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The Media's Dirty Little Secrets: Media, Advertising, Teenagers, and Sexuality

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The media plays an increasing role in any young person’s life, but it is especially important to teens in their high school years. Research has demonstrated that teenagers “voice concerns and attitudes that echo themes common in media messages, and that they behave in ways that reflect media content” (Feldman 245). The concern is that the sexually suggestive media is the reason for the increase of sexual activity among high school teens. The media messages that are known to increase a teenagers’ sexual behavior come from all different angles, such as sexually explicit music lyrics to the “sex sells” philosophy of countless main stream commercials.
“Teens typically spend about 6 to 8 hours of their time awake [each day] with some type of media” (Overmier 1) and out of that time, they spend from 2 to 4 hours watching television programs. Two to four hours of their time seems like nothing compared to all the other time in the day, so how much harm could their favorite television shows do? “Sexually related talk and behavior occurs from eight to ten times per hour in prime-time programming” (Brown, Steele, and Walsh-Childers 60) and that is without counting all those sexually suggestive commercials during the breaks.
In January 2000, when the Mercedes Benz company was advertising to sell their new E-Class 4Matic car model, their commercial did not show the television viewers any of the innovative features of the car. Instead, Mercedes displayed a woman beginning to have sex with her lover as she told him that she was not expecting her husband in such horrible weather, and then showing her husband driving in the terrible weather to his mistress’s house. In a recent study, a teen named Arizona said that high schoolers let themselves...


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...ual activity, there are teens who are easily “seduced and model their developing sexual lives on the frequently unhealthy sexual media content they consume” (Brown, Steele, and Walsh-Childers 18). Teenagers look up to the people in the media as role models, and if their role models are going around as if sex was an everyday thing, they will think sex is something they should partake in. If “16 percent of female and 12 percent of male [teens] had sex four or more times in the past month” (Abma 1), what can be expected in the next month as high school teens use more and more media and the media continues to be sexual? The fact of the matter is that “teens with the highest level of sexual content exposure are 2.2 times more likely to have initiated sexual intercourse” (Lagorio) than other high school adolescents with little to no exposure to the sexual media content.


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