an environment that is hyper-sexualized to begin with- Bieber was always just the “little brother” of famous pop stars (Usher, Taylor Swift, whoever) just having fun. As “Miley” says, “Maybe one day, everyone will stop worrying about my virginity and I’ll get to play big sister to some aspiring teenage pop star. If I do, maybe I’ll tell her to cut her hair short, learn to swagger, and pass as a boy so she can become the next Justin Bieber instead of the next Miley Cyrus. Bet she’ll have a lot more fun that way and won’t have to apologize for anything.”

Kim Kardashian, are you trying to seduce me?

Kim Kardashian, are you trying to seduce me?

And I think this double standard is real, especially as recently evidenced by Justin Bieber’s photo shoot with Kim Kardashian. Jezebel recently posted the pictures from the shoot, describing the concept as “Graduate Themed.” So, Justin Bieber, 16-year-old-boy, can play the seducee to 29-year-old Kim Kardashian’s seductress without causing ANY kind of commotion whatsoever (at least that I’ve heard of) but Miley Cyrus poses with her back exposed and we COMPLETELY FREAK OUT about its sexual implications?

Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus and her slutty back

SERIOUSLY? And even that pose with her Dad – yeah, maybe it was a little creepy, but I think the seduction of a minor should be talked about a little bit more than what is essentially a Daddy/Daughter photo.

I don’t think this phenomenon is limited to Bieber or Miley either. Recently, when doing interviews for the Karate Kid, 11-year-old Jaden Smith suggestively responded to a question about his first on-screen kiss by telling the audience that he was “already a good kisser.” He also lifted his shirt to show off his abs, which Jackie Chan and the male talk show host marveled at. Substitute any of these acts with an 11-year-old girl and you’d be faced with concerns that the girl had either been sexually abused/was a sexually active slut/was the sign of a decaying society. When Jaden does it, he’s just on the right track to being a player – he’s admired.

I think this has to stop with us. Bieber’s fans are primarily (okay…totally) teenage girls. It’s up to us to recognize that we hold celebrities to different moral standards depending on their gender. Maybe if our generation starts to see Miley Cyrus exposing her back as a normal part of her growing up and attempting to explore her sexuality and looks at Kim Kardashian seducing an underage teen pop singer as inappropriate, things will start to balance out.

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  • O'Phylia @ at 12:00 pm, August 11th, 2010

    Miley Cyrus exposing her back is just that: “Hey look! I haz a back!” The reaction to her doing that was the most eye-roll inducing moments I’ve ever had.

    Then the Teen Choice Awards came.
    Then she stood next to a pole.
    And lo and behold, the Internet said “It was not good.” And thus, the Web exploded with “zOMG!!! MILEY POLE DANCES.”

    Seriously people? Seriously?

    You’re absolutely right about the double standard. Why Justin Bieber is seen as attractive is beyond me, but I don’t hate him. I don’t see why on earth is it okay for him to take pics with Kim Kardashian while she’s wearing lingerie, but Miley exposes her back and kittens all over the planet die.

  • Danielle @ at 2:16 pm, August 11th, 2010

    AWESOME point. Even though I, um, don’t exactly “care” for Miley OR Bieber, it’s not fair that they’re treated differently based on their genders. Now that you mention it, it does seem like young women in Hollywood are constantly scrutinized for their actions, and anything that’s a tad risque (according to our sensitize public) sets everybody on high alert. But boys – we applaud when they show signs of a “player” in the making. God, that makes me sick!

    But that’s pretty much how it is in real life, too.

  • Danielle @ at 2:17 pm, August 11th, 2010

    *Woops, I meant “sensitive.”

  • Roni @ at 3:53 pm, August 11th, 2010

    Great post. I never understood why people freaked out about Miley Cyrus posing like that. Society basically pressures her into doing something like that, but then criticizes her when she does. Also, I think if you replaced Justin Bieber with a female celebrity his age, and Kim Kardashian with a male celebrity of the same age, people would have absolutely gone crazy over it. I personally find those photos disturbing.

    As, for Jaden Smith– not cool. If my eleven-year-old brother told me he was a great kisser and showed me his abs I would be pretty disgusted. Is there really that much of a difference between being a “player” and being a “whore” besides the fact that one is seen as “good” and the other as “bad”?

