Friday, January 30, 2009

Are we desensitised to sex on tv?

I had written to ST Forum a couple of days ago. My letter was published but in the online version, not the print paper. Here it is in full:

ON THE first night of Chinese New Year, MediaCorp screened a movie, The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Due to its adult content, the show was screened at 10pm.

But I was disgusted by the trailer for the movie which was shown repeatedly during prime time from 7pm, when many children were watching television.

The trailer had blatant sexual innuendoes and scenes. It was obviously not suitable for children. Yet this, for some reason, escaped MediaCorp. I cannot help but wonder if MediaCorp is so desensitised it is oblivious to the inappropriateness of such content during prime time. Or has the priority of promoting a movie overtaken that of social consciousness?

I am no prude. But I wonder at the double standards of scheduling an adult show at 10pm while allowing the trailers to be shown at 7pm. It is bad enough that prime-time movies often have extreme violence as a matter of course, and even children's programmes these days use sex as an easy sell.

I was perturbed to learn that the popular cartoon Winx Club, whose viewership is predominantly young girls aged five to 10, features kissing scenes and has female characters lust after boys and enter into boy-girl relationships as casually as they change their clothes.

I do not believe in completely shielding children from the realities of life. But in this complicated world where kids grow up too quickly, it does not help to have the media continuously reinforce the message that sex and violence are normal, casual activities.

I used to think that mothers who ban their children from watching TV are tyrants - now I think perhaps they are the sensible ones.

Because the online version of ST has a much younger readership, as I'd expected, there were many comments saying it's ok! what's the big deal? Which reinforces my point that in this generation, we have become desensitised to sex on tv because it's so rampant that it's now considered acceptable (together with violence and vulgar languages).

I think non-parents are less likely to empathise with me on this issue (it's cliche I know, but really, you won't understand till you have kids), but I'm curious as to how other parents feel. Do you feel the same way or do you think I'm over-reacting? Banning tv is not an option for now (Elan, thumbs up for you!), but I think we'll be limiting it to DVDs and documentaries for now.


Anonymous said...

Let me try to imagine and remember myself as a 8 year old 28 years ago. I thought I was quite mature then. I did not have urge to be the heroine on TV's kissing scenes, I was not too curious to know more, it was ok. Then when I turned teenage, it was a luxury to have many juicy romance novels. My husband had his equivalent share of sex videos. Those days we didn't have the internet, information flow was completely different.

As a mother of a young boy, I have explained in plain words that daddy and mummy are in love and have sex to produce him. I have also borrowed a book with children friendly pictorials to guide us thro'. Then came a time when the word "bustard" came around, I explained that if a man and woman have sex without marriage, produce a child, the child becomes a real bustard. It is important to my boy that his future child does not become a bustard. I do feel awkward during vivid sexual scenes on TV, especially during late Saturday nights when my son play in the background. I have to pick myself up and explain that there are times when adults get involve in irresponsible sex. Maybe even adultery, when the father or mother has other boy or girlfriends- the family breaks up. Well, the world has changed, as parents, we have to keep up with times. I would rather be the one who accompany my son to surf some obscene websites and remind him that his mummy is also a woman and he should reserve some respect for the female body. I haven't done that, timing is important. Stella

Anonymous said...

I don't ban TV, we just don't have one!:-) That's the difference - banning TV when you have one in the house is just not possible!
They still get to watch when they go to the grandparents house on weekends but because they are only there for a few hours, they choose carefully and it's always Animal Planet or Discovery Channel.

I'm therefore not the best qualified person to comment but I agree totally with your letter.

I do agree though that having explicit scenes as trailers during the time when children are watching is wrong. I occasionally experience that when we are at someone else's house and the TV is on. We then have to talk to them about it and explain that as Christians it is not something that we do or that we want them to do unless they are married. That TV shows are often exagerated and do not always represent what people do in real life(which they readily agree about) and that even if other people really do commit adultery or have premarital sex, we should be firm enough in our own faith and morals that we don't have to follow suit. They always say " Yeah! like everyone else has a TV but we don't, and we rather read books anyway!"
However, I can imagine it must be hard for parents to have this conversation everyday and what about those kids who are not supervised while watching TV, there are lots of those around (we all know). Their parents may not expect such trailers while they are watching some family show and may not be watching together.

Lilian said...

I'm actually more uncomfortable watching Singapore/Hongkong actors engage in full-mouth kissing scenes (eeyeww) during 7pm serials, somehow they feel too real, like something our kids can relate to more than when watching Hollywood scenes. And more questions arose when we watcheds seemingly innocuous movies like Money No Enough 2 than shows like Kill Bill, eg what's a prostitute? what's a condom? (we watch Money No Enough with subtitles see).

