Sex in television


Sarah Nash

Only 13 (40/318) percent of KHS students think that television accurately depicts teenage sex lives.

Grace Klebe, news editor

33 seconds is all it takes for a topless sex scene between two high schoolers to begin in the first episode of Netflix’s new show “Sex Education,” a series about a teenager who starts a sex therapy business with two of his friends.  While your parents might be shocked by the nudity and mature content, this is nothing new to many teens binging Netflix in 2019, as sex has always been a part of high school TV and movies.

In the early 2000s it was “Gossip Girl,” with high schoolers going up to a fancy hotel bar and ordering whiskey, then proceeding to have sex on said bar. Or something of the sort. It seems as though they had sex in every episode. Your seventh-grade self might have asked, “Is this normal? Are high schoolers really having this much sex? Do they really talk in deep metaphors and wear matching lacy bra and underwear sets every day?” The answer is no. At least, as far as I can tell.

Riverdale” is another show sweeping pop culture today. The youngest cast member portraying a high schooler, KJ Apa, is 20 years old. Cole Sprouse is 25. These are not high schoolers. These are adults pretending to be high schoolers, and they sure don’t look like they are 17 years old. And they have sex in every episode.

Only 13 (40/318) percent of KHS students think that television accurately depicts teenage sex lives. Yes, teenagers are having sex. Teenagers talk about sex. But the extent to which the teenagers on our screens are having sex is inaccurate and misleading. The number of sexually active teens has consistently decreased since 1988, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1988, 57 percent of teens were sexually active. Today, just over 40 percent of teens are sexually active. If you got your statistics from television, it would look like that number was close to 100.

Maybe teenagers are having less sex because they are too busy playing Fortnite. I’m serious. There are so many other things we can do with our time. Why would you have a significant other when Netflix and Hulu have millions of relationships you can watch from the comfort of your bed? Why spend money on a dinner date and condoms when you can watch Archie and Veronica get it on?

Maybe teenagers are having less sex because they are aware of the consequences. Shows like “Glee” and “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” show what can happen when unprotected sex leads to pregnancy. “Shameless” depicts the harmful impact of STDs. Just as the number of sexually active teens has decreased significantly, so has teenage pregnancy. The CDC reports that the number of teen pregnancies has been cut in half since 1991. Teenagers who are having sex are having much safer sex too. Maybe this is all a result of the amount of sex teenagers are exposed to.

The shows we love are full of sex. “Pretty Little Liars,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “13 Reasons Why,” “The Fosters,” “Big Mouth.” Us teenagers see it every day. It may not be accurate, but it teaches us, exposes us and matures us. It might make our parents, who grew up on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” slightly uncomfortable. But they had more sex than we do. They also thought smoking cigarettes was a good idea. Times are changing.