Tila Tequila has been Playboy’s Cyber Girl of the Week. She has self-published singles titled “F--- Ya Man,” and “Playgirl Central,” where she proclaims “I don't want no love, I just wanna get screwed!" She’s got more “friends” than anyone in the history of MySpace. She recently announced her bisexuality, and stars on a popular new MTV reality show. Tila has become a sign of the times.
Tila Tequila and her career have prompted ruminations on the nature of celebrity in The New York Times, and she’s been profiled in TIME magazine. But more than anything, the Tila phenomenon highlights a pernicious trend in American culture: Celebrating young women only for their “sexiness” and their willingness to flaunt it -- rather than for character, intelligence, or talent.
On “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila,” both straight men and lesbians vie for Tila’s affections. To do so, they engage in a variety of sexually explicit activities features lewd behavior among the contestants, encouraged and applauded by Tila herself, including group sleepovers and raunchy rounds of “Truth or Dare.” It is the most popular show in its time period among people 18-34, and no doubt has many younger viewers.
Certainly most young people understand that what they’re watching is more than a little over the top. But seeing the behavior also normalizes it – and allows women like Tila to set standards for young people all across the United States. When the culture tells girls that sexual decision making comes down to nothing more than “if it feels good, do it,” they become pressured to conform to a sexy ideal that’s as unwholesome as it is difficult to attain.
That’s quite a contrast from the days when American society (and media of all sorts) reflected a consensus that took into account the dangers – not only physical, but also emotional, psychological and even spiritual – of giving too much too soon. Now, girls have lost much of the social support that once buttressed decisions to abstain from sex, and parents and clergy are left trying to protect them from a culture that glamorizes sexual promiscuity and exhibitionism. Because of the example set by “celebrities” ranging from Tila Tequila to Paris Hilton (who came to prominence after the release of a sex tape), it seems more difficult to resist the advances of boys interested in nothing more than sex, appropriate to wear revealing clothes, and acceptable to behave in suggestive ways that would have been unthinkable even twenty years ago.