Why is the Media Afraid of Sex?

Gram Ponante, Sherri L. Shaulis, Steve Gustafson, Twanna Hines #cconmedia CatalystCon East - March 16, 2014


  1. Even before the first newspaper rolled off the press, the topic of sex was considered taboo. Over the years, the media has struggled with how to cover anything sexually related without hurting the more puritan readership. While advances have been made, we’re still fighting the same fights. With the influx of social media, information travels faster than ever. From how a story is shaped and presented to why one story is favored over another; navigating the media is a risky proposal. Caught in the middle of the chaos is sex. The struggle to find a balance and mainstream sex positive is harder than ever, and it seems opponents are more determined than ever to keep sex away from the eyes of your neighbor. “What about the children?” You often hear this battle cry on the evening news when new laws are introduced to limit the freedoms of sex positive content. Conservative cultural critics have been bemoaning anything with the appearance of supposed depravity for years, from the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the 1990s and the moral panic over “rainbow parties” in the early 2000s to current concerns about a teen “hookup culture” devoid of emotional intimacy. Why do these double standards exist? What can one do to change how sex is portrayed in the headlines? How can you talk to your neighbor about sex positive news without being labelled crazy? This session will provide a brief history of sex in the media and the inconsistencies and double standards in media coverage of sex, discuss how to make sex-related topics less taboo and more mainstream and media-friendly, and explore the future of sex positive media coverage.