The Western media is obsessed with sex. There is little left to the imagination on most prime time TV shows on the major networks. The latest seasons for the major US networks, along with basic and pay cable channels, are filled with the most graphic, most exploratory displays of sex and sexuality since the inception of TV. However, it isn’t just the Western media that seems to enjoy delving into the seedy underbelly of intimacy, as there are more studies being conducted on sexual health than there are on any other aspects of medical science. With the possible exception of mental health and psychology, at least.
On one hand, there is the near-constant confusion people have over the sexual health and behavior of younger generations. Millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent every year to analyze whether or not government-sponsored sex education programs in schools are effective. There are constant debates on the virtues of abstinence over just handing out condoms on street corners, with neither side really having a permanent grip on the issue or gaining an the upper hand on sex-related social problems such as venereal disease, overpopulation, and teenage pregnancies. In some areas, the studies about teen sexual health and behavior are taking a drastic turn in the form of propositions to enforce control over such activities. Thankfully, most of these ideas have been quickly shot down, as most sensible people are able to see them as tactics that loudly echo Orwell’s “1984.”
There are learned, educated professionals who are now examining all the sex on TV. While most of them are quite content to remain within the domain of criticism of the general aspects of TV reviewing, some of them are digging deeper into the racy scenes. In simpler terms, while most reviewers are focusing on things like level of cinematography, the beauty of the script, and the quality of the acting, others are paying more attention to the more…physical scenes. The fact that most of them describe said scenes as vapid and devoid or artistic value or life does not really balance things out. While it is arguably wrong to sell a show based solely on how much skin is shown and who goes to bed with who, it is also wrong to criticize a mediocre show as a bad one solely because the more intimate scenes aren’t that “refined.”
Of course, one cannot discount the on-going argument on whether or not certain sexual behaviors can be considered a sign of damaged mental health. Certainly, some behaviors are less conventional than others and may be a sign of some sort of milds psychiatric disorder, but very rarely is aberrant sexual behavior itself directly linked to a mental disorder without other disorders being present. Nymphomania and satyriasis are old, archaic terms that have been removed from the latest psychological and psychiatric dictionaries, which can be taken as a sign that people are no longer equating sexual behavior with mental illness. However, the replacement term, “hypersexuality,” has a definition that is just as vague and subjective as the words that it replaced.
Then there are the studies being conducted on matters like sexual impotence, the elusive female orgasm, and a thousand other things directly related to the act of genital copulation itself. Some organizations have estimated that anywhere from 10 to 25% of all research funding in the medical field ends up being spent on sex-related research. This is a generous estimate, but the sad truth is that a large chunk of funding does end up going to that area, and not just because “sex sells.”