The Media – Prejudicial Ethics

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2003
Apart from the common cold and flu, sexually transmitted diseases are now the most common diseases in America. With the large number of STDs that have emerged, research is consistently behind in determining the exact consequences of most of them. Although drugs and other treatments have proved successful for many, we still don’t know the long-term consequences for others. The only solution is a radical change in sexual attitudes and behavior.

Is There an Entrenched Bias Against the Moral Absolutes That Would Stop Sexual Plagues?

John Weldon remembers several discussions he had with certain professors while an undergraduate in the turbulent 1960s. What characterized those academics was their promotion of liberal sexual attitudes and their corresponding dislike for Christian values. Some of the comments, in and out of the classroom, included: “Christianity is a myth for insecure people”; “Jesus Christ is the figment of a psychotic imagination”; “Only a fool would be a Christian”; “What the world needs is a humanistic approach to life that rejects Christian standards”; and “Christians who promote absolutist values upon society are suffering from an unhealthy fear of sexuality instituted by an archaic biblical standard.”

These comments were made more than forty years ago. Today, the dividing line between those few who accept moral absolutes and the majority who reject them is stronger than ever. It illustrates the major cause of the current sexual tragedy stalking our nation.

Masters and Johnson emphasize, “There is no sexual value system that is right for everyone and no single moral code that is indisputably correct and universally applicable.”[1] Such a statement reflects the current bias in American culture against Christian values, in particular, absolute moral values. Consider the recent history of such organizations as Planned Parenthood, People for the American Way, the ACLU, and even the national Democratic Party. Such organizations are largely secularist institutions that oppose Christian values and that, because of their opposition, can harm the general health of the public.

These organizations are frequently pro-homosexual and pro-abortion; they use their political platform or other power in support of sexual perversion and the murder of the unborn. They characteristically reject moral absolutes and encourage, directly or indirectly, the very kinds of thinking and behavior that will result in millions of deaths from sexually transmitted diseases.

Indeed, on the eve of President Bush’s August 1992 acceptance. speech, NBC nightly news commentator John Chancellor emphasized the he did not want moral leadership coming from the president of the United States. One can only wonder when respected social commentators say such things. Perhaps appropriately, during the same convention, “Queer Nation,” a militant homosexual group, vandalized Republican party headquarters, protesting its affirmation of family values as “discriminatory.”

In addition, there are the liberal college professors, psychologists, educators, humanists, teachers’ unions, pornographers, homosexuals, and militant feminists who are working hard to push their own agenda.[2] Several studies have documented the liberal, humanistic, and anti-Christian bias of those who control the American electronic media (for example, television and movie producers). It is as if the entertainment media has deliberately attempted to sell Americans its own distorted set of values concerning sexuality and other matters. In fact, quite appropriately “Entertainment Tonight” (May 28, 1986) stated in a special segment on the billion dollar pornography industry that some of the industry’s financial backers refused to be interviewed because of their prominent positions in the entertainment business.

THE IMPACT OF THE MEDIA

In a special report on television violence, TV Guide (August 22, 1992) noted that more than sufficient studies had been done to conclude that violence on television can produce violence in children: “The NIMH [National Institute of Mental Health] states the consensus [of all these studies]: ‘Violence on television does lead to aggressive behavior by children and teenagers who watch the programs.”’

Further, it cited Leonard D. Eron and others in “one of the most ambitious and conclusive studies” yet published: “There can no longer be any doubt that heavy exposure to televised violence is one of the causes of aggressive behavior, crime, and violence in society. The evidence comes from both the laboratory and real-life studies. Television violence affects youngsters of all ages, of both genders, at all socio-economic levels, and all levels of intelligence.” If movie and television violence causes violent behavior among viewers, on what logical basis can we assume that sexual immorality in movies and television is entirely without impact?

No less an authority than Brandon Tartikoff, former head of Paramount Studios and NBC, observed on “Larry King Live” (October 16, 1992) that “television is a medium that is going to encourage imitation.” He warned that networks should be careful to instill some kind of moral values because people’s actions are influenced by television. (If this is true even for something as terrible as news stories about suicide, it may certainly also be true for television sex. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine, 315, no. 11, p. 685, concluded that “television stories about suicide trigger additional suicides, perhaps because of imitation.”)

For the most part, sex as portrayed on TV and the movies is not true to life. For example, according to one study, 94 percent of sexual encounters on soap operas were between people not married to one another.[3] In other words, television is telling viewers, including children and teens, that most sex occurs outside of marriage, even though that is not true. The “soaps” constantly tell us that sex is just another casual, fun activity without consequence. “Unfortunately, our society is filled with messages front the media, music and even certain laws (e.g., abortion on demand) that encourage teens to engage in sex in a hedonistic way without acknowledging consequences.”[4] A study by Lou Harris and Associates revealed “that 41 percent of teenagers think that television gives a realistic picture of the consequences of sex. What may be even more sobering is that 24 percent of adults believe what they see about sex on TV—one out of four!”[5]

Many people think that children aren’t behaviorally influenced by movies, music videos, and television. But that is false. The fact that TV advertisers spend billions of dollars each year on advertising during prime time television reveals the power of the media.

