During my misspent teenage years, my parents dragged me to an exhibit of Paul Gauguin’s work. Near the end of our tour of the exhibit, a friend who had joined us turned to me and said, “he liked looking at young women. I can appreciate that.” (Truth be told, his language was a bit stronger, but this is a family website). The troubles Miley Cirus has had of late (which Julie mentioned a couple of days ago) reminded me of that bit of adolescent wisdom.
In the past couple of centuries, broadly speaking, art seems to have lost its way. The naked pursuit of art for arts sake has made it difficult to consider the moral implications of art (other than "consciousness raising," and other such things) or the legitimacy of moral restrictions on the artist’s craft. Hence it is not entirely impossible that Miley Cirus and her father trusted Annie Liebovitz when she asked the 15 year old Miley to pose half naked for her camera. It is possible that they trusted a respected artist at work. Taking pictures of semi-nude people, however young or old, is, after all, art.
That reminds me of a comment in Leo Strauss’ famous "Preface to Spinoza’s Critique of Religion": "Rousseau was the first modern critic of the fundamental modern project (man’s conquest of nature for the sake of the relief of man’s estate) who therewith laid the foundation for the distinction, so fateful for German thought, between civilization and culture." Culture, in which we find the world of high art, is to be free to follow its own muse. A good civilization, many people nowadays seem to think, is one that lets artists be free to do so. Hence my friend was not entirely wrong about the trend that Gauguin represented with his paintings from Tahiti.
Perhaps Voltaire put it best in a letter to Rousseau: "One wants to walk on all fours after reading your book."