May
27th 2009
Brooke Shields, you’re the biggest slut ever, and we’ll never let you forget it.

Posted under: childhood, Gender, the body

brookeshieldsBrooke Shields gave an interview recently in which she suggested that her “greatest health regret” is that she had a poor body image as an adolescent and young adult, and that this inhibited her sexually:

Q: What’s your biggest health regret?
A:
Not learning to love the way I looked earlier. And I think I would have had sex a lot earlier! [Laughs.] I think I would have lost my virginity earlier than I did at 22. I had the public and all this pressure, and I wish I had just gotten it over with in the beginning when it was sort of OK. I think I would have been much more in touch with myself. I think I wouldn’t have had issues with weight—I carried this protective 20 pounds [in college]. It was all connected. And to me, that’s a health regret.

Yet the media coverage of this interview doesn’t pause to consider that her early acting and modeling career may have in fact been the cause of her poor body image and her fear of sexuality. 

Brooke Shields may have taken on sexually mature roles at a young age, but the actress reveals that she was much more reserved off-screen.

Shields, who portrayed a child prostitute in “Pretty Baby” at age 12, tells Health magazine that she wishes she had been the pinup girl that she portrayed* but that her bad body image kept her from losing her virginity until age 22.

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But it’s an unexpected sentiment coming from Shields, who, at the age of 14, became the youngest model to appear on the cover of Vogue. She also starred in a series of suggestive print and TV ads for Calvin Klein jeans in her mid-teens.

Following her controversial role in 1978′s “Pretty Baby,” Shields raised eyebrows by cavorting topless on a tropical island in “The Blue Lagoon” (1980).

Shrinking away from the public eye in her late teens, the brunette beauty attended Princeton College and graduated with a degree in romance languages.

“I carried this protective 20 pounds ,” Shields tells Health and explains that she draws a connection between her weight issues and her sexual awakening.

It’s an “unexpected sentiment,” because you think it was her idea to do nude scenes at the age of 12 and 14, and to pose in those suggestive Calvin Klein jeans ads?  That’s right–she didn’t need the permission of a pushy stage parent or the encouragement of sicko directors and movie studios eager to exploit her because her mother said it was okey-dokey.  It was her “creative decision” to play nude scenes at 12 and 14.  Yeah–what a total shock that these roles and fashion ad campaigns actually alienated her from her body and made her fearful of sex. 

This is one sick, sick world in which fantasy projections of children’s sexuality are manufactured and sold and then get read as authentic expressions of their desire, for which they are then blamed as adults.  Oh, and guess what:  *Shields never told “Health magazine that she wishes she had been the pinup girl that she portrayed.”  (Really–a pinup at age 12?)  She never says that, and never even implies that.  I guess that’s what the little tramp deserves–serves her right for playing a tween whore in a movie and telling everyone she didn’t wear underpants under her jeans!  Don’t bother reading the comments on the Health interview, which manage to slut-shame Shields for playing these roles 30 years ago while scolding her also for not being a shill for abstinence.  Because it makes so much sense to expect slutty slutty slut-slut Brooke Shields to raise your children instead of you!

19 Comments »

19 Responses to “Brooke Shields, you’re the biggest slut ever, and we’ll never let you forget it.”

  1. Indyanna on 27 May 2009 at 9:31 am #

    This juxtaposes interestingly with the Sotomayor nomination yesterday. The judge was about a decade ahead of Shields coming into and out of Old Nassau, presumably had a *very* different set of parental injunctions to deal with while there and before there, and probably carried twenty extra pounds of books in and out of Firestone Library day and night. And even in the upcoming circus of public scrutiny and constitutional due dilligence, will presumably not be expected to discourse about her body image issues, much less her virginality chronology. One could hope, anyway.

  2. Historiann on 27 May 2009 at 9:53 am #

    Indyanna–don’t take that bet! I’ve already seen discussions of Sotomayor’s type I diabetes. There’s always an excuse to talk about women’s bodies instead of their ideas! Always!

  3. Rad Readr on 27 May 2009 at 10:29 am #

    I have a vague memory of hearing at some point that Brook Shields’ mother was very protective of her in terms of dating, so we have a case of a parent parading her daughter in suggestive ads — “nothing comes between me and my Calvins” — while confining her in terms of actual sexual experiences. Wasn’t she set up with Michael Jackson at some point? While I don’t think there is anything wrong with waiting until 22 for men or women if that is the best time for a particular person, I would agree that her regret speaks to how the emphasis on Shields’ body as image alienated her from her physical body. Sounds familiar.