    By the way, I don’t know any girls my age who like Justin Bieber. I do, however, know a 5-year-old and a few preteens who absolutely love him.

  • Bobby @ at 4:16 pm, August 11th, 2010

    Your really pushing to find something here .. How about you just relax and let biebs live his life ?

  • The Raisin Girl @ at 4:53 pm, August 11th, 2010

    I think an even more apt comparison would be Taylor Lautner and Miley Cyrus. Miley Cyrus shows her back and, while on stage, acts for all intents and purposes like a tamer version of what can be seen on high school dance floors, and she’s “growing up too fast” and “being way too sexual.”

    But Taylor Lautner, who just crossed the line between “jailbait” and “barely legal” last February, appears in two movies all half-naked and looking like he’s been rubbed down with oil…and girls and women from menses to menopause (and a few who’ve already gone through “the change”) are screaming his name in theatres, giggling when he takes his shirt off, and Googling him obsessively? And it’s, what, amusing? That women old enough to be his grandmother were ogling his abs before he’d reached the legal age of consent? That’s gross!

    But no, Miley Cyrus’s is MUCH WORSE. She showed her back.

    Don’t get me wrong. I hated the Miley video that caused so much buzz. That awful song got stuck in my head for weeks, and I nearly gagged at the sight of a 17-year-old girl (my baby sister’s age, btw) whose face still had that round, babyish teenaged look to it, writhing around wearing peacock feathers and a pin-up outfit and making sex-me face at the camera. But I don’t do double standards. The Lautner thing is just as gross, and the Bieber/Kardashian thing skirts the borders of even being legal.

    How about NOT encouraging teenaged girls OR boys to sexualize themselves so early on? Sure, sexuality is normal, but sexual exploitation isn’t. Eventually, teenagers get curious and start to experiment with and discover their sexuality. And they should be educated, but not have it shoved down their throats all the time. I think it comes on a lot sooner now than would be natural, and I think that this is a cycle: teen celebrities are hypersexualized, and teen culture imitates this, so teen celebrities are hypersexualized…

  • Tessa @ at 10:17 pm, August 11th, 2010

    Yes, I definitely agree. Double Standards exist in our society, and we see them everywhere. And “RaisinGirl” makes an interesting point when she compares Taylor Lautner and Miley Cyrus. I think this is a more apt comparision, simply because Taylor Lautner is allowed to take his shirt off in EVERY movie without anyone blinking an eye. However, when Miley shows her back people start calling her a slut or bad role-model. Same thing with Hayley Williams. People were “upset” with her (there was a great post about this at fbomb) and wanted to boycott her music or whatever. Assuming that she posted the pictures herself rather than a hacker, there is NOTHING WRONG (at least in my opinion) with a grown woman posting shirtless photos of herself if that’s what she wants to do. Female and male sexuality should be percieved as equal in our society.

  • Ryan @ at 2:49 pm, August 12th, 2010

    “Female and male sexuality should be percieved as equal in our society.”

    Interesting notion but I simply avoid women who sleep around and who are indiscriminate as to who they have sex with. Women on the other hand are likely to think a man must be a catch and is desirable if many women want to sleep with him.

    If a woman is indiscriminate as to who she chooses it certainly tells you something about her. Men don’t choose who we sleep with.

  • Tessa @ at 7:14 pm, August 12th, 2010


    Perhaps you percieve sexuality in a different way than I do, and that’s alright. However, women can and do sleep around with anyone they want, and they should not be given any flak for it. Men are never called sluts or whores (maybe manwhores, but the fact that society even needs to attatch “man” tells you something) and it’s an obvious double standard. They’re simply called players, which has different, more positive connotations than a slut.

    In my opinion, Ryan, it doesn’t tell me *anything* about a woman if she sleeps around indiscriminately. If that’s what she chooses to do, I’m not going to respect her any less as a human being. And you shouldn’t either.

    Also, saying that women are likely to want a man to be “catch” is a stereotype. Even when adding the “likely” part. Making generalizations about the sexual interests of men and women get us nowhere because every individual has different tastes. At least in my current high school experience, that stereotype is not true.

