Sexualized media & sex education

Christians have objected for decades to the sexualized imagery of secular media, 1 2 3 4 citing Biblical principles 5 6 and arguing that such content is damaging, 7 especially to young people. 8 Though such objections are derided by popular opinion as ‘old fashioned’, numerous professional studies confirm they are factually based. 9 10

Children are highly affected by sexual content on TV,11 resulting in a range of negative outcomes.12 13 14 15 Girls are highly vulnerable;16 17 18 19 20 objectification of girls is related to many destructive behaviours.21

Reliance on abstinence advice alone is unrealistic, as this can be, and often is, displaced by over sexualised media content. Comprehensive sex education in which the benefits of abstinence are emphasized22 23 and appropriate information on contraception is provided, reduces both the age of sexual initiation, and teen pregnancy rates.24 25

  1. ‘Papers that cater for the evil in men and women should be shunned by all who are concerned for clean and healthy thinking and living.’, Carter, ‘Sunday Reading’, The Christadelphian (90.1072.309), 1953. []
  2. ‘Worse even than the violence and the ridicule of all the kindly virtues is the preoccupation with sex. The reviewer says it is enough to glance through half a dozen “comics” to see that they are “thinly disguised pornography”.’, Sargent, ‘The Social Sign: “Horror Comics”’, The Christadelphian (92.1090.144), 1955. []
  3. ‘Our eyes, ears, and minds are assaulted by magazine, poster, radio and television advertisements which set out to stimulate the wrong kind of emotions by making sex, drink and the different ways of having “a good time” seem attractive and proper.’, Marshall, ‘The New Life 6: A Dangerous World’, The Christadelphian (105.1250.350), 1968. []
  4. ‘—the increased problem of drugs taken by the young, the addiction of both young and old alike to the T.V. set, and the new morality—which I am sure should be called the “old immorality”—where sex is pushed at every opportunity by every conceivable method’, Billington, ‘Life in the Arctic’, The Christadelphian (108.1284.249), 1971. []
  5. ‘Or is there an altogether too easy tendency to lustful thoughts? Then let the conning of certain modern magazines be utterly banned, and let the modern sex-ridden novel—one of the curses of this generation—be wisely consigned to the dustbin. “If thine eye cause thee to stumble, pluck it out.”’, Whittaker, ‘Sunday Morning: No. 924 Temptation’, The Christadelphian (93.1109.402), 1956. []
  6. The way of Cain is still very much with us. It glorifies man, it boastfully glorifies debased sex, brutality and violence in print, on screen and in reality.’, Eyre, ‘The Way of Cain’, The Christadelphian (103.1221.101), 1966. []
  7. ‘In attempting a definition, the committee says that “pornography tends to see sexual practices as divorced from any tender considerations for one’s partner . . . (It) exploits and dehumanises sex so that human beings are treated as things and women in particular as sex objects”. There is plenty of evidence that it sometimes does harm.’, Nichols, ‘Signs of the Times: The Longford Report’, The Christadelphian (109.1301.512), 1972. []
  8. ‘He continued: “What is true is that from this age onwards the adolescent is subjected to a barrage from every medium of communication and entertainment of stimuli which leads to a premature and excessive awareness and preoccupation with sex.”’, Sargent, ‘A Wholesome Voice’, The Christadelphian (100.1193.512), 1963. []
  9. ‘There is increasing evidence that youth exposure to sexual content on television shapes sexual attitudes and behavior in a manner that may influence reproductive health outcomes.’, Chandra et al., ‘Does Watching Sex on Television Predict Teen Pregnancy? Findings From a National Longitudinal Survey of Youth’, Pediatrics (122.4.1047), 2008. []
  10. ‘Several studies 16,111,112,114,121,134 have demonstrated clearly that sexual content is pervasive in TV programming, movies, music videos, and magazines; however, much less is known about sexual content on the radio (including remarks by disc jockeys) and the sexual content of video and computer games.’, Escobar-Chaves, et al., ‘Impact of the Media on Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors’, Pediatrics (116.1.320), 2005. []
  11. ‘”I was surprised at how much 18- to 20-year-olds are still affected by media’s messages about sex” Ward says. “When we first started our research, we assumed that 15-year-olds who largely hadn’t started dating yet would have much of their reality shaped by the media. They don’t know the difference sometimes [between media reality and real life] and don’t have the maturity to make informed choices about sex. But 18- to 20-year-olds are at the pinnacle, so to speak, when it comes to dating and relationships. They’re older, more mature, less naive. And they’re still affected.”’, Stewart, ‘Sex-Saturated Culture Sends Message to Kids’, Insight on the News (May 22, 2000). []
  12. This is the first study to demonstrate a prospective link between exposure to sexual content on television and the experience of a pregnancy before the age of 20. Limiting adolescent exposure to the sexual content on television and balancing portrayals of sex in the media with information about possible negative consequences might reduce the risk of teen pregnancy. Parents may be able to mitigate the influence of this sexual content by viewing with their children and discussing these depictions of sex.’, Chandra et al., ‘Does Watching Sex on Television Predict Teen Pregnancy? Findings From a National Longitudinal Survey of Youth’, Pediatrics (122.4.1047), 2008.. []