  4. Historiann on 27 May 2009 at 10:40 am #

    Rad–I think you’re right (or at least I have the same vague memories.) So this may be a case where the parent saw the child as her commodity to market, and denied the child the right to make her own decisions at the developmentally appropriate stages. Disgusting.

  5. John S. on 27 May 2009 at 11:23 am #

    To me, these comments bring to mind Jessica Valenti’s new _Purity Myth_ book. (Full disclosure–haven’t read it, just op-eds by and interviews with Valenti.) Valenti makes a powerful case for the idea that the virginity fetish makes it something to be protected at all costs–once you’ve lost it, you’re never going to get it back. When I read Shields’ comments, I wonder if she’s buying into that dichotomy (perhaps having been strongly influenced by her mother’s attitudes).

    The flip side, of course, is that virginity also becomes something for men to “take.” This is a dynamic that must have been very difficult at a fairly small and insular school like Princeton. From my own experience, I was an undergrad at Tenured Radical’s Oligarch U., and there were a reasonable number of famous actors and actresses attending school, and well as children of wealthy and well known individuals. And there was gossip. Famous Actress on TV hogs the stair-master at the gym. News about the 21st birthday party of the heir to the World’s Largest Ketchup fortune. (Quite sizable party, BTW.) My roommate talking about getting high with daughters of National Politician. It was just part of a dynamic that happened when the children of the privileged meet the children of the *very* privileged.

    And so whoever “took” Brooke Shields’ virginity at Princeton–*everyone* would know, instantly. It’s an insular place like that. So if she was feeling insecure about herself, her body and sexuality, or whatever–she’d miss out on the zone of privacy to deal with having sex that most young people enjoy. Princeton might have given her something of a bubble from the outside world, but it’d make things difficult inside the bubble.

  6. Historiann on 27 May 2009 at 11:51 am #

    John S.–having attended a SLAC with an even smaller environment (and lots of stupid gossip about who was seen leaving who’s dorm, and who had to do the walk of shame across campus, etc.) I know what you’re talking about. (Though we were mostly very obscure women from obscure families.)

    I wonder, though, if she would have been freer to be herself on an even smaller campus. This was back before the internets and camera phones–at a tiny SLAC, she would have been on an island. (And P-ton is darn close to NYC.) She should have gone to Grinnell!

  7. thefrogprincess on 27 May 2009 at 11:59 am #

    Indyanna, I wrote a brief post on my blog earlier today about how people are talking about Sotomayor’s type I diabetes, which is conveniently conflated with type II diabetes, which we all know is code for being fat and lazy. Hopefully, this will die down as we move to more substantive debate but I’m not holding my breath.

  8. thefrogprincess on 27 May 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    Also, Halle Berry has the same type I diabetes and nobody’s concerned about her dropping dead…

  9. Historiann on 27 May 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    thefrogprincess–thanks for the extra info. Being thin and gorgeous is a remarkable salve, isn’t it? (Then again, when Halle Berry drops dead, it probably won’t affect the makeup of the Supreme Court…)

  10. Lilian Nattel on 27 May 2009 at 12:18 pm #

    Yes it’s sick and it’s sad and it’s why my kids don’t watch the children’s channel. Way too much sexualizing of kids and tweens.

  11. Indyanna on 27 May 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    On Sotomayor and the diabetes, yeah, its a slippery slope. While the health of any important government official is of some [very] limited legitimate public interest, why every presidential polyp has to be reported to the centimeter every year is beyond me. To paraphrase a long dead senator from Nebraska on one of the two Nixon rejected court nominations: even frail people ought to have a little representation on the Supreme Court, shouldn/t they?

    John S.: At Ben Franklin U., there is a longstanding undergraduate urban legend about which ivy covered quadrangle dorm room it was that Candace Bergen left behind her youthful innocence. She later returned as a trustee, so I guess it all works out in the long run.

