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Sex. It is without a doubt a necessary routine that keeps our species going and allows us to move forward, evolve and advance, but at what age is this action acceptable? It seems a common trend in today's society is that teens and even some children younger and younger are partaking in this practice. There is no denying that today's media affects each and every person it crosses paths with, regardless of age. But how exactly does it affect today's youth? The top three negative effects the media has on today's adolescents involve increased violence, stereotypes, and sexuality. Sexuality is the negative factor that is most prevalent in today's media including Television, Music, and the magazine industry. These aspects of media are what we are going to focus on.

First and foremost, television is the first aspect up for observation involved in this ever-growing phenomenon. Television stations such as MTV, Fuse, VH1, Spike, even TLC are responsible for aiding teen sexuality and here are the reasons why. MTV plays the biggest role in this due to such shows as Jersey Shore, Skins, and sure enough 16 and Pregnant, to name a few. In the show, Jersey Shore, the concept is a bunch of young adults paid to party all the time on the Jersey strip. They consume large amounts of alcohol at the local clubs, dance the night away, and eventually bring home young, drunk women who are "DTF", which is Jersey talk for willing to have sexual intercourse. Other shows on these channels are very similar. (Vignette: Is the media to blame or is it the parents?) Clip from skins (British version)

Similarly, music plays a large role on teen sexuality. Lets look at some hot mainstream artists. Katy Perry is known for many tracks that promote not only teen sexuality, but same sex exploration as well. The track "I kissed a girl" on her second debut album "one of the boys" explains her sexual exploration of the same sex and in the song she says "No, I don't even know your name, it doesn't matter You're my experimental game, just human nature It's not what good girls do, not how they should behave My head gets so confused, hard to obey". This regards sexual behavior in a promiscuous manner not because of the innocent kiss its self but because of how freely it is expressed. She also says, "It ain't no big deal, it's innocent". Or in the track "teenage dream" of the self-titled album she clearly states, "Let's go all the way tonight, No regrets, just love" and with that said and the title itself, makes it pretty clear she promotes teen sexuality. What makes all this even worse the track California girls was featured in Kidz Bop! Even though lyrics are edited the track mentions small clothing, sex on the beach and alcohol references and this is sold to little kids! (Vignette: Media Influences on Sexuality)
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In the same way, sexuality has taken over every source of media and magazines are no exception. Magazines today not only promote negative body image for men and women, but also introduce the idea of sexual activity to teenagers as well as readers of all ages. Popular magazine topics usually focus on two central ideas-weight loss and how to attract the opposite sex. Topics similar to these only make matters worse for adolescents' by lowering their self-esteem and self-confidence. When an individual has a lowered self-esteem, self-destructive behaviors often take place. Nearly all popular culture magazines are to blame for this, whether it be Vogue, Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, or Sports Illustrated. (**Vignette:** How Far Will They Go?)

For starters I would like to say that I agree with the fact that media plays a big role in pressuring teens to have sex at an earlier age, but I do not think that is the biggest contributing factor. According to psychology today, 63 percent of teens think it is a good idea to wait until you are married to have sex, but few of them do. In my own experience, I believe that peer pressure has a greater affect on teens then the media does. Yes, the media constantly reminds us that we do not have a perfect body, and that we should have nicer things if we want to popular, and if we are sexually experienced at a young age then we are weirdoes. However, the TV or your magazine does not follow you around making fun of you if you do not fit in. That is why I believe peer pressure to be the primary factor in causing teens to do things they would normally never do. In my experience, I would have to say the friends you keep really decide how you will go about your life. As a kid I had a lot of different types of friends I had some nerdy friends, I had some jock buddies, and I had some supposed gangster buddies. While hanging out in these different groups I learned many different things. However, the one thing that was the same in each group was peer pressure. Whoever the supposed leader of the group was, tried to force their ideas upon you, and if you did not go along with said ideas then you were out casted. So, now you have to make a choice do you go along with whatever your friends are doing to fit in, or do you risk losing your friends by not going along with them. So, who is to blame for this situation that every kid is put into? Is it the media’s fault for portraying these unrealistic ideas on kids, or is it really on us kids to stand up for ourselves and break away from the supposed norms that we as a society have created. In my opinion it is all about your own will power to stand up, and break away. Now, I know that is easier said than done, but remember it only takes one to start a revolution. {VIGNETTE: //Sex and the Media//}

Teenagers, as well as a large percentage of today's youth cite the mass media as an important source for information pertaining to all sexual matters. In an article titled "Sexy Media Matter: Exposure to Sexual Content in Music, Movies, Television, and magazines Predicts Black and White Adolescents' Sexual Behavior," it states that of the few studies that have been done on the effects of television on adolescents' ideas about sex, that prime-time television programs as well as music videos that focus on sex before marriage, promote permissive attitudes towards teen sex. The same article also included a study that found that early exposure to sexually related content on television could predict teenagers' sexual behaviors up to a year later. In another article, "Teen Pregnancy: Trends And Lessons Learned" Heather Boonstra shows the correlation between birth rate and marriage as well as birth rate to other countries. In our own country birthrate has declined, but birthrate by unmarried couples has increased drastically. This means that in America teen sex has become more casual and normal. Although pregnancy rates have declined in our country, in comparison we are much higher than most others.

