From infancy on we are forming ideas about what sexual love between people looks and feels like. Our relationships with our mothers and fathers, their relationship with each other, what we see in the media and watch going on among the people who live in the world around us—all of these, for better or worse, have emotional and biological effects on an individual’s inner love map. Usually a girl who has been raised by people who love and respect each other, and her, will know intuitively that love and sex go together.
But depending on innate temperament and/or environment, a girl who has been heavily influenced by the mechanistic, soulless portrayals of sex in the media or on the Internet may experience a disconnect between her orbitofrontal bonding areas and her sex drive. In other words, she will find it difficult to truly feel the kind of loving bond with another that enhances sexual desire naturally.
We live in a culture that encourages this kind of disconnect. From the big-breasted, willowy bodies of the Victoria’s Secret lingerie models (many of whom I’m sure have implants) to the hyper-sexualized (albeit funny and entertaining) content of such popular TV shows as Sex and the City, Friends, and Will & Grace, and the ubiquity of porn on the Internet, our culture is so saturated with unrealistic and often exploitative pictures of sexuality that it cannot help but affect our children’s minds.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, there’s almost no way to prevent a daughter from being exposed to overly sexualized media content, because it is as common as dandelions. A study on the effects of the media by the American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, showed that the average young television viewer is exposed to greater than fourteen thousand sexual references each year. American1 This exposure has an effect. A recent prospective study by Rebecca Collins, Ph.D., of the Rand Corporation found that youth age twelve to seventeen who watched the most sex or sexual innuendo on TV— it didn’t matter whether the show had explicit dialogue about sex or showed actual physical contact—were twice as likely to have sexual intercourse as those who didn’t watch sexual content. And the sex was likely to be unprotected. Black youth who watched sexual content, however, were less likely to begin having intercourse, which is intriguing. According to this study, 46 percent of high school students had had sexual intercourse, which helps explain why the United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized world. And for every four sexually active teens, one is diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease. Collins2 Yet popular television shows rarely show the adverse consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior such as AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, or unintended pregnancy.
Learn More — Additional Resources
- Mother-Daughter Wisdom, by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
- American Society of Anesthesiologists 2007 Annual Meeting, San Francisco. Accessed online October 15, 2007.
- Collins, R. L., et. al. (Sept. 2004). Watching sex on television predicts adolescent initiation of sexual behavior. Pediatrics, 114 (3), 280–89.