Human Exceptionalism

Why OK to Depict Kids Having Sex But Not Adults Smoking?

We live in such an odd and hypocritical age.  Republican candidate Herman Cain got in trouble with those who matter because one of his internet ads showed a campaign worker smoking. Horrors! Children might see the ad and pick up a cigarette! Doesn’t Cain know smoking causes cancer?!

Yet, as I have repeatedly noted when commenting on the outrage of lifestyle police toward smoking and eating fatty foods, they are strangely silent toward depictions of unsafe sex (that is, all sex other than between uninfected, mutually monogamous partners), which can cause equally deadly harm–HIV, STDs, not to mention emotional trauma, pregnancy, abortion, etc.–and in much quicker time.  I mean, good grief, if a young person seeing an old man (about my age) smoking could cause them to want tobacco, wouldn’t approving depictions of other teenagers having sex be much more likely to influence their behavior?  And if we say we don’t want minors “going all the way,”–as we often hear we all don’t want–shouldn’t our popular culture support underage virginity in their depictions of teen characters?

Ah, but those who matter don’t really care if teens abstain.  And virginity doesn’t sell advertiser’s wares.  Hence, on the very popular television show Glee, two couples are about to cease being virgins, and the reports are breathless. Isn’t it just so thrilling?  From the story in Entertainment Weekly:

Gleeks you MUST tune in for next week’s episode of Glee, called “The First Time.” It’s without a doubt one of Glee‘s best installments ever and features two popular couples on the show having sex for the first time.

The couples losing their virginity? Finn and Rachel and…Kurt and Blaine! Yep, the couple — who was featured on the cover of EW’s Gay Teens on TV issue – finally decide to take the next step in their relationship. It’s all handled very delicately and is incredibly moving. I can’t think of another network series that’s taken a teenage gay relationship so far or been so progressive. The moment is instigated when another teen, Warbler member Sebastian (Grant Gustin), aggressively pursues Blaine. The trio actually have a very amusing triple date to West Lima’s only gay bar Scandals and run into none other than Karofsky (Max Adler). Look for a great moment between Karofsky and Kurt.

So, is it more poisonous to depict smoking or thrill vicariously to popular teenager characters in a top rated show becoming sexually active?  Please note that the gay issue isn’t the point of this post, it’s two teenage couples losing their virginity presented in a breathless and positive manner–and the impact that could have on teenage viewers who are already tempted by those strong teenage hormones to jump in the pool–with nary a negative word from the people who matter.  Jump! Jump! Jump!

I know, I know: I’m just a grouchy old coot.

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