Sex is an important part of life, but for impressionable teens, the explicit nature of modern television could be adding fuel to the peer pressure-laden fire.
Hey, I am all for sex, romance, dating, wild trysts, and whatnot. This is part of growing up, experimenting, and trying out different types of lovers and relationships to see what fits for you. We all have a list of youthful exploits, and while some of us have longer lists and more bedpost notches than others, these unique experiences have helped to form the adults (or almost-adults) that we are today. They are also choices we made out of curiosity or out of a deep-seeded passion we were always looking to explore. Perhaps it’s because we currently live in an age of extreme narcissism, where social media-obsessed kids plaster their every conquest and boozy night out for all the world to see, and reality TV “stars” hookup with wild abandon in front of American audiences, but I have to admit that these NSFW displays of sexual behavior make me uncomfortable. Even worse, I hate how adolescents are outwardly flaunting their budding sexuality, which I feel is a response to the unsavory images found on television and in the media. I am far from a prude, but I think a line should be drawn. Teenagers need strong masculine and feminine archetypes to pull and learn from, not attention-seeking drunks on cable television copping feels and exposing their breast implants.
I am guilty of watching these same television shows that promote this type of reckless behavior—my ultimate guilty pleasure is reality TV dating shows, the dirtier the better! But the difference is, I am an adult who has already formed a concrete sense of self and a firm (though always morphing) sexual identity that I have created for myself through trial, error, and healthy experimentation. Kids today are watching these debaucherous scenes play out on the small screen, and sadly, they think this is the social norm. Casual sex at age fifteen? Why, not? That’s what I saw on MTV this weekend. And, all my friends must be doing this, right? Think about the new Brit-imported phenom Skins, which, while fictional, is supposed to be a mirror image of what teenage life is like in its most extreme form. Pill-popping, panty dropping, and rebellious, the kids depicted on this program put me and my late-twenty-something friends to shame with their lascivious antics.
Peer pressure is a dangerous thing, and something that I felt when I was a young teen looking to make my mark and find a way to channel my self-expression. This is a hard time for young women especially, because we are discovering the power of our sexuality—something you can choose to use either for good or for bad, for empowerment or for submission. We quickly learn that our attraction is loaded. To possess such a weighty responsibility is sometimes too much of a burden to bear, and mistakes are expected. Ultimately, it’s your decision to own up to these mistakes and grow from them. But as these young women watch floosies on television, and in the tabloids, making mistakes and being reinforced positively for them, it skews this sense of what is acceptable behavior.
While I am far from conservative, I do believe that many television shows, and B-list celebrities, are conveying the wrong message to the impressionable youth of today. Instead of wanting to be successful, career-minded professionals applauded for their incredible work ethic, teens put more emphasis on the quick road to fame and stardom, complete with sex tapes, drugs, and free-flowing bedroom romps. It greatly troubles me that the people on TV and in magazines—fame whores prancing around in spandex, flaunting their barely-there attire and loose morals—are sadly considered role models for teens and tweens everywhere. While you might be shaking your collective heads thinking that kids can easily see past the slut-tastic behavior that’s prevalent in the media, it’s a fact that young people—whether they have a good head on their little shoulders or are impressionable and easily swayed—emulate behavior and social mannerisms that they see before them.
I grew up in the ’90s with my less-than-perfect role models being Kurt Cobain, Kate Moss, and Courtney Love. I didn’t choose to emulate their questionable behind-the-scenes behavior; instead I tried to channel their art, their unique craft, and the revolutionary movement they stood for. Kurt Cobain gave a voice to the underdogs of awkward youth, Kate Moss proved that cookie-cuter beauty was bullshit, and Courtney Love fused femininity, sexual power, and rock n’ roll in a way that had never existed until that moment. Like other angst-ridden teens, I was enamored with their talents and what they stood for as cultural arbiters shaking up the established norms. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like growing up in this age of tech-obsessed instant gratification and social media. Kids are exposed daily to things that were taboo during my youth. Perhaps parents should institute a “slow life” movement, to help teens learn crucial life lessons from guided experience rather than on TV or online.
In my teens, I also experimented with my sexuality and found myself in more than a few scary situations because, at that age, I was letting my Lolita-esque libido do the talking. After many troubling experiences I realized that being an oversexed disco dolly was the furthest thing from empowerment. I wanted to be taken seriously, and going underage to clubs wearing micro-minis and tattered slip dresses was not earning me the respect from the opposite sex. It became clear that the power I possessed came directly from me and how I carried myself, which is a crucial lesson that has helped to inform my thoughts on female sexuality. We, as women, can’t expect to get treated like equals if we are always playing into the misogynistic notion of what’s sexy that’s promoted in popular media. Those images picture women as sexualized playthings not the powerful sensual beings that we are. I just really hope that these young women will wake up and realize that you don’t have to look like one of those barely legal babes on the trashy American Apparel ads to be sexy, desirable, or attractive. The real allure of a woman is in her mystery and what she chooses to reveal.