By Wil Forbis
Lately, I've been staying up in Nevada with a friend of mine, in a little ski town called Incline Village. Not a whole lot to do here, so I've been filling my free moments with that old narcotic, television. Never actually having had cable, I've been making ample use of the various channels here and have even found time to visit my old friend, MTV. I'm not sure why it's called MTV anymore; in my day the "M" stood for "Music", nowadays it seems to be along the lines of "Mundane" or "Mildly Retarded." All twenty-four hours of the day are eaten by voyeuristic soap operas featuring real or imagined characters - shows such as "Real World", "Road Rules", and a frightening visage I came across recently entitled "Undressed."
Undressed seems about as close as you can come to soft-core pornography marketed at teens. In theory, it's some sort of soap opera, though there is no plot, simply a series of scenarios where teens and young adults engage in sexual situations up to the point of removing their underclothes (Come to think of it, I guess that's the definition of "soap opera.") The activity is always accompanied with a soundtrack of spoken banter so witless even real teenagers couldn't force their lexicon of street lingo to mimic it. In essence, we are provided a keyhole view of same sort of pre coital behavior that is going on in teen bedrooms all about America, and this view is being foisted upon the young audience that watches the show. I, of course, find the whole thing quite distasteful. The fact that there is actually a show on television that features a series of bra and panty clad nymphs prancing before a television camera is something I believe to be absolutely, irrefutably offensive and obscene.
I mean, come on, they could at least take of their tops and show us their tits and stuff.
But I find myself musing, as I watch episode after episode of Undressed with a Miller Light in one hand and rising libido in the other, that this show is exactly the sort of thing potential VP Joe Lieberman has been raising his fist about. I mean, in a world of teen sex, AIDS, and unwed mothers, MTV is hardly leading the way to a better tomorrow. I remember what it was to be a kid; I could barely skim through a Sears catalogue of women's under things without having to make a quick trip to the bathroom. If I were growing today, with the influx of pornographic Calvin Klein ads and shows like Undressed, I'd probably be a serial rapist by the time I was 25.
And then there's the siren call of the Internet and its vast ocean of online pornography. I gotta tell you, there are nights when I'm visiting my favorite porn sites and I think, "Kids got it too easy these days!" When I was a kid, you had to work for your pornography; you had to shoplift from magazine vendors or trade your collection of 1960's Archie comics for a lone Penthouse. Sometimes, you even had to make do with a yellowed copy of Vampirella. But nowadays kids got their porno handed to them on a plate. They can download it on their palm pilot and beat the bishop when Mrs. Deiderman's lecture of American imperialism gets boring. They can hack into Dad's AOL account and print off the freshest, the juiciest, the youngest flesh around. Damnů I'm jealous!
There's no doubt that we're simply becoming a more sexual culture at an exponential rate. Part of me loves it and thinks it's a good thing. Hell, I saw all the sexual hypocrisy when I was a kid. I saw the absurdity in teaching sexual education to classroom of 10th graders, of whom at least half had already had sex. And I'd be lying to say that I don't regret not having sex sooner, and more of it. On that level, a show like Undressed is only acknowledging what kids are already doing.
But there is one thing that bugs me about all this onscreen sex. It's not real. Undressed, and Playboy, and ever more libidinous Hollywood are showing fantasy sex. Sex where everyone's a model. Sex where everyone's a Yuppie. And sex where everyone seems to be a moron. (Why can't our media present the concept of intelligent people having sex?) We're creating a rather pointless illusion that presents the idea that the only sex worth having occurs between either blow up dolls or Pamela and Tommy Lee. (Who are slightly more intelligent than blow up dolls.)
What I'd like to see on the screen is some real sex. Sex where a man fondles a woman's breasts with one hand and tries to shoo away the cat with the other. Sex where people have non-simultaneous orgasms. Sex that can be just as crappy, or sloppy, or fabulous, or great as the sex we've all had. Because if kids don't see that, they're in for one hell of a disappointment. One of the best things my Mom ever did for me when I was a kid was to take me to Woody Allen's "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask)". It showed me that sex was funny. And when something's funny, it no longer has the power to frighten, to intimidate, to overwhelm. After all, you may not guess it by watching Undressed, but we're a nation of sexual hang-ups, sexual dysfunctions and sexual frustrations. Because we're still frightened of sex. We need to have the ability to laugh at it. And were not going to get that ability from the view we've been presented of sex so far. (Go ahead, the next time your engaged in a sexual activity take the time to look down at your partner and start laughing your head off.)
I don't blight the media for showing sex; I think they're just acknowledging something we're all aware of. But they are certainly at fault for the single-minded portrayal they offer of it. In their world sex is unanimously an act between two people more attractive than 99% of the human race, but with one-tenth the amount of normal human brain cells. It's always an act of unbridled passion, of overwhelming tension, never acknowledging that most sex in the world is "comfortable" sex. Sex with two people who've had sex with each other lots of times before. It may not be earth shattering, but, hey, it's still fun. And until Hollywood is willing to acknowledge that, we really won't progress very far. We'll simply be exchanging one set of hang-ups for another.
I think the best thing kids can do is watch their parents have sex. Don't waste your time with carnal fodder like Undressed, instead, sneak into your parents closet, wait till they go to bed and watch the masters at work. What you'll be seeing is real sex, done by real people, the same sort of copulation you'll be committing when you're their age. What you'll gain in sensitivity, understanding and sexual functionality will make you wise before your years. Plus you'll have some great blackmail material.