Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Letter to the CW

I am a fan of Gossip Girl, and have been since Season 1. Part of the reason I enjoy the show is that the characters are a little rebellious, and get themselves into plenty of situations that I would never want to be in myself. But the fact that it is on television, and that these are characters rather than real people makes it fun to watch. However, the November 9th and November 16th episodes of Gossip Girl made me very uncomfortable. Both of the episodes featured major characters involved in a sexual threesome. The way it was portrayed made it seem like it was a “normal college experience”. While the second episode did portray problems that stemmed from their actions, it was never mentioned that the threesome wasn’t a good idea, only that they chose the wrong person to include. “The third person should be a stranger” was the response of several other characters.

Television is very influential in the lives of children, especially when it comes to decisions about sex. It has even been described as a "sexual super-peer" - meaning that television has the ability to intensify the peer-pressure teens are already feeling to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors, such as a threesome, which could be damaging to their physical and emotional well-being. When television portrays attractive, popular teenage characters as sexually active, it sends a powerful message to young viewers that they, too, should be sexually active and in fact, there might be something wrong with them if they aren't. Gossip Girl has portrayed this message on many occasions, but they rarely show the characters in bed in their underwear, kissing, like they did on the aforementioned episodes. Teens are aware that television influences their behavior. According to one survey, a third of youths 12 and older say the media encourages them to have sex by making it seem like "everybody does it." Many studies from past few years have revealed a strong correlation between exposure to adult media content in childhood and early onset of sexual activity among teens.

I ask that you take the time to think about the consequences you may be inflicting on the teens who watch Gossip Girl, as well as the other shows on your network. Not only the threesome, but other influential messages about sexual activity as well. Teens and young adults do look to the media for messages about sex, and they should see at least some good examples and not feel like they have to act like the characters portrayed on their show to be liked, or worse, loved.

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