Living in a Sex Negative Culture

Before an American child turns eighteen, they see over two hundred thousand acts of violence and forty-thousand murders on TV but not one female nipple. So what is more obscene? (Camero, 2014).

You just need to take one glance at the cover of a magazine to know that everyone’s talking about sex and sexuality (thanks Miley Cyrus). It’s a natural part of life and it makes sense to openly discuss something that everyone will experience in their life, right? Despite this current craze about sex and sexuality, there’s still a hushed tone around discussing these things. On the other end of the spectrum, is violence. An act which is comletely unnatural, to want to hurt another person, and cause others pain and suffering. However, you don’t have to wait up past 9pm anymore to see one of CSI’s mangled corpses on your screen. These days you can turn on the 6 o’clock news and you’ll see violent acts such as the murder of two news journalists on live television, or children being killed and wounded in a school massacre. These are all important news stories, however is does raise the question of why is censoring sex more important than censoring violence?

South Africa's Cosmopolitan January 2015 issue. Source
South Africa’s Cosmopolitan January 2015 issue. Source

The answer is children and moral panic. Dr Klein explains that we live in a ‘sex negative culture’ where we tell children that sex is bad for no other reason that ‘because it just is’ (Klein, 2015). This dystopian view (Bowles & Turnbull, 2015) focuses on the harmful effects that exposure to sex and sexuality on TV can have on children. Children have always been viewed of ‘at risk,’ and therefore worth protecting of the horrific nature of a naked body, because it would destroy their childhood (Bowles & Turnbull, 2015). The University of Michigan provides an information guide for parents on children and TV watching saying ‘TV can promote risky behavior, such as trying dangerous stunts, substance use and abuse, and irresponsible sexual behavior’ (Boyse, 2010). This dystopic perspective that television is an evil thing in our loungerooms corrupting our children is contributing to this moral panic and the sense that we need to protect out children from potentially corruptive sources.

So how is the act of censorship spatial? ‘Censorship is aimed at material that is believed to be unspeakable, too private to be public’ (Klein, 2015) which demonstrates how both of an audiences private and public lives can be regulated through the censorship of something that is as ‘unspeakable’ as sex. The fact that this censorship travels beyond the media’s public eye and into our private homes directly correlates with how you would speak about sex to your family or friends. And if you’re brought up being told not to talk about it from the media, then you’re certainly not going to speak about it anywhere else.

So which is worse for our children to see? Source
So which is worse for our children to see? Source

Whilst there is still obviously a lot of concern regarding children and watching violence on TV and in video games, the question still remains. Why is it more common for children to watch a crime show and see violent acts then see something that human nature, real and something that is a big part in our society like sex and sexuality?


Bowles, K & Turnbull, S 2015, Media Audience and Place: 8 Regulating Audience, BCM240, University of Wollongong, lecture delivered 21 September

Boyse, K 2010, Television and Children, University of Michigan Health Systems, August,

Camero, C 2014, What is more obscene, violence or a female nipple?, XPress Magazine,

Klein, M 2015, Censorship and the fear of sexuality, Dr Marty Klein,

Further Information

And it wouldn’t be a blog post without a concluding note from Mr John Oliver. This hilariously witty piece looks at how important it is to talk openly about sex in a safe and judgement free environment.


8 thoughts on “Living in a Sex Negative Culture

  1. I think that the taboo surrounding talking about sex comes from it historically being something that is never spoken about. But violence is something that has always been seen, while sex is very much about being censored. In high school there were 13 different pregnancies in the year above mine which is a lot! We never had a sex education at school, only what different STIs looked like, but not how to use protection to prevent them or pregnancy. I think that although it can sometimes be an uncomfortable topic to speak about, children should be given the correct information surrounding sex and sexual health. Because that is going to be a hell of a lot more comfortable than having to explain to their parents that they’re pregnant at 14.

    1. I definitely agree and John Oliver nails it completely (all hail J.O). It just seems rather strange that we’re still trying to hush certain aspects of sex and sexuality whereas nearly every young boy and girl knows what murder and violence looks like because they’re expose to it in cartoons or see it on TV. I think and hope our attitudes are slowly changing but I think it will still take some time!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  2. sex education in Australia, and lets be honest, probably America too, is so pathetically lacking. I think we had one sex ed class a year at my school, so if you happen to be sick that day, tough luck, no sex ed for you. also, the content of those lessons were also pretty weak.
    I think female nipples shouldn’t be censored, but i also think that, we cant kid ourselves into thinking that once censorship has been lifted that things are going to be great. Hollywood are still going to choose the best looking nipples and best looking boobs, its not going to be a huge variety of what womens breasts are like, its probably going to be the ideal. and i think that could lead many teens to question if their body is normal by comparing themselves to what they see in the media.

    1. I definitely think it’s a huge issue when adolescents start asking ‘am I normal?’ and they should be given the opportunity to talk about differences ‘normality’ in an open and safe space. I try to think of it like this. In high school we learn all about drugs and the negative effects they have on people. A LOT!!! But like you said, one lesson on ‘sex’ is not enough.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂 Glad I’m not the only one thinking this!

  3. I really like the points that you have touched on in this piece! On one end of the spectrum, parents and public figures are crying out against the particular harms that are perpetuated by violence either enacted or shown on media platforms. And then on the other end of the spectrum, you have the exact same people arguing constantly about the abhorrent nature of sex and sexuality depicted on television. I have placed these two on either ends of the spectrum because i feel one argument is completely arbitrary (even though it is allowed), and the other is an argument against what is holistically natural in every way possible, but is still censored or completely hidden. Everything always spirals back down to the effects that it could have on children. But in my honest opinion, we’re doing more harm by barring them from healthy discussions and observations with regard to sex and sexuality.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts Kurtis! I completely agree with you. We’re definitely doing a lot more harm than good by choosing to ignore the fact that kids are curious and are going to learn about sex and sexuality one way or another. We should just ensure that it’s the right way with the right information in a safe and nurturing environment.

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