The XX Factor

Robert Pattinson, Prostitot

Admittedly, you’re asking for trouble whenever you happen upon nonironic use of the word “sexploitation” in a mainstream newspaper and continue reading the piece in question. Alas, this Wall Street Journa l article by Nancy deWolf Smith on the “ravishing of Robert Pattinson” is much, much more than poorly deployed portmanteaus:

Yet as Mr. Pattinson made the rounds in New York this week to promote his new, nonvampire movie, “Remember Me,” the spectacle of his sexploitation-how else to put it?-was grotesque. What’s being wrecked is the essence of his appeal, and he’s really not old enough to safeguard it.

On ABC’s “The View” Tuesday, even the presence of Mr. Pattinson’s parents and sisters in the audience could not prevent the lady interviewers of a certain age from instigating talk of intimate body parts, male and female… All this, and worse, is now rushing toward a man whose greatest asset has been not just a handsome face, but an apparent abundance of youthful innocence.

The argument, I gather, is that Pattinson came to us through a story of sexual restraint. And now that he is promoting a movie in which sexual contact will not transform his partner into a folkloric being driven to feed on human blood, the women of The View feel free to discuss his man parts. There is perhaps something interesting going on there, but an actor who started modeling when he was 12, who has been repeatedly named “sexiest man alive” by those who keep track of such things, and who has profitted off the budding sexual awakening of millions of prepubescent girls, is probably more savvy about sexual messaging than Smith gives him credit for.

In a strange way, this kind of handwringing intersects with our earlier conversation about ” helicopter parenting .” In what other place, in what other age, would a 23-year-old man be asked to safeguard his “sexual innocence?” I’ve no idea whether Pattinson’s “greatest asset” is his perceived lack of carnal knowledge, but it seems perverse to ask him to stay forever trapped in the bloodless fantasies of 15-year-olds.

Photograph of Robert Pattinson by Dave Hogan/Getty Images Entertainment.