Category Archives: T.V.

What The Wire Taught Me About SexEd

If you knew me in High School, you know I had no need for SexEd while I was a teenager. I was hyperbolically academic, awkwardly clothed in thrift store cardigans and my role model was Rory Gilmore. And despite the fact that I’m pretty sure I masturbated embryonically and definitely had a strong curiosity in the subject of sex, even if just pixilated hypothetical sex, there was no way I was getting laid while I still roamed the hallowed halls of Preble High.

Yet somehow when my best friend decided to start having sex our senior year, I knew to google Planned Parenthood and look up the local number. I also knew the advantages of condoms versus the pill. And I knew you could get gonorrhea in the throat from a blowjob.

To this day I’m slightly baffled how I knew all this since I had a) never had sex and b) had never had SedEd. Although I’m foggy on many of the details of where my virgin self picked up all these details I’m pretty sure the knowledge came from three distinct sources: 1) Whatever information I could glean from the internet after my parents went to bed that would satisfy some of my growing curiosity for the birds and the bees and s and m 2) peers who usually were informed by older siblings or open hippy parents, god bless them or 3) in a few particular cases, specifically the gonorrhea in the throat example, Lifetime movies.

As I watched the fourth season of The Wire this weekend from my sick bed, I realized not all kids are as lucky as I was. For starters not all are blessed with braces and post-pubescent baby fat; some teenagers are attractive and can indeed attract sexual partners. And with this attraction comes all the complications of sex but with none of the formal or informal education.

I realize The Wire is not real life but after watching a recent local TV report about the lack of SexEd in Chicago, I’m beginning to believe it is not so far off. In addition to the “horrifying” fact that Chicago’s young people have the highest rate of gonorrhea in the U.S. (which also means Chicago has the highest rate of reporting and treating of that STI), the report also examines the schools’ role in this “epidemic.” A CPS grad, who is interviewed in cognito because of the extreme stigmas associated with underage sex, says she didn’t learn anything about sex, pregnancy or STIs in school. She learned about these things instead via first hand experience, aka two pregnancies and a Chlamydia infection.

It seems that whether we are in a fictitious Baltimore, or home sweet home in Chicago, we ignore teen sex. We pretend our 14 year olds aren’t having sex because it is easier to think of them as children than as complex human beings with a range of desires and emotions. Other than being naïve, this is dangerous.

Luckily there is a statewide movement to educate Chicago youth with age-appropriate SexEd. A bill called the Comprehensive Health Education Act or HB 3027 is currently looking to gain support in the IL legislature for a vote. A fact sheet is available on the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health website.

To be totally honest, I wish 14 year olds weren’t having sex. Looking back at my 8th grade picture, I’m sporting a Tommy Hilfiger shirt I wore about every 3 days, braces with bright yellow rubber bands and an uncomfortable smile of someone not quite used to their own skin. Looking back, I’m delighted I had time to grown into my skin before rubbing it against someone else’s.

But not everyone is fortunate enough to have my bad fashion sense and awkwardness; not everyone’s journey is my own; some teenagers are going to have probably awkward terrible 5-minute sex. We can’t stop this and realistically we don’t always need to stop this as it is part of growing up. But we can educate these little humping bunnies along the way so they stop passing around gonorrhea like some smuckers lip balm. We can give them more than some passed down information from siblings or inferred knowledge from American Pie. And for the ones not curious enough to WebMD “safe sex” we can give them the information in a handy worksheet, hopefully with smiling sex organs cartoons.

Something struck me at the end of the Chicago TV report. When asked what she wished she had learned, the CPS grad listed the basics, information on STIs and pregnancy but then she also added one more thing. She said she wish she had learned “self esteem, everything a woman needs to grown.”

It is this last bit that you can’t absorb from the glow of the internet nor from snippets of lifetime movies. It is this last bit that took me years to personally learn after years of confusing messages from the media about sex.

In the past decade we have put major educational resources towards abstinence only education and classes that are proven not only ineffective but also teach girls that if they have sex they are like sucked candy and that they need to be like quiet maidens.

The Comprehensive Sex Ed Bill isn’t just to teach kids to put a condom on a banana or how you can get knocked up even if he pulls out, it is to teach kids that sex has dangers and consequences but also ways to manage risk; that sex is a physical act between consenting people who respect each other; that sex is sex is a part of life, not your whole life; that sex does not make you used candy.

Really this bill is undoing the damage of a decade of bad lifetime movies and worse abstinence – only education programs. It is the kind of education I wish I had had so I was so shocked and disgusted the first time I saw a penis (at age 35 for my future children) and it wasn’t yellow and curved to the right.

For a glimpse into SexEd done right, check out this NYTimes article.

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Filed under Feminist Rant, Sex, T.V., The Politics

Sex Ed from Broadcast Television

Legislators can argue about it all they want but sexual education is happening everyday inAmerica; not in our schools but on broadcast television.

What ours schools lack in formal sexual education, broadcast television fills in with the nitty gritty visual details even if lacking some of the less sexy reality facts (such as theUnited Stateshas the second highest teen pregnancy rate). After watching a particularly racy episode of Gossip Girl, I remember thinking, man I wish I was 16 again so I could have that amazingly effortless, safe and consequent free sex.

After years of disappointingly surface content surrounding teen sex, it was surprising, refreshing and a little humbling to see teen sex tackled with such ease and common sense as Glee’s “Sexy” episode did this week. It didn’t talk down to teens, it didn’t over simplify something as complicated as sex and most importantly it didn’t pretend sex doesn’t exist.