Now, I know what you are thinking, how did these kids get this way? No doubt that the media has a great influence on how they are acting. In this day and age kids are glued to the TV now more than ever before. Just think about how many commercials you see a day now multiply that by five and that is how many your kids probably see a day, and probably half of those have to do with having a better body or getting the new pair of shoes. So these kids are influenced in a negative way at a young age when they are very impressionable. This is why families need to really stress core values to their kids so they are not swallowed up by the masses. So are parents really to blame, or should the media be banned from making such influential commercials. Now I know that the media cannot be stopped due to the first amendment, so then that really leaves the bulk of the responsibility of the parents to teach their children that the media is not real. In my experience, my parents always told me not to believe anything you see on TV or in magazines, because those are not real people they are just pretty people who are made to look perfect so you feel worse about yourself. So as you can see the media has a real negative influence on teens today. {Vignette:Parents and Families}

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Although today’s media plays a very large role in teen sexuality, there are several other influences that should be taking into account as well. To begin, some of the most prevalent influences on teenage sexuality come from an individual’s family, school, and peers.

The influence of family and the role it plays in teenage sexuality is greatly underestimated. Families influence individuals from the moment they are born to the day they die. What our parents approve of and disapprove of will shape our feelings and behaviors whether we are conscience of it or not. A major way that families influence teens is by determining a religion or set of beliefs to follow. Many religions disapprove of pre-marital sexual intercourse. This can have a large impact on a child or teens feelings and attitudes toward sexual behavior. On the other hand, poor communication with parents on the topic of safe sex can have negative ramifications. When there is little to no communication, teenagers are more likely to partake in risky sex acts. In the same way, it is shown that parents who abuse substances such as alcohol have children that are at a higher risk of taking part in early sexual activity.

Additionally, school plays a large role in an individual’s feelings toward sexual activity. Schools influence children and teens by providing educational information on sex and its many consequences. It is mandatory in almost all middle schools and high schools for the student to take a health class. In health class, children and teens are taught that risky sexual behavior can have very serious consequences. Most schools take the position of sexual abstinence, or to abstain from sexual behavior completely.

Similarly, peers influence teenagers greatly. The affect that peer pressure has on teenagers is very powerful. Peer pressure can exert a strong influence on a child or young adult in almost every way possible. Fitting in with a certain crowd of people is one of the most important things to many adolescents. Many teens will do whatever it takes to be seen as worthy by a clique of peers. This can make teens partake in risky behaviors such as early sexual activity, crime, and substance abuse.

Although it is important to address that there are multiple areas of influence that affect teen sexuality, it is still imperial to recognize that media is the largest influence of all. Media sends a strong message on sexuality to teens as well as people of all ages. Whether the influence comes from the music we listen to, television we watch, magazines we read, or hidden messages that we are not conscious of, we take in media every second of every day.
-Katie Farrell

It is without a doubt true that sex is used as a major marketing tool for all types of goods and services sold in this country and beyond, but the question that should be asked is the media to blame or is the society’s thirst for the topic to blame? One must ask why media uses this tactic so often, and that is simply because it works. “Sex Sells” is a common term that is used to describe the correlation between consumer goods and the media that promotes them. (Miller) It would be easy to say that without these commonplace sexual references the younger generations would not be exposed to “adult” topics as openly or frequently but I fear that it is not that simple.

Throughout history sex has been used as a tool to exploit in order to provide wealth. Prostitution flourished in the 1800s as it was not illegal. Selling sex was considered by some to be a legitimate profession, and it wasn’t until the 1900s that it became a crime punishable by law. Doctors were even assigned to counties in order to check prostitutes for diseases. (Sex and the 1800s) It was commonplace for upper class men to use prostitutes or keep mistresses. It is true that sex was not spoken about openly as it is today, but that does not mean it wasn’t a large part of life, it was just being suppressed.

Over time sex has become an openly spoke about topic, and I believe that evolution of society along with industrialization along with mass manufacturing has played a large part in that. Goods are manufactured to satisfy consumer desires, and it would be foolish to think that the oldest desire known to man would not be exploited. The correlations between sex and media are obvious, but the source of this situation was not created over night. It is a natural instinct that has proven to be very powerful. If there were no market demand for sex then exploitations of it would not exist. Our society demands it and in turn companies and the media provide it.
-Eddie Sheikh

All things said, media truly affects today's youth in a negative and harmful manner. Nearly every amount of media that is taken in by a teenager, whether it be from television, music, or magazines, is sexually suggestive. Media is clearly much more influential in our country than any other so the correlation between the media and teen sex is not to be looked over. Birthrates alone are higher than other countries so it is almost impossible to argue that teen sex alone is not significantly higher. If media continues its common trends, without a doubt teens will be having sexual intercourse younger and younger.


