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The Uncomfortable Truth About TV Sex

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April 5, 2016

bates motel_sex on tvThere are a long list of things that are wrong with TV sex scenes. From the overall heteronormative approach most shows take, to the complete erasure of foreplay, all the way to that weird type of scene used to signify that “the deed is done” where both people fall back on the bed as if they had just both somehow been in an upright position facing the camera. (Seriously, can somebody please show me a position where that scene makes sense? Is this a common enough move that it’s acceptable for nearly every sex scene to end this way?)

But alas, there are greater problems than the position in which nearly all TV love-makers end up. I’d argue that in a majority of TV shows that I’ve watched, there is an overwhelming lack of discussion about contraceptives. In shows where sex isn’t necessarily a central theme, but a regular occurrence, there’s hardly ever any mention of condoms or birth control, let alone any visual cues that these things are present at all. No b-roll of birth control on the night stand, no condom wrapper on the floor, and certainly no simulation of the un-sexy act of actually putting on a condom.

The first two shows I can think of are Bates Motel and American Horror Story; I get that both of these TV shows are meant to be spooky, and let’s be real, unplanned pregnancy can be a pretty scary thing. But in all seriousness, ignoring contraceptive use causes legitimate concern. Not only does this give a weird, unrealistic expectation of what sex is like, but it also leaves out a very important aspect of participating in safe, consensual sex.

I feel that this is particularly important to note when these are shows that high school and 20-somethings are watching, especially in states that don’t teach proper sex education, or stick to abstinence-only programs. I know that these shows aren’t meant to educate, but to entertain (and scare the living crap out of you), but they still send subtle messages about the real world we’re living in.

The fact that many shows, not just the spooky ones, skip out on discussing the importance of safe sex make it seem like discussions on contraception either aren’t important or are simply non-existent. But that’s not the case. These conversations are absolutely vital to maintaining a healthy sex life. It’s important for TV shows to give a more accurate depiction of sex; one that is wonderful, awkward, sexy, goofy, fun, consensual, and safe.

And seriously, please stop with that weird falling back on the bed scene, I’m over it.



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