Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Starting too young

If teenagers watch raunchy TV shows they're twice as likely to have sex. That, at least, is the finding of a major US study undertaken by the University of California.

A report in the Herald Sun quoted the lead researcher, Rebecca Collins, as saying that,

exposure to sex on TV accelerated a teenager's sexual behaviour. For example, she said, a 12-year-old would act more like a teen aged 14 or 15.

What do we do about this? The obvious answer is to more carefully restrict what is shown on TV. The problem, though, is that this is unlikely to be agreed to in a liberal society. Liberals believe that we are made human by our capacity to decide things through our own will and reason. They believe, therefore, that we should all "decide for ourselves" whether or not to view morally objectionable material.

This explains why Age journalist Terry Lane once wrote a column defending the screening of the film Salo. It's not that he liked the contents of the film - in fact he admits looking away at various times. The reason he gives for defending the film is that,

As an autonomous moral being, I do not concede to others the right to determine what I will watch.

So the situation isn't promising. The Terry Lanes of the world won't even agree to restricting the most shocking of films, like Salo. How then can communities get together to agree on minimum standards for mainstream TV?

The answer is that they can't. The most that liberal society can offer is a ratings system to allow individuals "informed choice". This has failed miserably, though, in protecting children from a heavy exposure to adult sexuality in the mass media.

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