The Rise of Sex Content. A liberal or smutty move?

I was recently asked where I thought, as a society, we were positioned when it came to sexual liberation. I can never give a simple response to that question. One might browse our current media, such as films and Instagram accounts, and conclude that we are rather liberal. But to me, when it comes to sex, it seems that what would appear as sexual liberation is, in fact, tipping the scales towards harmful smut.

The Fifty Shades effect is not just one where rope sales and requests for bondage run high. Just like with the book and the media coverage that followed, the release of the movie has provided a reminder of just how well sex sells and how appealing it seems. It didn’t even need to be an Oscar-winning film, simply boasting 20 minutes of sex was enough to send opening ticket sales sky high.

There is also a ripple effect from Fifty Shades where the subject of sex has transferred from movie scenes to smaller screens, such as our laptops and phones. Has anyone else noticed an interesting change with media sources and the Daily Telegraph online recently? It seems that nearly every day there is a “news” story (I use the word news lightly, as I struggle to see how many of these stories are newsworthy) where sex is the central theme with headlines such as the following:

• A 31-year-old woman has found love with a tree named Tim and says it’s the best sex she’s ever had
• Woman strips, performs mile high sex act
• Man murdered after sex in the loo
• What women ask John Stamos for after sex
• Public servant found naked at colleague’s house with a kitchen appliance
• Man tortured with hair tongs to his genitals by three women in revenge attack
• Brothel seeks a prostitute tester
• Man who stripped for woman on Skype blackmailed
• Former prison worker jailed for releasing maximum security inmate to have sex in closet
• Plastic surgeons used pornographic images in vaginal rejuvenation talk at conference (maybe they should see some of the images I use in my talks)
Many of these stories come from overseas and have little or no relevance to Australians. I question why smutty sex stories from across the world are important to cover when there are horrific anti-Semitic acts happening around the world constantly that go unreported on our shores. Even the Sunrise Cash Cow segment, whereby viewers can win money, got a sexual slant recently with the remark: “That’s my mistress, I just got busted” as the headline for it’s coverage on a new source. It was a joke the male winner of the segment made about his wife when asked the identity of the woman in the room with him. Even an innocent segment about viewers winning money has been given a scandalous heading to attract readers and entice people to click through. In a society oversaturated with instant content, it seems that sex is a way to get noticed among the crowd.

Sex sells, I understand that, but we need to question the cost of its rampant use as a sales tool. Is this what sexual content should be? The intentions behind headlines and articles like these are not necessarily out to make sex a positive thing. They don’t normalise the subject, either. They are simply used to make money, sell papers, sell advertising space, increase their followers and, unfortunately, it’s the subject of sex and our opinions of it that pays the price.

As with pornography becoming kinkier and more extreme, we need to question if the media will follow a similarly dangerous path, whereby sexual content is used as a theme to shock and get attention. I wonder if we will ever be able to imbue positive sexual content with a good intent or if the media will continue to take us further down the smutty sex path.

Stories like these, I’ll admit, are catchy. I read them and I am sometimes even caught sharing them myself, but then, my website, Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter accounts are not only about sharing useful sexual content, but about some funny and light sexual articles, too. But I am a sexologist; my intention in sharing this information is not to inform you of the news. The danger is that sex becomes smutty when used as a sales tool and, potentially worse, when passed off as journalism.

Is this rise in sex content adding to the belief that sex is inherently smutty? This might be a step in the sex direction but unfortunately it needs to get a little bit back on course. We are living in the era of mind numbing over the top and over sexualised content such as the Kardashaians, but we also need to question where this change and increase has come from. Is it the media giving in to what the consumers wants or the media playing with the subject they know appeals best – sex!.

So where is our society at when it comes to sex? It’s somewhere on the edge of sexual liberation and our right to sexual information being sold off at a precious cost. But who has the control, the media or the consumer? Maybe it’s time as a society we spoke up. You might want your smutty sex stories to read as entertainment (I know I do) but question whether they belong in our daily news and why there is not more information about sex that is useful and that we can use for our benefit instead of to numb our minds and take up our time. Are we not living in the era where media are assisting us towards self-improvement? And don’t we all want to improve on our love, sex and dating lives? How are stories about strippers, escorts and Jon Stamo’s sex life going to help?

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