Sex and sexuality in British media

Authored by: Clarissa Smith

The Routledge Companion to British Media History

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415537186
eBook ISBN: 9781315756202
Adobe ISBN: 9781317629474

10.4324/9781315756202.ch11

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Abstract

Increased visibility and the seemingly diverse nature of representations of sex and sexuality in contemporary media might suggest that British society has become more liberal and tolerant of expressions of different sexual interests. However, the mediatization of sex (whether depictions of actual acts; talk about identities, practices or problems; humorous or serious references to sex) continues to provoke great anxiety and controversy. Indeed the media are often accused of harboring and promoting sexual, and therefore social, disorder. Representations across television, music video and magazines are increasingly ‘pornographic’ – encouraging ‘over-sexualized’ behaviors in boys and young men and the over-enthusiastic embrace of ‘sexiness’ in girls and young women; fostering ‘bad body-image’, depression, promiscuity; contributing to marriage breakdown, divorce and general unhappiness; and trivializing art and storytelling. Yet at the same time, it seems clear that sexual content can make an important, albeit controversial, contribution to the vibrancy of media output, whether that is fictionalized drama, or educational, reality or documentary programing (Attwood, 2006; Arthurs, 2004; McNair, 2002, 2013).

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