  • kanadra @ at 11:33 pm, August 12th, 2010

    If a woman is indiscriminate as to who she chooses it certainly tells you something about her. Men don’t choose who we sleep with.

    Men don’t chose who they sleep with? For real? Men have no say in whether they sleep with a woman or not? I’m not sure I quite understand that. How can anyone, man or woman, short of rape or an arranged marriage, have “no say” in who they sleep with?

    Also, I believe your entire comment has nothing to do with the actual post, here. I’m jus’ sayin’.

  • Tavi @ at 11:50 pm, August 12th, 2010

    @Bobby: The author of this article isn’t blaming Bieber for his actions, she’s pointing out what’s wrong with the way WE as a society respond to them.

    Anyway, great article, Julie! No one got upset over Bieber’s “love how you do me” lyric, either. “I can’t be tamed,” though. Dangerous stuff.

  • Sarah @ at 2:49 pm, August 15th, 2010

    My sister listens to Justin Bieber, so I’ve heard some of the lyrics that are in the songs. I find them creepy, and not at all romantic.

    “My prized possession” for instance in ‘Favorite Girl’.

    Another song that sends chills down my spine (and really, really, not in a good way) is ‘Runaway Love’.

    Is this him writing the lyrics, with some messed up version of how relationships work in his head? Or is there a big team of writers and producers, pushing these kinds of dangerous lyrics into these songs that are so religiously listened to by teenagers? They portray, and ‘big-up’ an idea of love that is not healthy.

  • savannah @ at 6:53 pm, August 15th, 2010

    i want to have sex with justin bieber

  • Mary @ at 12:38 pm, August 17th, 2010

    Hoo!, I just dream about Justin.

    We saw him in condert here about a month ago – and it was just brilliant.

    I just saw that he’s going to have his biopic made about him! How great is that?

    He’s even going to be in it!

    The man who is making it is even going to make it in 3D. I can’t wait.

  • Niamh @ at 2:01 am, August 18th, 2010

    It basically comes down to the fact that the female body is sexualized an incredible amount by society.

    This fits in with all the other examples: women breastfeeding in public being seen as wrong (after all, boobs are only men’s playthings, you hear?) or immoral, a woman’s skimpy clothing being seen as an invitation while a man’s being seen as “well, it’s hot!”.

    There are countless examples.

    Great post!

  • K8 AH @ at 8:19 pm, August 19th, 2010

    I loved the Bust article! It was both funny and sad… I am glad you referenced it here Julie!

  • Kat @ at 2:31 pm, August 20th, 2010

    Bieber’s lyrics creep me out. “Baby”‘s all about maintaining a relationship through purchasing presents, “One less lonely girl” makes me think of serial killers (esp. line “I’m coming for you”). These lyrics are really problematic; one way that pimps lure underage girls into prostitution is through buying them lots of things, which because that’s what society (reinforced by songs like Justin Bieber’s) says constitutes romance. The stockholm syndrome begins at that point…

  • Tessa @ at 4:21 pm, August 21st, 2010


    I agree that the Bieber’s songs are creepy, but comparing it to prostitution takes it too far. Comparing buying a gift for someone you “love” (I don’t get the feeling that Bieber truly respects these girls, and for me love=respect) to prostitution is wrong. My boyfriend and I buy each other little gifts all the time, but that doesn’t mean we’re encouraging prostitution. That comparision is disturbing.

  • Sweeney @ at 6:25 pm, August 25th, 2010

    i think justin bieber is gay

  • Yb @ at 9:39 pm, September 16th, 2010

    yo tru dat ma man dis post is so right!

  • Fisfup @ at 9:43 pm, September 16th, 2010

    yo tru dat ma mane dis post is so right!

  • Natalia K @ at 2:04 am, September 18th, 2010

    I totally agree with this post and the double standards that exist in our society. However, I think this kind of behavior should be looked down upon for BOYS AND GIRLS. I’m sorry children, but we know you’re doing it for attention. And I don’t blame them, they learn it from adults! I don’t do double standards either which is why I call both men and women whores :)

  • Yvonne @ at 1:27 pm, September 26th, 2010

    I more or less agree with Natalia. This kind of behavior from boys AND girls should be looked down on. I mean, seriously, if an 11 year old boy suggests that he’s been a good kisser ALREADY, shouldn’t that be called into question and looked down on? Really? The hyper-sexualization of our culture is a downward spiral that trickles down into kids. I feel like when I was 11, sex was the last thing I wanted to even talk about. Now it’s like 11 year olds are jumping in the sack and giving oral sex just for kicks and giggles. I’m only 26! How quickly did things regress??

