The Movement Against the Sexualization of the Visual Media
The irony is that networks have turned to sex to increase their ratings, yet the constant presence of sexual themes on television is beginning to turn viewers away. The majority of Americans want stronger regulation of sexual content and profanity (Kunkel et al., 2005).
Portrayal of sexuality in movies has also long been a source of controversy. There was no control over motion picture content until the 1930s, when the industry began
SEX in Real Life
How Do Movies Rate?
policing itself with The Motion Picture Code (see the accompanying Sex in Real Life, “How Do Movies Rate?”). But the rating system has not stopped the movies from trying to be as sexually explicit as they can within their rating categories. Hollywood seems to try to push the limits of the R rating as far as possible, and a number of directors have had to cut sexually explicit scenes out of their movies. In fact, some movies are made in two or three versions; the least sexually explicit version is for release in the United States, a more explicit copy is released in Europe (where standards are looser), and a third, even more explicit version, is released on DVD.
A backlash does seem to be developing, and Hollywood has been reducing the sexual explicitness of its general release movies. Michael Medved (1992), a noted movie critic, argued in his book Hollywood vs. America that the movie and television industries are out of touch; too dedicated to violence, profanity, and sex; and do not really understand what consumers want to see on television and in the movies. He claimed that G- and PG-rated movies actually make more money than R-rated movies.
However, some of the shows boycotted by groups such as the American Family Association get high ratings for the very reasons that they are boycotted: because they are willing to deal with complex issues such as abortion and homosexuality in a frank and honest (if sometimes sensationalistic) manner. It will be interesting to see whether advertisers are scared away by these groups or continue to sponsor provocative and controversial programs.