How could it be otherwise, given the time we spend with it? The amount of time the average teenager spends watching TV and listening to music videos is equivalent to the amount of time he spends in school from grade one through four years of college. From grade seven to twelve alone, kids listen to an average total of 10,500 hours of rock music—not even considering the amount of time they spend watching TV.[6] What kinds of messages are portrayed in rock music videos and most TV programs concerning sexual behavior? There are basically three messages: (1) doing what “feels good” or what’s “right for you”—which usually translates into sexual permissiveness; (2) the idea that sex is a private act and no one else’s business—which leads to sexual irresponsibility; and (3) the belief that sexual behavior is largely without personal consequence —which usually brings personal acts of considerable consequence.

Some research studies have estimated that the average person views more than ninety thousand scenes of sex or suggested sexual intercourse between the ages of eight and eighteen—more than seventy thousand of them involving pre- or extramarital intercourse.[7] Can anyone really believe that ninety thousand scenes of sex or suggested sex has no influence whatever? As one girl who had just lost her virginity wrote us, “I just couldn’t compete with what I saw on television; the bombardment never stopped, and so I said, [‘What’s the difference?’ ]”

The fact that children are being, innocently indoctrinated with a liberal view of sex, not to mention the other distortions, has hardly even been protested by parents:

Many of us share in the blame because of our permissiveness. How much guidance have we given our children about the kinds of television programs and movies to watch? Have we written to our local television stations when they broadcast something we did not approve of? In most cases, I think we have lost the battle without putting up a fight. For years too many of us have been silent about the dangerous effects of media on our kids.[8]

McDowell is convinced that, “`TV’—the electronic babysitter—has probably done more to shape attitudes of teens than any other single factor of American life, especially with the advent of cable television.”[9] A study he cites, “The Impact of Media on the Sexual Attitudes of Adolescents,” given to the National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference, revealed that there appeared to be “a correlation between the total media time of the students and their premarital sexual attitudes.”[10]

Most studies show that, in order of influence, the three factors molding teenagers’ values and behavior are (1) parents, (2) peers, (3) the media (TV, radio, movies).[11] A few studies show the order as (1) peers, (2) media, and (3) parents.[12] The study just cited revealed a strong correlation between the favorite movies of adolescents and their premarital sexual attitudes. According to McDowell, “When youth selected R or X rated movies as their most preferred, the probability that they would have a permissive sexual attitude was extremely high. On the other hand, those who chose PG as most preferred were traditional in their premarital sexual attitudes.”[13]

A girl from West Virginia wrote: “I accepted Jesus as my savior when I was nine. I have been going to church all my life and still do. At age seventeen I began dating a boy who had graduated and gotten work with a factory in town. I thought he was cool. Well, one night we went to see the movie 10. On the way home, we took a detour and had intercourse in the back seat of his mother’s car. After five months of dating, he broke up with me. I was crushed.”[14]

Considering television and movies as a whole, the number of illicit sexual episodes shown is beyond counting. And networks have either done away with their departments for program standards or reduced their staff.[15] This may be because of the pressure exerted by the success of cable stations—which are increasingly permissive and garnering a larger and larger share of the viewing audience.

What the modern American media tells our children about sex is that everyone is doing it. Today we also have dozens of powerful Media personalities—rock stars, TV stars, and movie stars—openly proclaiming their liberal sexual attitudes. If such personalities are our national heroes, why should we think our kids don’t listen to them?

THE IRRESPONSIBILITY OF THE MEDIA

“Adult” magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, and Elle now carry explicit sexual articles that were once reserved for Playboy—and yet many of these magazines are marketed to and read by teenagers and even preteens. A college co-ed wrote to us:

Reading all these magazines with their detailed articles on the techniques and joys of petting, oral sex, sexual intercourse, etc., made it impossible for me to resist getting involved sexually with my boyfriend. But my getting a sexually transmitted disease and breaking up with Jimmy wasn’t the real problem.

I became more and more fascinated with the articles on extramarital affairs. I began having fantasies about what it would be like to have a relationship with a married man. Soon, I had one.

More than anything else in life—major surgery, a broken family, job rejections, worry of AIDS, more than anything else—I will never get over this and what it did. We were caught together in bed at his beach house. His wife didn’t just divorce him; she shot him dead. I feel responsible. How am I supposed to live with this?

Further, how many movies, music videos, and magazines actively portray positive moral values? Most of the media continue to glamorize the very activity that will result in the deaths of millions of people.

