Effects of the Media’s Portrayal of Sexuality

What are the effects of the media’s portrayal of sexuality on adolescents’ sexual lives? What are some negative and some positive effects of the media’s portrayal of sexuality? How has the media’s portrayal of sexuality affected your life?

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The effects of the media’s portrayal of sexuality on adolescents’ sexual lives are multifaceted and complex, psychologically speaking. According to the classical conditioning model of behaviorism, conditioned responses can become associated with unconditional stimuli through both negative and positive reinforcement. In this case, the adolescent is receiving positive reinforcement of sexually unhealthy behavior from the media at large. The adolescent then begins to associate the positive experience they see in the media with the sexual act itself. Then in the absence of negative reinforcement from parents, friend, etc… the adolescent seeks out sexually unhealthy behavior. Specifically, the adolescent population only sees the positive side of sexual encounters without the counterweights of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (Brown & Keller, 2000).

Furthermore, Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis dictates that the urges of the ID can only be satisfied when the ego has found a socially acceptable way to express the ID in accordance with the overbearing conscience of the superego. In the absence of such an outlet (i.e. parental sexual advice), the ID is free to satisfy its sexual and aggressive urges through whatever means the ego can find. Henceforth, the adolescent seeks out sexually unhealthy behavior out of default. Moreover, I myself have been negatively affected by the media’s depiction of sexuality. When I started my first relationship in middle school I had no idea what contraceptives were or how they worked. Sure I knew what a condom was, but I did not think that I could just walk into any convenience store and buy one. I thought you had to be 18 or something.

After all, everyone on TV that had sex was 18 or older. I also knew nothing about sexually transmitted infections. I had no idea how they were spread or how to avoid contracting them. Again, I had heard of A.I.D.S. but had no idea that I could actually fall victim. I thought only prostitutes and people who chose to lead a homosexual lifestyle could get A.I.D.S. After all, no one in the media who had sex got S.T.I.’s. Also, the media did not readily portray sexual intercourse as exciting between a husband and a wife; therefore, I was lead to believe that only premarital sex was exciting and thrilling. In conclusion, the effects of the media’s portrayal of sexual activity are misleading and an abundant source of misinformation.

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Brown, J.D., Keller, S.N. (2000). Can the mass media be healthy sex educators?. Family Planning Perspectives, 32 (5), 255-256. Retrieved July 21, 2008, from EBSCOhost database.

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