    And as a note to a previous comment, myself and several women I know find men who sleep around to be detestable and not desirable at all. Good luck finding a stable relationship.

  • Yvonne @ at 1:30 pm, September 26th, 2010

    Oh, an additional note about Beiber. I find his behavior completely inappropriate along with Miley. I’m all for finding your own identity sure, but why screaming your sexuality or studliness with it is beyond me.

    Another double standard that I don’t know is ever looked at is 40yr old women screaming over Twilight boys (or, in this case 29yr olds seducing 16yr olds) whereas if men did that they would be thrown in jail. It’s wrong either way you look at it.

  • Tan @ at 2:14 pm, September 28th, 2010

    This is a very good point, I never really thought about this double standard but it makes complete sense. Why should an underage boy be allowed to be seduced by a 29 year old woman, while a young woman has to apologize for a taking a picture with her back showing? I fail to see any equality in this. And again, with Jaden Smith, this kid isn’t even 12 yet! He takes his shirt off on national television and insinuates he has experience with girls already and he is revered by the adults he is with.

  • Jesica @ at 4:54 pm, September 28th, 2010

    This is nothing new to the media or society. Double standards for males and females, especially minors, have always existed. Talk to almost any girl with a male sibling about her childhood and I can almost guarantee that there was a double standard at home.

    My parents were exactly the same. My little brother was encouraged to date as many girls as he could as young as he could where as I was not able to date until high school. My father encouraged sex with my little brother and I was told I would be kicked out and disowned.

    Until society changes and women are no longer seen as pure, virginal, sexual beings nothing will change.

  • jordan @ at 2:05 pm, October 15th, 2010

    Sex Symbol for teen boys: HOT
    Sex Symbol for teen girls: GAY

    Wait, what?

    I don’t care for any of these pop stars, but I’m beginning to feel a little disgusted by the way “sex symbols” for teenage girls are instantly dismissed and turned into a gay joke.

    I don’t like the twinkling vampires or justin beiber’s music, but seriously how is it that if a male is sexually appealing to young women, he must be gay? I don’t remember seeing a wave of jokes ridiculing Britney or Miley for being “closet dykes” simply because teenage boys thought that they were hot.

    The common denominator seems to be grown men desiring underage girls. If a famous teenage girl is attractive, these men apply the virgin/whore complex to her and her fans are not ridiculed because who WOULDN’T be turned on? However if a famous teenage boy is attractive, these pedophiles are reminded that teenage girls want teenage boys. Most teenage girls want smooth-skinned boyish types, not hairy, beefy, macho types.

    That of course reminds adult men of just how unattractive they are to these barely pubescent girls, then they feel embarrassed that they are secretly jealous of the attention given to sparkling vampires and justin beibers.

    Grow up.

  • Annie @ at 5:55 pm, October 25th, 2010

    I see no double standard. I think that there was more outcry over Miley’s shoot because the photos were hundreds of times more sexualized, and Justin at least kept his clothes on while posing with Kim. That doesn’t mean that he was acting appropriately, though. A 16 year old should not be able to pose with a 29 year old in that setting, no matter who they are. Also, a lot of girls look up to Miley as a role model, whereas most boys are totally indifferent to Justin. I have no problem with Miley posing nude if she wants to, that’s her choice. But doing it with your father in other shots is creepy. Those shots weren’t blatantly obscene, but the underlying theme is creepy. That is no Daddy/Daughter shot. That has undertones of sexuality, instantly making it creepy.

    Kim should be ashamed of herself. To do a shoot like that with a boy that young is definitely inappropriate. I believe that everyone here is at fault to some extent.