  13. ‘Adolescents in the United States are engaging in sexual activity at early ages and with multiple partners. The mass media have been shown to affect a broad range of adolescent health-related attitudes and behaviors including violence, eating disorders, and tobacco and alcohol use. One largely unexplored factor that may contribute to adolescents’ sexual activity is their exposure to mass media.’, Escobar-Chaves, et al., ‘Impact of the Media on Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors’, Pediatrics (116.1.303), 2005. []
  14. ‘Using the sexual-media–diet measure, these researchers report that among adolescents, heavier exposure to sexual content is associated with increased sexual activity and intentions to become sexually active’, ibid., p. 320. []
  15. Our results indicate that frequent exposure to sexual content on television predicts early pregnancy, even after accounting for the influence of a variety of other known correlates of each.’, Chandra et al., ‘Does Watching Sex on Television Predict Teen Pregnancy? Findings From a National Longitudinal Survey of Youth’, Pediatrics (122.4.1052), 2008. []
  16. ‘Narrative accounts of court-involved girls lives uncovered three social forces that combined to contribute to high rates of system involvement. I have discussed two: the emotional factor of familes’ not protecting their girl children or meeting young women’s needs and the economic factor of material need. In this section I dissect the cultural factor of an increased sexualization of young women caused by the global, burgeoning, multi-billion-dollar youth-sex-beauty industrial complex.’, Schaffner, ‘Girls in Trouble with the Law’, p. 98 (2006). []
  17. ‘I mean oversexualized in the sense that young women are viewed primarily as sex objects by many male adults in their worlds, view their own place in the world as mostly providing sexual titillation for males, and see sex as their best – or only – resource for problem solving.’, ibid., p. 99. []
  18. ‘Young women, bombarded with the cultural imperative to be sexy, reproduce the message as if they had thought of it themselves, thus falling into a dialectical, reflexive loop.’, ibid., p. 102 []
  19. ‘Journalists, child advocacy organizations, parents, and psychologists have become alarmed, arguing that the sexualization of girls is a broad and increasing problem and is harmful to girls (Bloom, 2004;“Buying Into Sexy,” 2005; Dalton, 2005; Lamb & Brown, 2006; Levin, 2005; Levy, 2005a; Linn, 2004; Pollet & Hurwitz, 2004; Schor, 2004).’, American Psychological Association,Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, ‘Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.Washington’, (2007). []
  20. ‘This includes both short- and long-term effects of viewing or buying into a sexualizing objectifying image, how these effects influence girls’ development, self-esteem, friendships, and intimate relationships, ideas about femininity, body image, physical, mental, and sexual health, sexual satisfaction, desire for plastic surgery, risk factors for early pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted infections, attitudes toward women, other girls, boys, and men, as well as educational aspirations and future career success.’, ibid., p. 43. []
  21. Numerous studies have shown a connection between stereotypical attitudes about women’s sexuality and aggressive sexual behavior. Several have shown that women and men exposed to sexually objectifying images from mainstream media were significantly more accepting of rape myths, sexual harassment, sex role stereotypes, interpersonal violence, and adversarial sexual beliefs about relationships.’, Bailey, ‘Consequences Of the Sexualization of Girls: American Psychological Association Report Part IV’, From Now On: The Newsletter of the Montgomery County Chapter of the National Organization for Women (2007). []
  22. ‘APHA further recognizes that abstinence from sexual intercourse is an important behavioral strategy for preventing HIV, STIs, and unintended pregnancy.’, American Public Health Association, ‘Testimony of the American Public Health Association “Domestic Abstinence-Only Programs: Assessing the Evidence” House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’, (April 23, 2008). []
  23. ‘The Society of Adolescent Medicine summarized its expert review of sexuality education with the following: Abstinence from sexual intercourse represents a healthy choice for teenagers, as teenagers face considerable risk to their reproductive health from unintended pregnancies and STIs including infection with HIV. Remaining abstinent, at least through high school, is strongly supported by parents and even by adolescents themselves. However, few Americans remain abstinent until marriage, many do not or cannot marry, and most initiate sexual intercourse and other sexual behaviors as adolescents. Abstinence as a behavioral goal is not the same as abstinence-only education programs.’, Blythe, ‘Testimony before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’, p. 7 (April 23, 2008). []
  24. ‘By contrast, credible research clearly demonstrates that some comprehensive sex education, or “abstinence-plus,” programs can achieve positive behavioral changes among young people and reduce STIs, and that these programs do not encourage young people to initiate sexual activity earlier or have more sexual partners.’, Collins, et al., ‘Abstinence only vs. comprehensive sex education: What are the arguments? What is the evidence?’, p. 2 (March 2002). []
  25. ‘Comprehensive sex education, which emphasizes the benefits of abstinence while also teaching about contraception and disease-prevention methods, has been proven to reduce rates of teen pregnancy and STD infection.’, Starkman & Rajani, ‘The Case for Comprehensive Sex Education’, AIDS Patient Care and STDs (16.7.313), July 1, 2002. []

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