08/26/2013 01:35 EDT | Updated 10/26/2013 05:12 EDT

Miley Cyrus vs. Robin Thicke: Who Was More Inappropriate At the VMAs?

Let's begin with this not-inconsequential fact: the age difference between Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke is a little over 16 years -- or what VMA network MTV has proclaimed old enough to get a reality show about being pregnant.

Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke had both laid claim to being 2013's most inappropriate pop stars -- so it was not unexpected that they would each be stepping up their game at the VMAs. After all, MTV's video music award show exists primarily to be shocking since nobody ever remembers who won a Moonman (unless, of course, Kanye didn't let them finish).

But it's their pairing that should be causing the most cringing and despite Miley facing the brunt of the controversy, it's Thicke who should be, well, in the thick of it.

Miley's hyper-sexualized performance, in which she paired childhood totems like teddy bears with barely-there clothing was shocking, for sure, especially when Britney Spears did it in Rolling Stone magazine back when Cyrus was seven. Miley also got bleeped by MTV for singing about "dancing with "molly," an MDMA drug reference which her label had initially tried to pass off as "dancing with Miley" before the pop star said nope, drugs. Oh, and she pretended to masturbate with a giant foam hand.

None of this is child-friendly, but just because Cyrus was Hannah Montana once upon a time doesn't mean she needs to remain g-rated for her entire life. Clearly, she's trying to emulate Britney and Madonna as a means of throwing off the Mickey Mouse yoke. Were there problems with her performance? Yes, particularly the thorny race issues that the twerk-prone pop star is messing with. But we discuss that elsewhere.

The issue here is that their VMAs performance made Robin Thicke come off like an old lech, which is an issue for someone who has already spent the summer fending off accusations that his breakthrough smash "Blurred Lines" is kinda "rapey."

Whether or not you agree with that sentiment, and whether or not you felt Miley's performance was too much for T.V., the sight of the 20-year-old twerking into the crotch of a fully dressed 36-year-old is pretty creepy. People Miley's age, male and female, make poor decisions all the time because 20-year-olds don't have great judgement. They're only 20, and they should be able to cash in a certain amount of young-people passes. Even pop stars.

But Robin Thicke, he's practically middle-aged, has been doing this for a long while and knew exactly how it would look when this young lady was grinding against his striped suit and grabbing his crotch in front of millions of viewers. He made the call to do it because he knew we'd be talking about him the next day.

Whatever. We're also talking about his chart rival Justin Timberlake, except he's being spoken of because of his incredibly epic performance of a decade-plus string of hits (and that blink-and-you-missed-it *NSYNC reunion). Talent gets you talked about, too.

Miley may not yet understand that being controversial is not the same as being successful, even if you garner the same amount of twitter chatter, but Robin Thicke has already gone through those growing pains and, at 36, he knows better.

2013 MTV VMAs