Photo Credit: I Love Lucy TV Show

Why is sex in almost every TV show and Movie in today’s entertainment media such as Sex Education and Oppenheimer? When it comes to well-conceived sex in movies, they are capable of generating a spontaneous physical quiver being both cathartic — and gratifying — as a good cry or hearty laughter.  Jonathan Rosenbaum, an American author and the head film critic for The Chicago Reader from 1987-2008, noted that movie sex “is the ultimate special effect.” 

As much as this is true over the history of cinema, it seems that as of late Gen Z is arguing that they want LESS SEX on screen! A new University Of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study found that young people between the ages of 13-24 are looking for fewer sex scenes on television and in movies.  Statistically speaking from the school’s Center for Scholars and Storytellers comes the “Teens and Screens” report, reporting that 51.5% of adolescents would appreciate more content depicting friendships and platonic relationships than seeing two beloved characters come together to perform softcore porn for their audience. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case for some beloved TV Shows like Sex Education, which has revealed season 4 to have raunchier and even steamier scenes reported by The U.S. Sun.  The TV Show Euphoria has been criticized for the amount of erotic nudity, however, the show is rated 18 for adults and has given viewers discretion about drug use, violence, language, and to some extent the nudity, but many viewers were surprised by the extent the show’s creators went to include erotic and raunchy sex scenes. 

Valentia Adarkwa-Afari, Digital Student Ambassador from the University of Sheffield (TUOS) posted on her blog, “…I was not expecting the sheer amount of nudity that is in the show. It seems as though every few minutes in every episode there is a shot of someone’s intimate region, or a sex scene being used for ‘plot’ purposes. But even with modern television venturing into more risqué forms of performances, I cannot help but wonder if the amount of nudity and intimate scenes we are watching has become too uncomfortable, and if it is uncomfortable for us as viewers, is it safe to assume it has become too uncomfortable for actors? Nudity in television and movies has become the new normal.”  On one side of the coin, we can agree that our Entertainment Industry is producing films with extreme Softcore Porn, being easily accessible to minors through the endless amounts of streaming services, however, it is important to take note because it turns out others beg to differ! 

Let’s jump over to the other side and look at sex on screen as something positive and groundbreaking and remind ourselves that sex should not always equal porn. As society evolves so do the rules and what is deemed appropriate to be considered the new status quo, especially when it comes to sex in movies. An argument that can be thrown out there is, “sex in movies portrays reality”. Sex exists! It’s how we humans reproduce but also physically display love for one another. So why is it being harshly criticized in our modern media these days? Why do 51.5% of adolescents prefer more content depicting friendships and platonic relationships? Is it becoming boring? Roya Blacklund posts, Despite this damning news, it barely scratches the surface of a largely sex-negative culture that has rapidly developed online amongst our youth. This wave has even led to the coining of the term “puriteen”.” First off, what is a “puriteen”? defines “puriteen” as “ A (almost always) young person on the internet who thinks that the internet has to conform to being entirely sfw (Safe for work), and puts all of their time and energy into attempting to police art and media for any remote depiction of sexuality they disagree with.” 

Roya Blacklund addresses the reactions of “puriteens” in her blog and states, “While Gen Z is certainly not advocating for an outward ban on sex in cinema, it’s important to remember how fast one thing leads to another and how far filmmakers had to come to even be able to depict sexual themes at all. In the years following the Hays Code’s downfall, cinema experienced a sexual reawakening.” Blacklund goes into detail about the history of Sex in Cinema and how there was a time during the years from 1934 to 1968 when there were a set of rules that major motion picture studios in the United States had to abide by called the Hays Code. The Hays Code was this self-imposed industry set of guidelines for all the motion pictures released between 1934 and 1968. The code prohibited profanity, suggestive nudity, graphic or realistic violence, sexual persuasions, and rape. Examples of how the Hays Code affected TV Shows and Movies can be seen in many episodes of I Love Lucy, starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. 

As seen in the picture above the Hays Code had strictures that forbade actors and actresses from sharing the same bed on screen whether or not they were married in real life like Lucille Ball (screen left) and Desi Arnez (screen right) until their divorce May 4, 1960. The very thought of two live-action fictional characters seemed to be so provocative that TV characters playing husband and wife implied SEX! This is what Blacklund argues against when it comes to Sex in Cinema.  What Gen Z seems to not understand when it comes to Cinema history and the laws it was challenged with at the time is that the Hays Code was implemented after the provocative landscape of 1920s cinema, often depicting women in positions of autonomy, domination, and “worst of all” POWER! The Hays Code, for the next 30 years, put a stop to that, putting women back into the kitchen and stripping them of the freedom to authentically express their womanhood.  

The question lies, is sex bad for Cinema? How much sex is too much sex? Well just like drinking too much water can kill a human being, too much sex can dilute an audience’s value and appreciation for Film Entertainment. Henry Cavill, well known for starring as Clark Kent/Superman in Zack Snyder’s 2013, Man Of Steel, comments  I do understand that there are certain circumstances where sex scenes are beneficial to a movie rather than just the audience, but sometimes they’re overused these days” when the star appeared on the Happy Sad Confused podcast with director Matthew Vaughn to promote his latest feature Argylle, and disclosed his mixed opinions on the topic. In the “Teens and Screens” report, Olivia Rodrigo spoke to NME about whether or not she has seen the latter series of the HBO show Euphoria. Olivia Rodrigo Stated, “I don’t have the desire to. I remember walking out of ‘Barbie’ and being like, ‘Wow, it’s so long since I’ve seen a movie that is female-centered in a way that isn’t sexual or about her pain or her being traumatized.’”  

We as a society that values and appreciates good and healthy forms of entertainment can look to these two well-known celebrities and take something away from their opinions along with the statistics that show the audience is tired of sex, but the other side of the coin also says don’t forget how much hard work was put into to eradicate archaic strictures that would’ve prevented the making of some of our favorite films and TV Shows. They’re not damning sex in cinema, but are expressing their opinions that sex isn’t always the key to a well-versed plot. Sometimes a truly well-written story can capture an audience’s attention without the need to arouse a higher viewership. 

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