Sex on TV: Is There Too Much?
There is no avoiding it. Sex is everywhere, and television is no exception.
It seems that in every drama, comedy and cartoon aired on this electronic box, there is, at the very least, a brief mention of sex. No matter what time of day a person turns on the “boob tube”, he or she can find at least one program that has sexually explicit scenes, themes, or jokes. Therefore, one can only imagine what a child may find in this maze of entertainment when left to his or her own devices. The question is, do we really want our children to learn about the birds and the bees from talk show hosts and overly dramatic soap opera stars? Are these the kind of influences we want explaining the biological and moral aspects of sex to impressionable young minds?
There are many people who would argue that children should not see how much sex there is on television. If they do, it is the fault of the parents. Television is not a babysitter and should not be treated as such. However, a curious ten year old child who has heard about the show South Park from his or her friends, or has seen the title The Sex Files in the TV Guide will always find a way to get around the constant supervision. Also, it is very difficult to keep track of a child’s television watching twenty-four hours a day, and there is no time safe from the topic of sexual relations.In the morning, there are shows such as Jerry Springer that feature guests who are cheating on their partner with their sibling or some random drag queen. Directly following that are similar shows such as Ricki Lake, Sally and Maury Povich which feature seven year old girls who have had ten different sexual partners. Then, right away after school, there are the ever famous soap operas which involve hordes of characters who have all slept together, yet have never once contracted a sexually transmitted disease (with the exception of General Hospital and its HIV positive character Robin). After that is The Simpsons, which has gained such a reputation that it needs no explanation. Then there are the comedies in which the majority of the jokes make blunt references to something sexual and lead to such embarrassing questions as, “What is a vibrator?”
And, of course, there are the after eleven pm shows where the real nudity breaks out. Sex and the City is a perfect example as the basic concept of the show is four beautiful single woman having various sexual experiences and then discussing them. Another is Star Channel’s “Wild On...” whatever city they are exploring at the time. The idea is to find the most “happening” places in the city, all of which seem to contain half naked woman dancing or posing for Playboy/porn.
All of these shows contain material that should be discussed with parents, not given in vague explanations through jokes and graphic images. Another argument could be the simple fact of why sex is such a big part of television these days. Basically, sex sells. It interests people and because of this the majority of the audience is very likely to watch a show because of its sexual content. Sex and the City and Jerry Springer are testimony to this. If it were not for the blatant discussion of intimacy in these shows, they would have failed in their first year.
Sex is a part of life, an exciting part, and as such it is unrealistic and boring to portray life without it. However, the message that is projected to young people is perhaps, in itself, unrealistic. One line taken from the popular sitcom Friends truly sums up the position on sex exuded from the mainstream culture: “sex does not have to be a big deal. You should be able to sleep with anyone you want, whenever you want.” This idea is dangerous when taken as truth in the minds of the young. The fact of the matter is that sex is a big deal and should not be taken lightly. Never mind the physical consequences, such as pregnancy, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, and so on. There are social consequences as well. Not only can it make or break a relationship, but having sexual relations with more than one partner at a young age can earn you nasty nicknames and judgment from others.
It is true that just because something is shown on TV, it does not necessarily mean that it will be copied at home. Also, some of the messages on television about sex are good. There have been many ads proclaiming absence as the right choice, and refraining from relations until marriage. One particular commercial that comes to mind is the “Not me, not now” series in which kids declare their reasons for waiting. And not every show glorifies sex. There have been many programs in which a young girl gets pregnant accidentally and has to deal with it, or someone has contracted AIDS and dies. But on the most part, the shows that are most popular with young people these days are shows such as Friends, Boston Public, Dawson's Creek, and Ally McBeal, in which sex is abundant and often. This has, without a doubt, affected the youth of today. Not only do children learn where babies come from much earlier than before, but they start practicing earlier as well. This is proven by a recent survey administered by the condom company Durex.
In 1999, it was found that, globally, those who are currently forty years of age had sex for the first time when they were eighteen, while those who are currently under thirty were sixteen if they were female, and fifteen if they were male. They certainly did not learn this from their parents; in the US (the country most under the influence of the entertainment revolution) only 17% of the people claimed to have learned about sex from their parents. So if they did not get their information from them, where did they get it? According to the survey, the use of books to learn about sex is declining, but that of television is increasing.
There is a lot of sex on television. The days of Elvis being videotaped from the waist up because his gyrations appeared too provocative are long gone, replaced by Ricky Martin’s outlandish hip movements and Britney Spears’ chair dance that seems remarkably like something one would see at a strip club, only without the stripping. There seems to be only one “solution” and that is for parents to discuss sex and all its sides with their children at an early age before a less reliable source does it for them. Sex has hit the world of television hard in the last few years and it can only get worse before it gets better.