Sexuality and Television

After viewing only a few hours of television I asked myself, How is it that people can spend as many as 20 hours watching television per week? A whole day wasted, and what has come out of it? More garbage that will further distort any real comprehension held about what it means to be a male or a female. What it means to be male or female in the American culture cannot be defined with simple words, but yet can be easily distorted when viewing any commercial on television. It is amazing how a story about an entire cultures views about sexuality can be told in only a small portion of the day. This story about sexuality was unraveled as I forced myself to watch something I have absolutely no interest in and have not seen in almost four months. Women wearing extremely revealing clothing (i.e halter tops, mini skirts, breast accentuating shirts, and translucent clothing), men inconsequentially fooling around with whom ever they please, and negatives attitudes about genders were all common issues in my 19 inch box of colorful sound. Could it really be possible that the programs on television accurately portray how we Americans view sexuality? Watching only five hours of television led me to the conclusion that no matter what channel I happened to turn on, there was always an attractive person being displayed, and Americans choose to be promiscuous because they can.
Viewing such an abundance of attractive people on television makes me wonder if a normal American even exists. If our lives do not resemble those of the characters we view on television, does that mean that there is something wrong with us? In the American society, if we see something that we like, we will keep watching it and obsessing over it until the trend is exhausted, even if this trend is a human being. According to Byrnes law of attraction, our liking for a person is influenced by the reinforcements we receive from interaction with them. This also says that shared activities provide the basis for smooth and rewarding interaction. In other words, the more time a person spends with someone doing things that they mutually enjoy (shared activities), the more attracted they will be to each other. Byrnes law is completely contradicted when it is applied to the notion that many adolescent girls fall madly in love with stars such as the members of Backstreet Boys. There are no interactions between the obsessive girls and the superstars, but yet these girls believe that they are destined to be with the group members. There are never shared activities with these stars, but yet the ones who feel an unexplainable bond with their destined one cry when beautiful women are seen around their man. One can only assume that attractiveness is all that matters in the America, and if you dont have attractiveness, you are hopeless.
Although music videos contain a variety of musical styles, they have many common visual themes that inaccurately portray famous artists. These themes are the degradation of women, and the promiscuity of men. Many of videos display women as sexual objects to be looked at while they rhythmically dance to the beat of the song. Women are not the only dancers though; men can often be seen grinding against many different women throughout the same song. This implies that being promiscuous is okay if you are a male, and that the more partners you have, the higher the regard with which you are held. During these dances a lot of attention is drawn to the pelvic region. Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Madonna, *NSYNC, Lil Kim, and Kid Rock represent a very small percentage of the videos shown on MTV that bring focus to the crotch. In my viewing, all of these artists grabbed, held, flashed or portrayed their genitals in some sexual manner. This again gives the message that promiscuity is normal, and if you want some action, many are willing to put out. And because of this, we are constantly reminded that promiscuity will bring happiness along with fortune and fame.

While viewing late night television, the promiscuity is only intensified because younger viewers are usually in bed at this time. This only proves that the producers of these shows know that something is wrong with their material, but yet will provide viewers with this information because it sells and satisfies Americas addiction to sex. Throughout the course of one episode of Saturday Night Live, there were several skits that implied characters were participating in sexual activities with numerous partners. (These activities of course cannot be shown because there are certain limitations that are placed on public television.) Many of these skits also focused on ex-president Bill Clinton because he was caught being promiscuous by the media. He appeared in several scenes wearing a giant penis, yelling Suck it! repeatedly, and checking out many different women at a party. This is another example of explicit behavior on television which shows that promiscuity is not just portrayed by artists, but also in parodies of political figures.

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While analyzing the content of television commercials, the portrayal of gender roles are extremely over exaggerated, and at times are very disturbing. An Old El Paso commercial shows a mother opening the refrigerator. She wonders what to cook for dinner when she sees only one pound of hamburger inside. A cowboy comes riding to save the day; he gives the woman a taco mix so she can cook her family a good meal. She is amazed with the cowboy, but he cant stick around so he proudly rides away into the night. This is a sickening and unrealistic portrayal of female stereotyping in agreement with the age-old myth that a womans place is the kitchen, and that men are always the heroes that save the day. Children do not need to view such prejudice. At a time where we are greatly evolving as a race, we need to break away from these stereotypical norms. In a commercial for the television network Do It Yourself (DIY). Men are shown working with tools, making home improvements, while the women are shown gardening and working with crafts. Once again the message revealed is that a womens place is in the home. In an advertisement for the Princeton Club gym in Madison, males are the only ones shown to be exercising on the equipment. Are women allowed to exercise? Do female athletes exist? Of course the answer to these questions is yes! But apparently the owners of the club are still living the mid twentieth century. The commercials shown during the late night television programming portrayed images that were anything but from the mid twentieth century. In one commercial during the late night television program, never before seen Playboy mansion party footage was being advertised. This footage included censored naked women, and many of the Playboy bunnies being kissed by Hugh Hefner. Once again promiscuity is viewed as a good thing because everyone in the commercial was having a good time, so there is no reason to think that something could be wrong with these actions.

It is very hard to analyze the content and intent of any form of entertainment, since viewing is such an individualized experience. What is offensive to one person may seem completely normal to the next, and what one innocent being takes to heart, may easily be sloughed of by a more educated individual with a hardened exterior. There is always going to be opposition, positives, and negatives to any subject. America represents an individualistic and controversial society filled with a population diverse in every aspect from race to religion. As our culture progresses in its sexuality so does the medias portrayal of our sexuality. Human sexuality is a sensitive and influential topic which holds a different, but special meaning within the heart of every individual. Therefore, in publicly addressing this subject, one simple question must be asked: is publicly available viewing material greatly influencing the beliefs of our culture, or is it simply an aid to ones own personal discoveries and life lessons pertaining to sexuality? We may never know the answer.


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