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January 17, 2011  | by: Vanessa Douglas
Some of the tamer Gossip Girl ads

Some of the Tamer Gossip Girl Ads

According to a recent post on Jezebel.com, although the teen pregnancy rate is at an all-time low, one school in Memphis just can’t seem to keep up with the times.  Apparently 90 teenage girls, a fifth of the school’s population, are either pregnant or have given birth this past school year.

The post cites various theories behind the school’s high pregnancy rate, including popular shows like 16 and Pregnant and its spin-off Teen Mom, as well as the infamous Gloucester pregnancy pacts. A more probable reason (lack of proper sexual education) is later mentioned, but television still plays a role in our perception of sex.

It seems a bit unreasonable to blame shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom for this trend when the subject of these shows demonstrates the consequences of being uninformed or irresponsible about sex.

Maci and Baby-Daddy Ryan of MTV's Teen Mom Bicker About Child Support

On the other hand, popular fictional shows, such as Gossip Girl and 90210 (as well as numerous other television shows and films) never fail to display simulated sex, but a curious detail about these displays is that there is rarely any talk of sexual protection. We rarely see characters going to a pharmacy to buy condoms or diaphragms, taking birth control pills, or even taking Plan B (and it seems like many characters would have to since they fail to use protection).

The only time we see people on the screen talking about sex is when they are initiating it, or when they have to deal with the negative repercussions of their actions.

Television and film have become an integral part of society, and if these arts are mimicking our lives, then why is there so little talk (and action) about sexual education?  It might not be very cool or sexy to pull out a condom in the middle of a scene or take a birth control pill during dialogue, but this is what people do, everyday, to protect themselves. No matter how one chooses to practice their sexual education, whether it be abstinence or using some kind of protection or preventative measure, these types of media should show their characters being educated on such matters as if they were real people.

Fortunately, most of us can distinguish fantasy from reality, but sometimes we are unconsciously influenced by external factors. Schools do have a responsibility to teach their students how to be educated inside the classroom and elsewhere, but students (and even non-students) are constantly getting mixed messages from many different sources, including TV. Writers don’t necessarily have an obligation to teach their viewers, but if they can show how people deal with everyday issues such as sex, then maybe their shows can get one step closer to being good.

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