March 6, 2011

Mixed Messages

Filed under: Uncategorized — publicandprivatespace @ 11:47 pm

“Welcome to PSI students,” a strange lady said to my seventh grade class the first day of our postponing sexual involvement class. She then proceeded to define sexual terms like we had no idea what they were. “Here’s a picture of herpes, you will get this STD if you have any type of sex. Abstinence is the best policy,” she warned us. I received sex education in seventh grade, once my sophomore year, and once my senior year. I believe I was one of the lucky ones to receive sex education three times my whole grade school and high school career. Of all of the couple day programs two of them were structured like this. I only received a more comprehensive, informative, and FACTUAL view about sex once I got to my SENIOR year of high school. The ONLY reason I got this chance was because I took a senior seminar class. I have to admit that I have a narrow point of view when it comes to sex education because I went to private school kindergarten through senior year. But I do know that I learned most of my sophomoric knowledge of sex from the other kids that went to grade school with me.

            I won’t offend you with the various sexual slang and knowledge I learned from sixth, seventh, and eighth grade but let’s just say it was a whole lot more information than I would ever receive from sex education class. When I was researching the topic of how sex affects public and private space I realized that the peers I received my information from in grade school had received their information from the media. The interesting conflict I found is how private the subject of sex is and has been for hundreds of years, and how today sex has become very public. While parents and sex educators struggle to say the right things and question the right information to give kids about sex, the youth of America are being educated and misinformed by the media.

            Sex is in movies, in TV shows, in music, in commercials, in magazines, and just about any type of media these days. Refer to the picture above; Calvin Klein is doing a better job of selling sex than they are of selling clothes. The problem with the youth learning about sex from the media is that adults have no idea what exactly they are learning. The information they receive could be wrong, could be right, could be exaggerated, either way there is no way of knowing unless parents and adults monitor the media kid’s intake. Exposure to such content  is related to sexual outcomes, ranging from body dissatisfaction, to earlier sexual intercourse, less contraceptive use, and even pregnancy. (Jane D. Brown) Teens exposed to this type of media are brain washed into thinking that this behavior is normal, healthy, cool, and okay. Teens admit that forty percent of teens’ sexual activity is primarily influenced by their friends and twenty five percent is primarily influenced by movies and television. (Rated Risky: Drawing the Line)

I know I’ve sung the lyrics to a new popular song and suddenly realized exactly what I was saying. Musicians often have a way of hiding the real meaning in their songs behind the beat and the structure of the song. The preconceived notion that “everyone is doing it,” is directly derived from songs, movies, TV shows, and media like this. Frequent exposure to sexual TV content hastens sexual initiation and early pregnancy.  (Jane D. Brown) The problem with the media is that youth don’t analyze and interpret the messages that the media sends them so they believe that reality in the media is reality that is going on all around them. Teens receive wrong information about sexual practices like; “everyone is doing it”, “you can’t get an STD from oral sex” and think that this information is true.   

Teens need to learn the tools to decipher the messages that the media sends them. The United States is one of the few countries that don’t teach their youth about the media. Several countries have implemented programs that give their youth these tools. According to the Center for Media Literacy, the United States is lagging behind. These programs teach the youth about the source of the media, the tactics it uses to persuade viewers, how the way the media is presented effects the actual information, and the values that the media portrays to consumers. If teens and kids knew how to analyze the information that the media sends them their sexual practices may be less influenced by what they see on TV or listen to on their IPods.


  1. The statistics of young adults that are influenced by media and friends to partake in sexual acts is alarming! If 40% of individuals are influenced by their friends to participate in sexual acts where are their friends receiving information? My point is that the media could be influencing an individual’s friends and therefore has a greater impact on young adults.

    It is important that young adults can analyze the media and decipher a false sense of reality from the truth. With this in mind it is also important that young adults are informed on all of options and possibilities provided during sex education. A young adult must be informed on all the information by a reputable source in order to not be deceived by the media. A student could easily be deceived if a sex educator only presents abstinence and the media is teaching students about contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases.

    -Jennifer Burwell

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 7, 2011 @ 1:40 pm | Reply

  2. I feel as though sex education in America needs to be reformed and restructured for the younger generations. It is important that the school system keep teaching kids about this topic because it is so prevalent in every day life. Schools need to start teaching their students that sex is a part of life. When schools only tell children to abstain from sex, they grow up with a skewed vision of what sex really is. This begins a controversial topic of whether or not this topic should be taught in school. It is irrelevant to math, English, or science, which are the normal topics for school. Yet, without sexual education, children may never fully understand the risks of being sexually active, as well as the benefits.

    -Jill Germana

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 9, 2011 @ 10:36 am | Reply

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