Claire Powell Val Escobar. Shawnice Sloan. Fatima Abashera
Staff writer. Staff Writer. Staff Writer Staff Writer.
Sex on television has always been a hot-button issue, now more than ever before. However, are these popular shows like Euphoria and Sex Education portraying the accurate description of what sex is and how it affects teenagers? And what do SLA students think about teenage sexual behavior — both their own, and on the screen?
To figure out the answers to these questions, SLAMedia looked at national trends, conducted interviews members of the school community, and also sent out an anonymous student survey to assess attitudes about sex and media.
88 SLA students answered various questions about their feelings on sex and their opinions of how well sex is portrayed in popular TV shows.
The big takeaway? Most students do not have very strong opinions on their own sexual beahvior.
50% of responses said that sexual activity was either very important or important to them personally, but 69% said that they think sexual activity is either somewhat or not important at all for teens in general.
When it came to SLA opinions on the value of sexual activity, responses were mixed. Some students felt that sex can create stronger connections between people and it could serve as a way to explore people’s own sexuality, others said that teens might think sex is the only form of intimacy or connection, and others mentioned how sexual encounters can go wrong since bodies are in the process of developing.
The SLA findings echo national trends. The percentage of high school juniors who have ever had sexual intercourse has declined to 42 percent from 62 percent since 1991, according to a national survey of teenagers conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alongside this fact, teenagers have more access to porn than ever before. The new generation is able to have everything right at our fingertips. This may be a reason that teenagers are having less sex compared to previous generations.
Although the number of people having sex has declined, the attitude towards sexual behavior has increased. Differences in attitudes toward sex among different generations is quite obvious. Is this because our society is more progressive? As our generations evolve, we come to terms more with sexuality and the openness of it.
In addition, acceptance of same-sex relationships has tripled in the past 25 years, rising from 13 percent in 1990 to 44 percent in 2012. (HealthLine) This is because of state laws that now make same-sex marrige legal. Developments such as these may make the dialogue around sexual orientation and behavior more accepted — which may actually lower sexual activity, as it becomes less taboo.
“When the culture places more emphasis on the needs of the self and less on social rules, more relaxed attitudes toward sexuality are the almost inevitable result,” (Twenge)
Sex in the Media
Shows like Euphoria, a newly popular series on HBO that focuses on teenagers life arangged around sex and drugs. The show has been criticized for the way it portrays these behaviors , especially the party scenes.
As for how sex is portrayed in pop culture, SLA students had much clearer opinions.
96% of respondents said that TV portrays teen sex either somewhat or not realistically at all. A repeat comment was about how TV shows don’t show the awkwardness of teen sex.
One responce said “Sex is so awkward! No TV shows how awkward it is!” and another response said “That sex is supposed to feel good but they don’t show the parts where the weird things are normal.”.
Many responses also mentioned how TV shows overdo teen encounters. Several students challenged the idea that Euphoria is relatable, or if it has any connection to the sex lives of real highschoolers.
“I feel like the media in general always have teens hooking up, but there are also a lot of people who don’t or don’t value it as much,” One respondent wrote, “They oversexualize teens and that’s not how teens would usually do it.”.
An anonymous student from SLA said that “It’s a drama meant for enjoyment, not an accurate portrayal.”
Another student wrote, “I think shows overly sexualize teens, especially girls in order to get more views which is wrong. I also think overall they make it seem like teens center their life around sex which I think is wrong.”
Only one student had a formal idea for improvement. Maya West, a senior here at SLA said “I feel like we talked about the stuff around sex but not really sex…and I feel there needs to be a lot more inclusitivity. Everyone’s in a different place right now.“
SLA faculty had a different take on the show.
“No I haven’t heard of Euphoria”, Ryans further explained when asked about the popular television show. “If it educates students about drugs and the potential harms and treatment I don’t mind.”, she adds when asked about controversy that can surround shows like Euphoria.
SLA Students and Consent
The last set of questions asked about teens’ own experiences and thoughts relating to consent.
51% of respondents said that their consent has never been violated in a sexual enconunter, the other 49% said that their consent had been either somewhat violated or violated.
Of those who said their consent had been either somewhat violated or violated, Only 16% said that that situation had been resolved.
The final question asked whether SLA students take consent seriously, students said 35% take it seriously, 56% somewhat seriously, and 9% not seriously at all. These numbers aren’t very surprising to us considering what the rest of the world has to say about consent.
It’s safe to say that most students at SLA do not feel our Sex-ed program is reflective of the modern-day teenager’s sexual experience. Considering the exaggerated nature of sex in adolescent geared content, one can only assume that high-school students don’t know what to expect of sex or a sexual education course. It is a shared view that from every angle they are only being fed bits and pieces, it’s either not enough or entirely too much. Perhaps the lack of substantial improvement suggestions can be explained by this observed media-blindness.
We hope that the curriculum on consent changes so that our percentage of students who take it seriously will rise. As our society grows, people should realize the effect that media has on teenagers, and should consider showing more realistic perspectives on teenage sexual activity. Thinking about the media we consume as individuals can lead to better choices being made.