  12. The Rebel Lettriste on 27 May 2009 at 1:24 pm #

    Things weren’t any better at Grinnell, lemme tell ya. Not that we were awash in celebs, but everybody knew everybody else’s business. Mainly because there wasn’t anything else to do out there in that island of SLAC intensity in the middle of nowhere but have sexual escapades. And then deliciously gossip about it.

    And goddamn but Pretty Baby is a filthy movie. Shields’ character gets her virginity auctioned off at the brothel. THe other prostitutes bring her in the room aloft, on a dais, dressed in white and surrounded by sparklers. And then old dudes compete for the privilege.

  13. ej on 27 May 2009 at 2:37 pm #

    I concur with the Rebel Lettriste. None of us at Grinnell were celebs, but it was scary how much people you didn’t know knew about your business. Or thought they knew. Such a fishbowl.

    I don’t know much about acting, but I have read a number of interviews with actresses who have expressed real conflict about appearing nude on screen. It is something they really grapple with. I can’t imagine making that decision for someone else, especially my 14-year-old daughter.

  14. Historiann on 27 May 2009 at 3:26 pm #

    Rebel Lettriste and ej: I guess I was thinking that it would be better to be “known” among 800 or 1,000 students rather than 5,000 or 10,000 (esp. if far away from a national media market.) Then again, I well remember that the dating pool was awfully shallow at a small college…you run through all of the really attractive prospects by mid-Junior year, so by Senior year you’re just messing around to mark time ’till graduation.

    As for nude scenes: I think actors and actresses are right to have doubts about appearing nude on screen or in ads. Think about it: are powerful people ever portrayed without their clothes on? Clothing in Europe and in the Americas is and has been (for the 400+ years I know well) a marker of status. People who appear naked or semi-clothed publicly are never high-status people (leaving aside that mythological emperor with no clothes): slaves, servants, menial laborers, and prostitutes. Just because a few women (and fewer men) are able to pay their bills or even make some real coin by taking their clothes off doesn’t erase the history of what it means to appear unclothed in public.

  15. ej on 27 May 2009 at 4:52 pm #

    Wow, your SLAC was way better than mine when it comes to the dating pool. I remember running through all the dating prospects by the end of my sophomore year, which is why I spent my Junior year in Paris!

    Maybe that’s why small colleges have such a great study abroad record? Very shallow dating pools. Hmmm…

  16. Susan on 27 May 2009 at 5:13 pm #

    As a Princeton grad (same class as Sotomayor, and no, we were not friends), I’d say the P’ton scene had lots of little groups. So it wasn’t as if all 4000 undergrads knew what had happened, but small groups would. That said, someone like Shields had no anonymity; I remember a faculty member telling me about combing her hair just before going in to teach, and realizing that next to her was Shields: whatever the protective 20 lbs, I can assure you my colleague felt totally outclassed!

    As for the dating pool, it was pretty slender when I was at Princeton, even though the ratio was still about 2:1. Each year I ran into one guy I really wanted to date, leaving out my junior year when I escaped to England.

  17. Tenured Radical on 28 May 2009 at 8:20 am #

    How about being told by your PR people to “date” Michael Jackson? That could be another good reason to hang onto your virginity and/or gain twenty pounds.

    And in what world is remaining a virgin until 22 so out of line? I mean, being a lesbian I am not sure I am the most qualified to provide an answer to this question, but it doesn’t strike me as the brink of deviance.

  18. Historiann on 28 May 2009 at 8:41 am #

    TR–I thought she dated Jackson when she was out of college (but I could be wrong.) In any case, you’re right that that wasn’t exactly a bright idea, and not just because it wasn’t a clear path to a sex life. (Didn’t they usually triple-date with that Webster kid?)

    My memories of 1980s tabloid news are imperfect, alas.

  19. Moxy on 01 Jul 2009 at 8:40 am #

    “And in what world is remaining a virgin until 22 so out of line? I mean, being a lesbian I am not sure I am the most qualified to provide an answer to this question, but it doesn’t strike me as the brink of deviance.”

    Quite funny and well put, but yes, I think this issue of Brooke Sheilds’ not going with the flow or wanting to have sex is being retrospectively rewritten so that the slutty mores of today’s teens (or of their “writers” from Sex in the City, Gossip Girl etc. ) will find no obstacle–to rabid, “gay” men?– in the perfectly sane sexual reticence of some people.