Last night, ABC’s 20/20 explored whether or not there’s “too much” sex in American culture.
Yes, I was featured on the show (playing the part of “expert-representing-truth-&-sanity”), but let’s skip over that for now.
The Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg gave his usual fact-free pitch about how “all that sex” is destroying America and its children. He spoke with sincere pain about noticing his son watching an episode of Desperate Housewives, which implied that characters were having sex off-camera.
20/20 invited us to wonder about the constant claim that sex in the media is bad for kids. As I’ve written before, this is a claim that got louder on the opening day of the quill pen, the printing press, the radio, the TV, and oh yes, the internet. Every generation is concerned about “the children,” and every generation lays part of its concern on the latest communications technology. Parchment—now that’s gonna destroy those 9th century kids for sure. A written alphabet!—don’t even ask.
The best part of the show was when host John Stossel confronted Sprigg with the simple, exciting facts of life: over the last ten years, while America has sizzled with Internet porn and TV eroticism, the rates of rape, divorce, teen births, and premarital sex have gone DOWN. So how has “too much sex in America” destroyed America?
Sprigg fumbled like a rookie quarterback, stammered like a surprised birthday boy, looked like a deer caught in headlights—if the deer had been lying for years, predicting that what makes him uncomfortable is dangerous for everyone.
But give Sprigg credit: he recovered like a pro, intoning that we should be concerned until those numbers are zero. He even had the nerve to prevaricate, “People need to do some real studies about the correlations of these events.”
Right, Peter—people like you (and James Dobson and Laura Bush and the Abstinence Clearinghouse) should stop spreading lies about the social impacts of sexual expression and sexual repression until they have some “real studies.” Until then, stop “coarsening our culture” with your fear tactics, your fund-raising pitches predicting the end of civilization, and your phony support of women and children accompanied by the repression of sex education, contraception, and sexual health care.
Sprigg was right about one thing: he said that “Sex on TV gives a distorted image of sexuality.” Yes, that’s true—whenever people on TV talk about how sexual expression is dangerous, and sexual repression is risk-free.
Now that’s a distorted image of sexuality.