  • Rissy @ at 8:59 pm, November 16th, 2010


  • Gerard Simons @ at 3:32 am, April 7th, 2011

    Whatever Justin Bieber has done, its not with greed for fame and wealth. The money making is part of his career. His music has a new slant and is free of swearing and violence. In fact, about anyone can listen to J.B’s style of singing and get something good from it. I can visualise Justin singing with the Care Bears or with the Simpsons! Even with Yogi Bear! Its great. Even J.B doing some Christmas singing too.

  • Tomo @ at 1:39 pm, April 11th, 2011

    Hold on a second! Have you seen the pic with Miley showing her back? It’s controversial because it looks like she’s just had sex! And she’s only 15! Have any of you seen this photo?! She looks like she’s naked under a sheet with tousled hair, and her expression doesn’t help either. Personally I think it’s indefensible that she has been so obviously sexualised like this at such a young age. I’ll repeat- the picture is not controversial because it is showing her back, it’s because she looks like she’s just had sex.

  • Meredith @ at 5:15 am, April 14th, 2011

    About the Bieber pic, I would just like to throw out that in The Graduate, the guy (Dustin Hoffman) is a Recent College Graduate, putting him at about 22 or 23. Mrs. Robinson, (Ann Bancroft), having a teenage daughter, is probably in her early 40’s- and is sexy in a way that Kim will never be. What?! you say. 40 and sexy?! not anymore, the “older women” in this photo shoot is a MILF at 29. Ladies, it is all downhill from 13. Meanwhile, the young stud is 16…16?! Even with the sexist statutory rape standards of most states- boys know what they are doing and can legally make life decisions at 16 (but not vote), girls are stupid till 18, (they can drive but don’t know what to do with their vagina)-this borders on creepy. NO, it IS creepy. I think most people agree that 15 and 19+ with any combination of male and female participants is at the least questionable. In America/most of Europe, even striving for cultural understanding, we find this combo unsettling. The Miley photo is controversial, and I understand why. However, it is questionable not because of anything she did wrong (though she was the one who had to apologize) but because the sexualization of young women is questionable. But really?! no outcry about pictures that were specifically meant to resemble a culturally iconic film about the sexual relationship between a younger (not young)man and older woman. Bieber can’t even see the film, it’s rated R!!

  • Renee @ at 9:10 am, May 28th, 2011

    I don’t see how wearing a sheet showing your back or a tpe of clothing has anything to do with your sexuality but that’s just me…and men who sleep around are whores to me it doesn’t matter whethe you are a man or a woman sleeping around all loosey goosey is disguisting and that’s just my opinion and if you don’t agree your free to do so

  • Emma @ at 5:57 pm, July 12th, 2011

    You are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT about the frustrating double standard in pop culture. I will actually bring this up the next some someone calls Miley a slut (even though I don’t particularly like her…) Mind if I quote this article?

  • Sophie @ at 2:11 pm, October 9th, 2011

    I completely agree! It’s sad to admit, but I honestly didn’t think about this double standard until reading your post, Julie Z.

    What frustrates me is that both Miley and Justin have the same fan base; young girls. So why is it that we can teach these young girls that it’s okay to get around with older women if you’re a teenage boy, yet it’s abominable to express your natural, sexual urges as a girl of the same age!? Granted, that picture of Miley and her dad was a tad bit weird, but who are we to judge what type of pictures she takes? It’s really her choice, not the public’s!

    I think it’s really difficult for kids and teens to grow up in the pop culture industry because everyone is always getting mad at them for doing anything that isn’t perfect. Well, first of all, nobody is perfect, and secondly, aren’t teenagers supposed to be rebellious? If you can’t make a few mistakes as a teenager, you’ll just make them as an adult, and they’ll probably have much greater consequences! I think we need to give people like Miley and Demi Lovato a little slack and realize that this is their time to just have fun and make those mistakes, because everyone else has probably done the same thing. And if we can’t do that, we can at least hold Justin to the same standard and judge him in the same way.

  • Row @ at 11:26 pm, November 21st, 2011

    Totally agree. This is something I’ve begun to notice more and more. Take a show like X Factor or Australian/American Idol. If a judge were to comment on the body of a female contestant, and the whole audience erupted in admiring cat calls, there would be uproar. However, numerous times I’ve seen female judges comment on the sexiness of male contestents, and there has been no issue at all. For some reason it’s okay now to make some guys a sexual object.

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