24 children between the ages of 12 to 18 are forced to fight to the death until only one remains. This gruesome tale is the premise for The Hunger Games, a film series intended for children ages 13 and up. However, movies such as Bad Moms and Girls Trip are rated R (Restricted) for sexual content, despite having plots practically devoid of violence. Our society has created such a stigma around sex that a film about murder and starvation can be advertised to pre-teens, but movies that feature sex are deemed wholly inappropriate for youth.
In our media, it seems as though sex has not just been equated to violence, but is seen as an even more harmful subject. When watching a R-rated film on Netflix, “sex, drug use, and violence” appears in the upper left corner, as if the two concepts are just a comparison. How can torture and mutilation be held to the same moral standard as consensual sexual relations? The reason for this is because of the stigmatization of sex in our society due to a societal desire to shelter our children and preserve their innocence.
Although these views may seem outdated, the stigma around sex is still very much alive, hidden behind the illusion of modern progressivism. The perpetuation of slut shaming in our society is clear evidence that conservative views on sex still hold power in our society, and it is because of this that movies and other media forms tend to treat sex as immoral. This succeeds in keeping sexual content out of films rated PG-13 (Parental Guidance Strongly Encouraged for Children Under 13) in order to “protect” children from this completely natural part of life.
This idea that we need to protect our children from sex has proven to be harmful, leading children to engage with sexual content with limited knowledge of what they’re witnessing.
Lack of education in sexual and reproductive health is one of the leading causes of teenage pregnancy, as illustrated by a study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington. This research found that “teens who received comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to report becoming pregnant or impregnating someone than those who received no sex education.”
Whether a person is sexually active or not, the consequences of lacking substantial sex education are extremely detrimental and can yield life-long consequences. Although movies and TV shows are not an adequate replacement for sex education, the rating system for movies actively contributes to the stigmatization of sex. Every one of us has or will be exposed to sexual content one way or another, so if a 13-year-old viewer can witness Hunger Games character Katniss Everdeen take the lives of four people with her own two hands, a little skin-to-skin action on screen isn’t the end of the world.