Darroch JE et al., Teenage Sexual and Reproductive Behavior in Developed Countries: Can More Progress Be Made? Occasional Report, New York: AGI, 2001, No. 3, page 14.

Miller, G. (2009). Spent: sex, evolution, and consumer behavior. New York: Viking.

National Center for Health Statistics, "Births to Teenagers in the United States, 1940-2000," National Vital Statistics Report, 2001, Vol. 49, No. 10.

PEDIATRICS Vol. 117 No. 4 April 2006, pp. 1018-1027 (doi:10.1542/peds.2005-1406)

Sex and the 1800s. (n.d.). 19th Century Sex. Retrieved April 8, 2011, from www.public.iastate.edu/~f2003.hist.486x/19thCsex.html.

The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, February 2002, Volume 5, Number 1

By: Katie Farrell, Matt Moreno, Michael Dominguez , Neda Abusumayah, Eddie Sheikh

Counter argument:

Today, teens are exposed to a lot more sexual exposure from tv, music, and magazines than previous generations. Our media plays a large role in educating our teens about their sexuality. If you turn on the radio you hear songs talking about having sex with people you don't know or while intoxicated, turn on the tv and you see programs for teens that are about teens dating and having sex, and open a magazine and they are selling clothes that a 21 year old should wear to a 14 year old and writing articles about "great sex" in a magazine for teens. I don't see how all this negative exposure can be positive in any way and there are studies to prove it.
There have been several studies linking adolescents that watch tv with sexual content to being sexually active at an earlier age than adolescents that did not watch television with sexual content. The Rand corp. study was the first of it's kind to identify a link between teenagers' exposure to sexual content on tv and teen pregnancies. The study published in the November edition of the journal pediatrics, found that teens exposed to high levels of sexual content on television were twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy in the following three years as teens with limited exposure. Studies show that about two-thirds of television entertainment contain sexual content, ranging from jokes and innuendo to intercourse and other behaviors. With two-thirds of television entertainment exploiting sex it is hard to keep teens from seeing it.
If the media continues to reach out to our youth and show them how to use their sexuality in a negative way we are headed for disaster with our teens. The parents need to take charge and stop allowing children to watch, listen, and read about sex and gain control back over their kids. If we put a stop to it these shows would go off the air, music would be written about other topics, and magazines would change the content they have in them. I don't believe the media is a negative influence when it comes to teaching our kids about sex. Hopefully, in the future we will see a positive change in the media.

About.com Teens, Teens who watch a lot of tv with sexual content have sex sooner

Study; Sex on tv linked to teen pregnancies

By: Michaelene Huth


Today’s media does play a large role on teenage sexuality. However, it in my opinion is not the main source for sexual intercourse among teenagers. One of the biggest factors is a child’s relationship with their family and friends.
How one feels towards their parents and friends has a big impact on how they develop sexually. Studies show that how comfortable a child is with their relationship with their parents is a big factor on how they view sex. “Teenagers who reported a low level of satisfaction with their mother were more than twice as likely as those highly satisfied with their relationship to be having sexual intercourse” (James Jaccard). This shows that if a child has a good relationship with their mother, then they are far less likely to engage in sexual intercourse than those that do not have a good relationship with their mother. Another parental statistic that reinforces this statement is, “Being in trouble at home was the primary parent-reported risk behavior associated with increased odds of intending to have intercourse” (Rex Forehand). This shows that if a child does something that their parents don’t like, then their relationship can be hindered and affect their possible sexual intercourse. How a child does in school can also affect sexual intercourse. “Performing well on schoolwork was associated with reduced odds of intending to engage in sex” (Forehand). This shows that success in school can make a child less likely to have sex. This could be because it gives the student a sense of stability and helps their self-esteem and would make them not want to hinder their success. Lastly, how a student wants to be portrayed by their peers and society can play a big role. “Adolescents expected that sex would most likely lead to sexual pleasure, then intimacy and, finally, social status” (Mary Ott). This quote shows that to start, a child may have sex for pleasure, and then as it goes further they expect it to have an impact on how they are seen in society and that it could benefit their social status.
Many things influence a child into having sexual intercourse. Many of these influences intertwine and impact each other, some, however, more than others. Media has a huge role in this, but in my opinion a child’s biggest influence on themselves deciding to engage in sexual intercourse are the ones that are always around them, family and friends.


Rex Forehand, et al, “Sexual Intentions of Black Preadolescents: Associations with Risk and Adaptive Behaviors,” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 37.1 (March 2005).

James Jaccard, et al, “Maternal Correlates of Adolescent Sexual and Contraceptive Behavior,” Family Planning Perspectives, 28.4 (July/August 1996).

Mary Ott, et al, “Greater Expectations: Adolescents’ Positive Motivations for Sex,” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 38.2 (June 2006).

by: Steven Handzik