In probably the best teen sex speech I’ve ever heard, Kurt’s dad tried to express the complexities of sex to his son. The speech, in the episode directed toward a gay teenage boy, is universally applicable to all teens (and some adults for that matter).

“For most guys sex is just this thing we always want to do. It’s fun. It feels great. But we aren’t really thinking about how it makes us feel on the inside or how the other person feels about it. Women get that it is about something more than the physical. When you are intimate with someone in that way you are exposing yourself. You are never going to be more vulnerable. That scares the hell out of all of us guys. You got to know it means something. It is doing something to you, to your heart, to your self esteem. Even though it feels like just having fun…When you are ready, I want you to do everything. But when you are ready I want you to use it as a way to connect with another person. Don’t throw yourself around like you don’t matter. Because you matter.”

If only everyday parents could start saying this to their teens maybe we wouldn’t need broadcast TV to do it for us.

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Filed under Low Brow, Sex, T.V.

TV: Santana or Rachel? The Madonnas and Whores of Glee.

Glee I’m disappointed in you and your Madonna/whore complex.

I’ve never been ashamed to admit I love Glee. The mash-ups, the over-the-top costumes, the high school clichés, what is not to love about this musical dramarama as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

Except lately Glee has been serious, dealing with issues ranging from teenage pregnancy to homophobia to racial stereotypes and dealing with them well. Nothing seems to be off limits for the troupe of teenage stereotypes, nothing except an honest conversation about sex.

Every episode there seems to be this dynamic of “normal” teenage boys looking to have sex and “good” teenage girls refusing them or “dirty” teenage whores indulging them. In this week’s episode Santana aptly said “This wouldn’t happen if you all put out more,” playing the vixen so well while seeming to blame the virgins for the trouble the boys found themselves in the episode.

Besides the obvious Madonna/whore cliché that Glee is playing into, it is obvious that Glee leaves the discourse at this shallow level. No one dives more into why the “whores” have sex with any man who tells them they are not fat or dines and ditches at Breadsticks. No one explains why some of the “good girls” are waiting to have sex.

Either Brittany or Santana have had sex with almost every single male character, while Rachel, Tina and Mercedes have yet to even touch a penis in two years. I realize it is a TV show and stereotypes are easier to adapt current pop songs to but really, it is high school, at least throw in some dry humping.

For most teens, high school can be a healthy time for experimenting with sex. By only showing the saints and the sinners, Glee is enforcing the very sad misconception that the only options for sex are abstinence or vaginal sex.

Maybe oral sex is still too taboo for Fox but if you can have the Rocky Horror transvestite on Glee you should be able to talk about some fellatio or at least dry humping or mutual masturbation.

I know Glee is just a T.V. show but unfortunately it is where a lot of teenagers are getting their sex ed (well that and 16 and pregnant). If we keep forcing the Madonna/whore stereotypes on teenages (especially the young ladies) we are going to get just what we shove on them: a bunch of whores pretending to be virgins, none of whom will have an orgasm until they are 45.

Glee may not be courageous enough to do it but eventually someone out there has to start talking to teenagers about the reality of sex and all the nitty gritty dry humping that goes along with it.

(Sidenote: Thank you Glee for an honest look at homophobia in High School. With all the recent bullying in the news, it is amazing to have a mainstream show deal with this issue with such honesty.)

To watch the “Never Been Kissed” episode check out hulu:

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Filed under Low Brow, T.V.

TV: Walk of Shame or Stride of Pride? on this week’s “How I Met Your Mother”

CBS’s one redeeming show “How I met your mother” is like “Friends” but funnier and with more sexual references. Already its sixth season with still no sign of an ending to Ted’s “how I met your mother” story, I look forward every week to a half hour reprieve of good-ole fashion sitcom comedy, a welcomed reprieve from the vampire tragedies, crime dramas or dirty reality TV shows.

Plus occasionally it makes you think. Like last week’s episode featuring the famous New York style “Walk of Shame.” In the episode, Ted and Barney sat on their unrealistically clean NY stoop and watched a parade a disheveled women walk by. They named the parade the “walk of shame” and although I appreciate the sense of tradition that the walk of shame has I can’t help but think it is time for an upgrade in terminology.

Let old-fashioned New York stick with their outdated “walk of shame” but I suggest Chicago, often called the city of sexual liberation, adopt the more 2011-phrase, “stride of pride.” After all, after walking home after a good roll in the proverbial (and often beer-drenched) hay, I think the expected emotion would be satisfaction mixed with a bit of exhaustion and craving for a Bloody Mary and Eggs Benedict not a sense of shame.

This is not the 1960s and TV couples long ago pushed the twin beds together. Yet somewhere between the double bed and the one-night stand on TV, we lost the inhibition against non-marital sexual relations but not the centuries old guilt. The walk of shame seems to imply that people are welcomed to sex each other up as much as physically possible as long as they feel bad about it the next day.

Ladies and gentleman, the days of guilt-filled sex are numbered and the walk of shame is so 2010. As a new year and a new decade rolls in let us all stride home with pride after our sexually-satisfying nights. Whether a steamy one-night stand or monogamously sexy nightly event, the “stride of pride” is the new trend of 2011.

As for the writers of “How I met your Mother,” I know the walk of shame has deep comedic roots in the sitcom world, but think of the potential hilarity of the stride of pride, with missing socks, bed-matted hair and a easily identifiable smile of satisfaction. It is time for a  sexy comedy revolution!

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Filed under Feminist Rant, Low Brow, T.V.