With Kill Bill, the violence is so over the top we find it too funny. And we also watch shows peppered with F words like White Chicks, one of our favourite dvds at home. I just tell them we don't use these words (though I sometimes do under my breath :)). And there are short nude scenes in a few of our all-time favourite shows Life of Brian, Love Actually and Amelie; I tell them to cover their eyes during those scenes; if they don't, they won't ever get to watch again.

Bear in mind that themes in many local tv shows these days can have more impact on our kids than we think, shows don't have to have violence and profanity to have a negative influence. I'm not sure what I'll do if we were back home, I'm the type who'll be hooked on local shows and the kids will watch I guess it will all boil down to parental supervision.

Watch together, explain to them what's appropriate and what's not, end of the day, they have a choice whether or not to take the good and discard the bad. I think TV is probably the least of our worries when it comes to how our kids are being influenced these days, there's the internet, magazines, most importantly, FRIENDS.

TV Bad, ban tv...Friends Bad, ban friends? I hope when my kids have questions, they turn to me first. This can only happen if we create an environment where they feel comfortable enough to approach us with their questions and not feel like we're gonna clamp down on them if they do. I've answered questions on gays and gay marriages, prostitution, pre-marital sex etc as matter-of-factly and non-judgmentally as I can.

This probably makes me more liberal than most. But as I always say, different strokes for different folks. Different families have different values, and what works for one family may not for another.

monlim said...

Thanks all. I agree with Stella and Lilian that we should answer such questions as matter-of-factly as we can, instead of shying away from the issues. So is supervising what our kids watch on tv. But like Anon says (is it Elan?), by showing objectionable trailers indiscriminately, it means we have to watch tv with our kids all the time, even at primetime and for shows that we deem ok, say Harry Potter.

I liked this comment on the ST page:

"Just because the current generation are behaving more openly than decades ago, does not mean it is right. The more you see of examples of our young generation behaving age-inappropriately, the more you should think what can we do to prevent age-inappropriate information from harming our next generation.

We are not talking about 15-18 years old, mind you. The children watching prime time 7pm shows are as young as 3-4 years old. At this age, you cannot possibility throw everything that is happening in this world to them. Their minds are not as complicated as adults. When they snatch toys from others, they do not know it is wrong, and the other party will be unhappy. They do not even know others have feelings too. How do you expect them to differentiate a mother’s kiss of love from a passionate kiss after sex?

And banning kids from watching TV at as early as 7pm? C’mon, children are the biggest supporters of TV shows. That’s why mediacorp opened a whole channel just for the kids. Afterall, who is so free to watch from morning until night? The pre-schoolers! Students have homework, adults have officework, elderly have housework. Abit too selfish not to care for the wellbeing of their best supporters for a free-to-air media…

We are not asking for kiddy show at that timing, just remove age-inappropriate commercials and trailers, what’s the big deal?"

My thoughts exactly! (And no, I didn't write that comment). Now let's see what Mediacorp will say, if they reply that is.

Alcovelet said...

Well said, Mon! And it isn't just the sex scenes, but the violent ones as well. It's a farce to show the more racy movies later in the night when they flash the most extreme trailers earlier on. Exactly who do they think they're avoiding?

bACk in GERMANY said...

Hello... obviously telling the younger ones, you please sneak out of your bedroom and stay up late at night to watch adult-content shows lah!!!

My son began to question me why his 5 yo fellow kindergarteners commented on some girls looking sexy. "So what's sexy, Mom?"
Now I wonder where all these talks about sexy stem from...

I had a difficult time explaining to him that it wasn't an age-appropriate word. It shouldn't be in his vocabulary right now. What his classmates meant to say was probably "attractive" or "pleasant-looking", or "pretty". Most definitely not "sexy".

Yes, Mon, that concern is genuine. We don't ban TV at home. But so far, they only know the kids' channels and DVDs. We don't watch much TV ourselves, until way past 11 pm. Like Lilian pointed out, I don't know how to handle the "acceptable" Mediacorp serials where kissing scenes are sprinkled all over. Besides, my husband and I always find characters on these serials yelling at each other most of the time. Really not easy on the ears.

elan said...

oops yes, anon was me. Sorry forgot to click on name that time. :-)

Anonymous said...

hm, we have a tv, but we hardly watch. So our children hardly watch. Programmes for kids are pre-vetted and adults usually watch only documentary specials or news. There are many other things to do. It's just not a big part of our lives.

Anonymous said...

i am not a parent yet, but i agree that tv and the media industry should do its part to ensure that prime time tv remains kids-friendly. i find it extremely distasteful when the media uses sex to drum up viewership. kids are easily influenced by what they see, and unless properly guided, they often make up their own views on why certain things are happening on tv. to all those who insist on freedom of speech, i would like to insist on my freedom not to watch senseless sex or violence, or my freedom to ensure my child does not have to watch senseless sex or violence. - uncle tom

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