The question of sexuality, contraception and the media has been of a growing concern over a long time and the situation has ever been worse off with the teenagers being the most vulnerable population. Erotic imagery in advertising aimed at drawing interest to say a particular product has been the order of the day while turning a deaf hear to morality and respect especially for the female genre. Sex has been used as a tool of advertisement as its implications builds the premise that generally, people are more curious about sexuality, a fact that marketers have based their sales on. This paper will examine the representation of sexuality in the various media channels such as the television, cinema, newspaper advertisements, music and other modes of communication. The paper will integrate examples from the contemporary media texts to expound on the media representation of sexuality such as sexuality in the TV show Glee, the Calvin Klein ads and other sex scandals in the news papers and magazines.
One of the most controversial shows aired is the TV show Glee. The content and the conversation in the play send a lot of signals regarding the abuse of sexuality. In season one of the shows, we find a discussion of some of the characters, i.e. Rachel, Will, Emma and Quinn about their previous assembly performance that they had held earlier in their school. The characters talk about teenage sex and their description of sexuality leaves a lot to be deserved. They are insensitive about what they say and their aim is to corrupt the mind of the audience, majority of which are teenagers who are currently in the process of shaping their morals and social standards. Everything that cross their eyes or whatever they hear is very critical as this determines their uptake on the contemporary issues such as that of premarital sex. In the show case, Rachel openly puts it that and I quote, “The only way to deal with teen sexuality is to be prepared, that’s what contraception is for.” . Quinn then replies by discouraging Rachel on the idea only for her to go further to corrupt her mind. Rachel replies that girls want sex just as much as guys do. On asking if her statement was accurate, Kurt joins in the conversation and throws some humorous comments noting that and I quote, “You need t call me before you dress yourself.”.
The exposure of such sexual content through television and the portrayals of other sexual behaviors have serious effects on the sexual attitudes, behaviors and beliefs especially to the teenagers who do not understand the essence of sexuality. This leaves them even more confused about what uptake they should adopt in their life. Statistics indicate that the number of teenagers that engage in premarital sex and teenage pregnancies in United States is at the rise (Lorraine, 2003, 2). This can be attributed to such shows and other publications that convey sexuality as insensitive and an immoral order of the 21st century.
The other contemporary media misrepresentation of sexuality is the famous sexual Calvin Klein ads, basically aimed at promoting the sale of his clothing, mostly the inner wears. Data analyzed from the various surveys indicate that adolescents get access to and more so use most of the media sources as their major sources of substantial information on which they base their decisions on their daily life (Foucault, 1976, 83). The Calvin Klein Fashion Company has been faced with numerous legal litigations, mostly on very shocking cases of titillating images on their advertisements. One of the most criticized of the company’s adverts is the billboard that the company structured in a bid to advertise their jeans. The advertisement on the billboard featured two relatively young men and an entangled half-clothed young woman and the third man lying just at their feet. The woman is shown as kissing one of the men while lying on top of the second man. The third man lying at their feet has been portrayed as if he was either undressing or else pulling up his pants in a bid to dress up. To make the matters worse, the billboard was one of the biggest in the city, standing at 50 foot on a very high-traffic area; a location where thousands of teenagers and children see everyday as they pass on to and from school.
This advertisement has been ruled out by many as outrageous and disgusting, stating that it is all a show of disrespect to the community and an abuse to sexuality. One of the biggest virtues in life according to Davis (2004) that should be passed on to the upcoming generations is the preservation of the moral culture and clearly, this can never conspire with such portrayals of sexuality, worse off on the face of the children. Parents have found themselves at a hurdle to advise and protect their beloved children from such exposure that really corrupts their mind and instills negative implications about sexuality and respect of gender. Religious organizations, policy makers as well as health professionals have been very concerned about the rate at which premarital sexual encounters among teenagers and the numerous risks of pregnancies and the transmission of STD’s which is at the rise especially in the high school population in the USA. The use of sexuality in advertising is normally aimed at selling some particular attitudes and values about sex along with the product being advertised in the market. This is what Enid refers to as the ‘concept’ of the advisement. For instance the concept that has been applied in the above advert by Calvin Klein is that ‘innocence is sexy’ in that young people are used to portray provocative poses on the billboard advertisement for the jeans. The other possible concept or message being sent by the Calvin advertisement would be that women enjoy being dominated as we see three men and a single lady which is rather weird. All this conspiracy is attributable to the media representation of sexuality which leaves the teenagers at the mercy of selfish businessmen and media sources that are out to make a kill in their sales without bothering to uphold morality and gender respect in their businesses.
There exist a big controversy between the marketing view of sexuality and the biological view of sexuality, a point that causes the up haul in the abuse of sexuality and morality by the media sources. The marketing understanding or point of view of morality according to Enid (2000) is that it can either be physical/emotional, biological or viewed in the line of spiritual aspects. On the other hand, the actual interpretation of sexuality as per the biological point of view is the reproductive mechanism integrated with the basic biological drive that exists in all the living species. The media chooses to adopt the physical or the emotional aspect of sexuality which is basically the bond that exists between two persons and is normally expressed through physical manifestations or even by exposing profound feelings of love, lust, trust and care (Susan, 2009, 1). Advertisers know all these facts but normally turns a deaf hear and goes on to abuse sexuality in posing their advertisements just to achieve their desired attitude through posing provocative images, conversations and plays. This is the power behind sexuality, i.e. the ability to portray with the intention to provoke individuals or prompt them to make certain decisions that area against their moral boundaries or even their own wanting.
In history, advertisers have often used women to take up erotic roles and poses at very high rate as compared to men. They believe that the use of female models in these roles largely attracts the attention of their target male customers. What’s ironical about this conviction is the fact that most major purchases are made by women themselves.
One of the tagline used for an advertisement of jeans by Calvin Klein was, and I quote “Want to know what gets between me and my Calvin’s? Nothing.” This advert was very controversial. In his defense, Calvin noted that and I quote, “Jeans are about sex. The abundance of bare flesh is the last gap of advertisers trying to give redundant products a new identity.” (Susan, 2009, 2). This clearly shows that Calvin knew the exact intention and goal of using sexuality in his advertisement which was to implicate physical urge and attraction from the buyers so that they feel attached to the fashion since most people get attracted to sex. Lorraine Research studies and content analysis have linked socio demographic factors such as age, sex and ethnicity to teenagers making up their interpretation based on the understanding that they obtain from the sexual materials released in the media.
On conclusion, strict policies and rules should be instituted so that the media bodies and other advertising channels do not cross certain boundaries when it comes to the exposure of sexuality in their business. The government should pass legislations and strict terms so that the media follows the protocol of moral respect and maintenance of the true value of sexuality and gender values; otherwise this generation will be headed to a zero morality and cases of sexual evils such as teenage pregnancies, contamination of sexually transmitted diseases and prostitution may be the order of the day.