Are children too exposed to sexualised images? It’s no mystery that “flesh and flirting sells advertisement” but it is becoming ever more common in it’s ability to flog anything from push-up bras to magazines (Kiss, 2011). The debate on whether there’s too much sex on TV is nearly as old as television itself. Sex in the media is a current anxiety of today’s time, as the audience is often portrayed as gullible victims and easily influenced. While critics blame TV for the moral decline of our society, TV producers will argue that sex on TV is a reflection of everyday life.
We’ve all heard the critics say “you just have to flip on a TV set and scan the channels.” There’s no doubt that TV has changed since the days that married couples couldn’t be shown in the same bed. I mean, who could forget former squeaky-clean child star Miley Cyrus grabbing headlines with her televised “twerking” at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. “The PTC caught out MTV because the council said the program had been rated as suitable for 14-year-olds” (Halbrooks, n.d.). However, Cyrus and MTV got a lot of free publicity from the controversy over her sexually-charged stage moves. But could this televised act really influence children? According to a RAND Corporation study, it showed that even “TV shows that talked about sex had the same influence as those programs that depicted it” (Halbrooks, n.d.). The study said there was a resulting change in behaviour among teens who watched these shows. Furthermore, we can explore the conveying of information resulting in the change of behaviour through the analysis of Aristotle’s and Lasswell’s communication models (Turnbull, 2015). These theorists describe a linear model of sender to message to receiver. The problem is that they assume a non-problematic transfer of knowledge. These models do not factor in noise source, like Shannon Weaver’s model, this depicts how the receiver may have different interpretations of the code.
The TV producers and other media industries have several arguments to defend themselves against this media anxiety. They mediate that sex is a part of life, it occurs daily in society and television is the medium that projects it. Some argue that if more sex is shown on TV, that would lead to more teenagers becoming pregnant because they are acting out what they see on the screen. However, recent statistics (2013) show “teen birth rates are actually falling” (Halbrooks, n.d.), which they would say proves there’s not a connection between televised images and real-life behaviour. As a final point, they might say that images and discussions of sex were in society centuries before the dawn of television. The works of the “Indian Kama Sutra (composed between 400 BCE and 200 CE)” historical examples of sex in media (Kama Sutra, 2015).
We’ve all heard that sex sells in advertising. It also helps draw attention to TV shows. Had Warner Bros. replaced Channing Tatum with Zach Galifianakis on Magic Mike, the ratings might have been much different.
So is TV really to blame and is it a concerning media anxiety? Partly. Yet pop culture changes dramatically and quickly; since the RAND study concluded its research, TV shows have grown even more sexual. Teens today are growing up in a culture that’s saturated by sex. It’s in the clothes we wear, the magazines we read, the music we listen to, and yes, the TV shows we watch. The problem with sex on TV is that there’s little thought to the consequences: unplanned pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases. If those subjects were given a show to themselves, influential youths would have a far more realistic view of the aftermath of what they see on TV and this could reduce the hype of this media anxiety, realising that the results of behaviour last far beyond the closing credits.
Kiss, J 2011. Sexualisation of children- who is to blame? Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/media/blog/2011/jun/06/sexualised-children-media-blame [June 7, 2011].
Halbrooks, G n.d. Sex on Tv: Harmful for Society? Available from: http://media.about.com/od/mediatrends/a/Sex-On-Tv.htm [n.d.].
Turnbull, S 2015. Week 2 Lecture: Television Makes You Fat. [March 9, 2015].
Kama Sutra, 2015. Kama Sutra. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kama_Sutra [February 20, 2015].