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Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: the Normalization of Sex in Pop Culture

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If you’ve ever scrolled through Tumblr in public or seen a mildly romantic movie with your parents, you have probably come to the not-so-pleasant realization that sex is everywhere. Whether it be through aesthetically pleasing, music-video-esque sex scenes in movies or lyrics to a seemingly innocent song on the radio, sex dominates pop culture in a way that not only normalizes it, but can portray it to be something that it is not.

This is a stark contrast with the role of sex in pop culture in previous generations, which was limited to R-rated movies and pornography. While it is progressive that society is beginning to allow for a more open discussion of sex among youth and removing the taboo from the topic, the normalization of sex can have negative consequences for teenagers as pop culture often does not demonstrate the consequences of unsafe sex and does not warn them about the pain they may experience with it.

This, coupled with the severe lack of sexual education in the United States’ public school system, allows for high teen pregnancy and STD rates among the American youth. In fact, only 33 states in the United States mandate sexual education, and of those, only 13 require the information provided to be medically accurate. This is due to political and religious bias within state legislatures and can lead to teenagers making uninformed decisions in their sexual lives.

I cannot believe that my generation may very well have been the last one to have sex education in schools that was truly the complete and total package. I mean what are we doing? Are we in the future, but acting like it’s The Dark Ages? –Sheryl Lee Ralph

The current protocol in most schools nationwide are abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. However, despite the 1.5 billion dollars spent on these initiatives, they have failed to reduce teen pregnancy rates and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among youths under the age of 25.

These abstinence programs are not only ineffective, but misleading and potentially harmful to adolescents. For example, studies by the Society for Adolescent Medicine reveal that approximately eighty percent of the current sexual education curriculum released by the United States Department of Health and Human Services was false or distorted by conservative and religious beliefs.

Unfortunately, with the dearth of comprehensive sexual education in America today, pop culture has become the sole educator on all matters sex for most teenagers. According to the #popsexed project conducted by Time Magazine, an alarming amount of women received the majority of their sex ed from movies such as Dirty Dancing or Sex and the City. This not only allows for young girls to be oblivious to the pain and discomfort they may experience from sex, but also cause them to believe that sex is mandatory to legitimize a relationship and engage in intercourse before being ready themselves.

As teenagers grow up in this hyper-sexualized generation, they are exposed to the concept of sex from an early age. While this allows us to have more open discussions about sex and work toward removing the taboo from it, it is especially important, now more than ever, to offer comprehensive sexual education to youth to ensure that they are prepared before venturing into their own sexual endeavors.


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Zoya is an Indian, Muslim, seventeen-year-old feminist, equal rights enthusiast, Bollywood fanatic, and self-proclaimed Slytherin (but closeted Hufflepuff). In her fleeting free time, she likes to make art, take personality quizzes, and look at college acceptance rates at 4 am. "I have a lot more material prepared, but I have to get the Secret Service home in time for their curfew." -President Barack Obama

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