Why is so much tragedy in real life associated with what is potentially such a wonderful physical act? Perhaps one reason is because sex is far more than merely a physical act; it is always an emotional and spiritual act as well. Second, the most important sex organ is the mind, and when the mind is corrupted, everything else suffers. Third, God never created us with the internal ability to discard His moral law with impunity. But none of this is shown on TV.

Are teenagers or adults ever shown a baby born with birth defects from an STD? Are they shown pictures of people dying with AIDS? Are they ever shown the emotional turmoil in people’s lives as a result of casual sex? Are they ever shown the results of an abortion? Despite his endless affairs, did J. R. Ewing on “Dallas” ever get a venereal disease? On other shows, have any of the sexually active movie stars ever done so?

In preparation for this book, we examined several months of programs from popular talk shows, including Oprah, Geraldo, Donahue, Sonya Live, Jenny Jones, Sally Raphael. Consider some of the topics: sexual addictions, adultery, incest, rape, sexual swingers, siblings having sex with their sibling’s boyfriends/girlfriends, mothers giving their teenage daughters birth control pills and encouraging them to have sex with boyfriends, phone sex, child prostitutes, parents counseling their pregnant daughters to have abortions, mothers sleeping with their daughters’ boyfriends, fathers sleeping with their sons’ girlfriends, mothers and daughters sleeping with the same man, lesbianism and lesbian nude bars, homosexuality and various other (even more) perverted forms of sex, pornography, sexual abuse of children, and worse.

Tens of millions of people watch these shows. Should we assume that they are without influence on either adult or teenage behavior? Audience reaction frequently indicates heartfelt support for sexual behavior that is clearly sinful from a Christian perspective. Do these shows do no more than titillate viewers—or are they increasingly a reflection of actual American values?

For two decades, we have permitted the media to distort the consequences of sexual activity. Our children have been shown that casual sex is either a cure for their personal problems of loneliness and low self-esteem or a means to their being successful and making money.

Thus, not only does the secular media not reinforce moral values or demonstrate the consequences of illicit sex, it often actively promotes the opposite. It continues to cultivate feelings of inadequacy among young people. So much emphasis is placed on sex or beauty that children grow up thinking these are the most important aspects of their being. If a woman is not beautiful, she is unimportant. If she doesn’t have the right figure, she won’t get a man to look at her. How can any child develop a healthy sense of self-worth when the emphasis is on physical standards of perfection, which 90 percent of them will never attain? The same is true for men. Men are supposed to be good looking “studs” who can satisfy all the women they want. Does such an attitude help men become loving husbands and fathers?

And what have our political representatives done in light of the vast consequences of the sexual revolution? Have they supported it or opposed it? Rather than stand for morality, Congress has wasted billions of dollars on special interest groups or its own agenda, helping to force the nation deeper and deeper into the most severe debt of its history. Unfortunately, a U.S. President now supports both abortion and homosexual rights.

Perhaps an argument can be made that our national attitudes won’t change unless the attitudes of those in the media and those who run the country also begin to change.

Notes

  1. William H. Masters, Virginia E. Johnson, Robert C. Kolodny, Masters and Johnson on Sex and Human Loving (Boston: Little, Brown, 1988), 10.
  2. Pearl Evans, Hidden Danger in the Classroom: Disclosure Based on Ideas of W. R Coulson (Petaluma, Calif.: Small Helm, 1990), 38-45.
  3. Josh McDowell, The Myths of Sex Education (San Bernardino, Calif.: Here’s Life, 1990), 40. An early 1992 editorial in the Chattanooga News Free Press, “Where TV Leads,” cited 93 percent of network sex as pre- or extramarital.
  4. Dinah Richard, Has Sex Education Failed Our Teenagers? A Research Report (Pomona, Calif.: Focus on the Family, 1990), 32.
  5. “American Teens Speak: Sex, Myth, TV and Birth Control,” The Planned Parenthood Poll, Lewis Harris and Associates, Inc., September/October 1986, 9; cited in McDowell, The Myths of Sex Education, 41.
  6. Elizabeth F. Brown and William Hendee, “Adolescents and Their Music: Insights into the Health of Adolescents,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 22/29 September 1989, 1659.
  7. E.g., Liebert, Sprafkin, and Davidson, The Early Window: Effects of Television on Children and Youth (1982), 171; cited in Josh McDowell and Dick Day, Why Wait? What You Need to Know About the Teen Sexuality Crisis (San Bernardino, Calif.: Here’s Life, 1987), 40.
  8. McDowell, The Myths of Sex Education, 39.
  9. Ibid
  10. Virginia Anderson and Randolph Allen Wright, “The Impact of Media on the Sexual Attitudes of Adolescents,” a paper presented at the New Orleans, La., Conference, 5-8 November 1989; cited in McDowell, The Myths of Sex Education, 39.
  11. McDowell, The Myths of Sex Education, 38.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Anderson and Wright, “The Impact of the Media,” 6.
  14. McDowell and Day, Why Wait? 40.
  15. McDowell, The Myths of Sex Education, 47.

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