Two articles found their way to my inbox (and attention) this week that both dealt with the area of sexualization among young men and women.  If you have any access to media (TV, internet, etc…) or simply walk the streets and venture into shopping malls, you’ll notice that vast array of marketing sexuality, with teens as the main target (both as consumers and advertising).  Market research has long ago figured out that sex and sensuality sell, and they know teenagers and younger adults are the bait and hook.

You can’t turn the TV on without watching some program or commercial that doesn’t feature some form of aggressive sensuality aimed to sell their product.  Whether it’s an Axe commercial with half-naked women caressing a shirtless guy, a beer commercial with ditsy ladies in skin-tight pool fashion, or pretty much any show or commercial with gratuitous cleavage, skin, or involving a ploy to party and have a promiscuously good time!  Even allowing my kids to watch YTV is getting riskier with some of the programming and advertising they allow.  So as a parent, I’m glad The Source 4YM launched these two articles within a couple of days of each other, and sought to arm parents and youth workers with some good knowledge and awareness ammo.

The first articlePromiscuous Programming Promotes Promiscuity: Sex Education Via CBS and MTV, details the plight of what programmers and marketers are throwing at our culture today, and how they are influencing a generation of young minds and eyes.  This post kind of fires back at the “it doesn’t really affect me” comment from teenagers when they’re confronted with the reality that what they watch and see can, and does, affect them.

on-screen promiscuity promotes promiscuity in real life.” (soon-to-be published study from Ross O’Hara in the Psychological Science Journal)

Here’s a couple of things Smith and McKee (from The Souce 4YM) noted in their article;
An Increase in Inappropriateness 70% of the shows depicting full nudity aired before 9pm this year (aka “family hour”), compared to 50% of last year’s program.  Bleeping and muting of the F-word increased from 11 instances in 2005 to 276 in 2010. That 2,409% increase in F-bombs!

Defending the Dirty– CBS President Nina Tassler took criticism for the comedies she admits are “a little risqué,” but ultimately defended them by saying, “The fact that there is such strong ratings growth for all of them means that those shows are resonating. It means that the characters are resonating. It means that their dialogue is really landing with audiences. The shows are laugh-out-loud funny.” 

The Results of Risque TV– According to Pediatrics’ 2010 research:“Seventy percent of teen shows contain sexual content, Strasburger added, “and less than 10% of that content involves what anyone would classify as being responsible content. There’s no mention of contracting an STD (sexually transmitted disease) or the need to wait to have sex until later.”

And as usual, instead of simply announcing sour news, they leave parents and youth workers with encouragement and practical suggestions in how we can address the issues.

The second article, The ‘Right’ Kind of Porn is from Jonathan McKee, who never shies away from tackling tough issues, especially when it involves sex and sexuality!  His article was fueled by a piece in the Huffington Post which basically makes the claims that in today’s sexually charged culture, porn isn’t that bad as long as it’s the ‘right’ and appropriate kind of porn.  Really??  So now there’s the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ kind of porn…and who exactly gets to define what’s appropriate and inappropriate porn?  As Jonathan encourages us to in his post, I also encourage you to read the entire article (linked above) so that Vivian Diller’s words aren’t taken out of context (author of Huffington Post article).

An interesting challenge facing parents, but one that made me wonder not only about the “right”versus “wrong kind” of porn, but about how our young daughters fit into this discussion. How does the changing landscape of “what’s out there” influence the way young girls view their own maturing bodies? And, maybe even more worrisome, does it shape their perspective on what is arousing to others?  -Vivian Diller

I share McKee’s admonishment re: some of Diller’s thoughts in raising awareness of the pressure and false-perception the over-sexualized and sensualized culture is sending to young girls and women that is negatively affecting their self-image and value.  But just as Diller makes some positive overtures about the damage that the pornographic and sexual culture is having on young girls (and boys), she then endorses (at least inadvertently) a show like HBO’s Girls.  Like McKee, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater…but you’ve got to draw a line somewhere, and I think Diller not only crosses the line…she’s pretty much wiped it clear.

One of the most refreshing things about the HBO series Girls — while highly graphic and out there sexually — is that the male and female stars are not only far from perfect physically, they don’t even seem to care that much. Perhaps, from a certain perspective, writer and producer Lena Dunham is leading teens toward what might be called “politically correct porn,” a healthier, more realistic vision of sexuality that in the future may support, rather than undermine, their authentic sense of self.” -Vivian Diller

But I’ll let you read the article and you can decide for yourself what you feel is right, wrong, appropriate, inappropriate…and what is true in this realm of sexuality.  If you’re a parent of a teen, or you work alongside them, then you’d better at least know about shows like Girls.  We need to know what kind of messages they are sending to young viewers…potentially your sons and daughter, or young teens you work with and care deeply about…and how these shows are a major player in how they view their own sexuality and moral boundaries.

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