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Youth Culture Window

TV Goes Sexy
And damaging teen girls in the process
An article from David R. Smith at TheSource4YM.com
1/31/2008


Once upon a time, “adult entertainment” was hidden in dresser drawers and under mattresses, but not anymore. Thanks to clever new marketing, it’s now as close as the TV and video game system. And lots of devastated teen girls are showing up in its wake.

As the saturation of this adult content becomes more readily available, research shows that young girls are developing a warped sense of their own sexuality and imitating what they see in the media in an effort to be noticed by guys.

What is the source of this sexually charged media?

We all know the Internet to be a haven of pornographic material (both soft and hardcore), and for the most part, are aware of the risks associated with teens actually encountering adult material on the web. Nowadays, however, adult material and adult actors are intentionally pervading (and perverting) other entertainment venues, like primetime TV and video games.

For instance, E!’s Girls Next Door allows viewers to “join Hugh Hefner and his three lovely ladies—Holly, Bridget and Kendra—as they expose the secrets of the Playboy Mansion.” The highly celebrated “Queen of Porn,” Jenna Jameson, enrolled her voice and self-animation in an episode of The Family Guy when Brian, the family dog, directs a porn flick starring the diva. (She is also the voiceover for the character “Candy Suxxx” in the video game smash hit Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, which sold well over 11 million copies.) And on February 18, the popular Pussycat Dolls return to TV with The CW’s Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll-Girlicious. This show will follow the process of selecting the next young girl who is “talented” enough to join the Pussycat Dolls’ spotlight doing their “soft-porn” dance routines.

Just for the sake of clarification, these are primetime TV shows which can be viewed in any home! They represent the entertainment of choice for today’s teens. And if you think this kind of adult content is relegated to “certain” kinds of TV shows, think again. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that:

  • two-thirds of all TV shows (64%) have some sexual content, including one in three (32%) with sexual behaviors


  • in the top-20 shows among teen viewers, eight in ten episodes included some sexual content (83%), including one in five (20%) with sexual intercourse


  • one in seven shows (14%) now include sexual intercourse, either depicted or strongly implied


These stats show why no reality TV show is complete without a make out scene in the hot tub (Rock of Love) or having girls perform soft core porn dances as auditions (The Pussycat Dolls).

And we haven’t even delved into the Internet or music industry. (And we won’t in this article, but this article does.)

While all of this is bad news, the most heartbreaking data is found in the effects the booming exposure of adult entertainment is having on our young girls. The saturation of adult content further contributes to the warped sense of sexuality our young ladies are embracing. More and more girls are “looking for love in all the wrong places,” even if it means behaving in an overtly sexual way. This risqué behavior includes a growing number of teenage girls beginning to dress more provocatively, posting racy pictures to their online profiles, and even uploading video streams of themselves performing sexy dances for boyfriends to see.

With celebrity heroes like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Nicole Richie, it’s little wonder that their attitudes and behaviors are shifting so severely. Leading psychologists report that young girls impersonate scantily clad and sexy acting female celebrities in the hopes that they will gain favor and renown with guys. "To be sure, it can make you feel powerful to know that you are arousing strong feelings in other people, that you have their attention and admiration," says Eileen Zurbriggen, a psychologist at the University of California. (For more converstaion on this important subject, check out Jonathan's latest Podcast #11.)

The American Psychological Association (APA) found evidence that the increase of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls’ self-image and mental health development.

It gets worse, though.

In a study performed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it was found that viewing these kinds of TV shows could seriously increase the number of young people having sex by the age of 15. Although a variety of factors were studied (low self-esteem, relational distance from parents, and attention deficit disorders) the leading factor was choice of TV show viewing. By the way, 44% of teens admit to watching different shows when they’re parents aren’t home.

The research performed dealt with students viewing six kinds of programming and channels: MTV, BET, music videos, wrestling, daytime soap operas and sports shows. The more these kinds of TV shows were watched, the greater the likelihood of beginning sex between the ages of 13 and 15.

It’s easy to see that there’s a lot on the line when it comes to our teens’ TV show choices. What can we do to jump in the fray and help rescue them from a false reality that leaves them so damaged? Remember, the problem is twofold, WHAT they’re watching, and the EFFECT it’s having on them.

  1. Inform parents of the risks. According to the APA’s report, affirmation from parents goes a long way towards preventing a young girl from experiencing the mental and emotional damage of living in a world so saturated with adult images.

  2. Encourage parents to watch TV with their teens. That way, they get a firsthand account of what their children are watching. This practice gives parents great segues into conversations about choices of TV viewing and even sex. Further, parents can use technology that comes standard on most cable and dish installation devices to block mature-rated TV shows from their children.

  3. Look for teachable moments…and teach! Even if you do #1 and #2, some parents will still not take an active role in this portion of their kids’ lives. You may have to pick up the slack and lovingly challenge your students about their TV viewing choices.

  4. Point to alternative, healthy programming. There are tons of ways in which kids can enjoy TV viewing without being slammed with graphic images, characterizations, or outright sexualization.


I seriously doubt that television producers will change the current trends that are captivating so many viewers. Hey, sex sells! Why would they? So, don’t hold your breath waiting for things to get better. Instead of allowing television to define our girls, take an active role in helping them understand God’s definition of who they are.


David R. Smith David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org. David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.


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