She ought not to be in pictures

Apparently one of the most dangerous places to be these days -- and one of the most morally sickening places as well -- is between Miley Cyrus and a camera.

By now most folks have at least heard about the sexually provocative pictures of the 15-year-old singer and actress from TV's Hannah Montana .

No, not her amateur bikini photos that were leaked online. That was months ago.

No, not the pictures of her in a hotel hallway, in suggestive embraces with another girl. That was a while back, too.

And no, not even the photos that recently surfaced showing Cyrus pulling down her shirt to reveal her bra, then sitting semi-clad on a boy's lap.

No, these latest, professionally-shot photos are slated to appear in the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair magazine. The most-discussed photo shows a topless Cyrus, looking over her shoulder, clutching what appears to be a satin bedsheet as her only means of covering herself.

When word and sight of the photos hit the gossip pages, Cyrus initially played the reports down. But as the controversy grew, she recanted, saying she felt "embarrassed," and she apologized for the inappropriate nature of the photos.

Vanity Fair and renowned celebrity photographer Annie Liebovitz, however, defend these obviously exploitative photos -- saying they were taken strictly for art's sake, and with the blessings of Cyrus' parents and all of her minders.

And that is a big part of the problem. This young girl has a retinue of adults tending to her life and career, so the natural presumption is that they can make responsible decisions on her behalf and dispense sound advice.

There were no signs of that happening here. Did no one even question the morality of snapping pics of an underage, partially nude girl? If anything, the opposite occurred. At some point, a misguided adult had to convince Cyrus that posing for these kinds of photos is OK.

There simply is no denying the carnality in the most talked-about photo. The satin sheet, the mussed-up hair, Cyrus' disturbingly suggestive gaze -- it fits the definition of pornography to a "T."

And oh, by the way, since she's only 15, isn't this technically child porn? What's the difference between Vanity Fair and a thousand kiddie nudity Web sites? Tastefulness? Quality of the sheets?

Until recently, Cyrus had an expected squeaky-clean image. But her recent failures to stay modestly clothed in the presence of a camera appear to be the start of a chain of events that the public already has seen play out in the trainwreck lives of two former Disney stars -- Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

Is that the grim fate that awaits Miley Cyrus -- a sweet, talented girl who is bending to the mercy of an entertainment industry that specializes in the sick hypersexualization of underage starlets?

We should hope not. We should hope instead that she -- and the adults surrounding her -- chart a future using a more reliable moral compass, steering clear of the storms that could sink her career and her good name.

More