The Cobber Connection - Concordia College News and Happenings from Comm 431 Students


December 14, 2010

America’s Culture of Sex

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America’s Culture of Sex

Mass media influences on American adolescents view of sexual behavior

           In the time it took for a single generation to pass, the internet and media have remade nerarly every aspect of modern culture, transforming the way we work, learn and connect in ways that we’re only beginning to understand.  Since the dawning of a new era known as Generation Z or the technology era, the aspects of American popular culture have been misrepresented.  Of course, Generation X is the television era, and Generation Y is teh integration of internet but this new era has seen something completely different.  They have seen the emergence fo mass media as a major source of information for people of all ages.  The most prominent information of all the mass media is of sexual content.  Sex can be seen in any place and on every surface.  It is on billboards, radio stations, personal books, school books, magazines, peers, movies, songs, and the televisions.  American media are the most graphically violent and sexual suggestive in the world.  Adolescents are engaging in various sexual acts with numerous partners because of the influence the media has on them.  In comparison to generations previous to this mass media surfacing, adolescent minds were influenced by parents, peers and by the education system.,  The influence the mass media can have on the perception of love, romance and sex has morphed alongside the effects the media can have on this new generation of young adolescents.  The misleading portrayals of human sexuality in the media is having an effect of how adolescents view dating and what  a responsible sexual relationship should be like.

          Adolescents live in a world where they are surrounded by images, lyrics, and symbols of a sexual nature.  Now, more than ever sex is at its peak in the media.   The idea of sexual content in the media is not an idea that is just surfacing with this generation.  “Sexual content in mass media has been around as long as mass media itself,’’ Arizona State professor Mary-Lou Galician, a researcher, author and media literacy advocate says. “The difference is the proliferation of it. We live in a 24/7 media world now. Take, as an example, the exploitation of Britney Spears, who is literally pulling off her clothes during her performances. Her real talent lies in being an objectified image. And it is an image, by extension, of our country around the world.’’  With a click of a button or flip of a channel, adolescents can easily upload or witness acts of a sexual nature.  Commercials use seductive images, sounds, and music grabbing the attention of the audience.  Movies and television are proof of the sickness of sexual addiction in society.

           Joyce Garity, the author of the essay, “Is Sex All That Matters?” agrees by saying that magazines, “Although intended to be mainstream and wholesome, trumpet sexuality page after leering page.” Magazines, music videos, television shows, and movies essentially give a message to the viewer that sex to be should be spontaneous and free in order to be fulfilling. 

The average teenager watches television for about 23 hours a week.  Thus today’s youth is spending more time in front of the television in one week than they spend in school.   While watching television, he or she is exposed to many sexual innuendos in the shows that he or she watches.  As parents and facilitators are trying to fight against sexual activity at a young age, everything they say is being contradicted by the programming the American youth is watching on a daily basis.  Out of all of the homes in America 98% (Nielsen Media Research, 1998) of them have a television set available for family use.   L Goodstein and M. Connelly say that 66% of the children in these households have a television in their bedrooms.   Amongst these children most of them watch about a half an hour more television a day than the children without.   This is allowing them to watch more television and be exposed to materials children should not encounter.   According to Brown (1990), “Adolescents are hungry for sexual information. This is a time in their lives where the formation of a healthy, sexual identity is vital to the mental health.”  The message the media establishes is of carefree sex with numerous parneters is okay and no emotional or psychological damage follows this unhealthy was of life.   But in all reality, adolescencts with a thrist for information, are reaching a sexual maturity at an earlier age than ever before. 

According to the Committee on Communications American Academy of Pediatrics, “The Media rarely promote medically accurate and health-enhancing images (Brown and Steele, 1996) and often presnet an influential and consequence-free portrait of sexuality in which abstinence among adolescents is rarely presented in a positive light.”

The media is a cost effective way to reach people all over the world. We seek out entertainment and pay close attention. When an audience identifies with a role model, they will imitate their behavior.

Now, more than ever sex is at its peak in the media. In today’s society, the young are able to view sex in daytime television and learn from the promotion of sex in the media. 

Most teens learn about sex from their friends. In a survey four out of every five teens say that they learned about sex from their friends. Teens see their friends as the most accessible form of information, because they can learn from their past experiences.

 The common message of the media is that sexuality can transform the lives of ordinary people into an unrealistic, fantasy world. This “sexual overload” as Joyce Garity stated, “does affect young adults.” Parents are the only lines of defense against this problem. They have a tremendous influence in preventing their children from being swallowed up by the harmful, persuasive influence of the mass media. But parents do not always feel sufficient in providing information to their children. “Fischer (1986) suggested that some parents’ lack of knowledge about sexual and reproductive functioning also may keep them from discussing sexuality with their children.”

The promotion of safe sex is another concern that our society needs to deal with. Fewer than 175 of 15,000 annual sexual messages viewed by younger adults will discuss contraception or safe sex (John Hopkins). If children are already sexually active, their practices are unlikely to change based on new information given to them. “Despite the lack of evidence that any abstinence-only program has successfully reduced the rate of intercourse among adolescents, the federal government has given states more than $50 million to promote the idea that premarital sex cause physical and emotional harm.” Daley, 1997 p. 49

How is the message of abstinence ever going to out way the message that sex is an acceptable activity for the younger generations?   This is not something new to television for adolescents, but it is something that is getting progressively worse and more acceptable to the general public.   Alarmingly, the reality shows that are on television today are infused with unsuitable sexual connotations.   Even the commercials use sex as a way to sell their products, even for the simplest of items such as a soft drink. The most unsettling thing about the commercials is that they use sex to advertise for miscellaneous items, but people do not take advantage of them to try to educate the youth about abstinence or to explain contraception measures and protective measures.

It is sad to think that television and other sources of media at one time was so astounding, informative and so entertaining, are allowed to pollute the air waves with programming that is inappropriate for audiences and whose primary objective is to make as much money as possible.  What they need to start considerign is the nation’s most valuable resource and the most influential people of the future – its children and adolescents.



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