By Hannah Wilson
Sex and the media
Media has changed the way society views and consumes sex. What was once a taboo topic is now within our everyday vocabulary. Media fabricates and effects the way people view sex. The most explicit way the media affects views on sex is through the porn industry.
For decades, the porn industry has favoured and benefited men, exploiting women for their bodies. Yet, people often forget, especially audiences of a younger demographic, that porn is scripted and fake. Michael Flood suggests that ‘pornography teaches sexist and sexually objectifying understandings of gender and sexuality’. Excessive viewing creates an unrealistic expectation that is so far away from the normalities of intimacy.
The Male Gaze.
What is it and why is it important when we discuss media and sex? The male gaze is a feminist theory, which suggests that women present themselves in a certain way to satisfy male desire. Often seen in music videos and films produced by men, the women are portrayed in a sexual nature. For example, Scarlett Johansson who plays ‘Black Widow’ in the Avengers franchise was often sexualised due to the outfits and questionable camera angles in the film, directed by Joss Whedon, Joe Russo and Anthony Russo. Utilising the objectification of women removes the key messages and themes of a film and shifts the focus on to the idealisation and objectification of a woman’s physique. The 2021 film ‘Black Widow’ directed by Cate Shortland showcases the character in a more authentic manner, taking into account the character's traits and the fact that it is a superhero movie.
Looking at musical artists throughout the decades, sex used to be a cryptic message behind the mask of a melodic tune. With the rise of Hip-hop in the 1990’s, male rappers such as Tupac and Ice Cube, seemed to rap about the sexualisation of women. This led to an open door of misogyny and objectification aimed towards women through songs. In the past few years, the rise of female rappers such as Megan Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj have taken back that control when it comes to women, sex and songs.
Why has it always been okay for men to discuss their sexual fantasies in music and not for women? Now that the conversation is shifting, more female artists are paving the way for women to be confident about their sexuality.
Our TV screens have been blessed with the reality show Love Island for the past 7 years, with this year’s opening episode reaching 3 million viewers. However, does Love Island promote and romanticise toxicity within relationships and intimacy?
The nonchalant attitudes towards picking and choosing partners and advocating betrayal towards partners after sharing intimate moments damages the perception on love and sex. Creating a negative attitude aiming towards young people interested in relationships and sex can damage how they pursue partners.
Thinking that hook-up culture, toxicity and allowing red flags is a part of growing up sexually. This doesn’t have to be the case at all. Although Love Island is entertaining to watch, just like pornography, it is fabricated and scripted. Impressionable viewers need to recognise the importance of authenticity when it comes to sexual relationships and intimacy.
Promoting the lack of communication, respect and authenticity within sexual relationships can affect the perception the young people have when it comes to their own relationships. Romanticising and idealising hook-up culture and toxicity will influence young people into believing that adult relationships are meant to be that way. This is a narrative that has been heightened through social media for years.
For example, two very famous ex celebrity couples: Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disck and Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber, are still popular with thousands of young people longing for them to get back together. The issue is that these two couples, the women in particular, suffered years of emotional trauma from their partners and the media. Both separated and happier than ever, there are people still creating idealised, romantic edits of them on social media platforms such as Tik Tok.
Creating the glorification and romanticising the toxicity between two people and fabricating a fraction of what we see is damaging the way young people invest in their own and other people's relationships.
Even though a lot of the media we consume everyday revolves around sex, it should not pressure or influence unwanted feelings and actions.
Sex is different for everyone - some people hate it, some love it, some aren’t ready, some will never be ready.
Just because a lot of the media regarding sex seems to show the heightened desire for sexual intimacy and relationships, doesn’t mean that you have to comply with that. With the conversation around sex and women changing sometimes for better and sometimes for worse, women need to take care of themselves and what they consume.
More importantly, women need to take into account who they surround themselves with and how they consume sex and the media as this can have a ripple effect on to their lives as well. It’s important to stay safe with what we consume, especially how we consume sex. Women have become programmed to desire the idea of ‘fixing’ a man or a relationship, even if it disregards your moral compass and principals.