Why do TV and Netflix have such a Complicated Relationship with Sex
TV, Netflix, and serial-based content has had a complicated relationship with sex. Some content chooses to focus on certain aspects of sexuality while other programs will wash away categories of sexual representation completely
Simply put, sex is such a complex, multi-faceted part of the human condition, it’s incredibly difficult to represent honestly on television without completely crossing the imaginary line between what’s deemed appropriate and inappropriate.
A lot of shows are pushing the boundaries of sex on TV though. Some are doing it better than others, if browsing Netflix’s catalogue is any indication. For example, House of Cards depicts sexuality as an extension of power or escapism rather than an expression of love. Then, there are programs like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina which depicts sexuality as a casual aspect of the teenage experience, without broaching a lot of the deeper subject matter surrounding sexuality.
You have senior-friendly shows on Netflix such as Grace and Frankie and The Kominsky Method, which depicts the struggle that exists in old-age to connect with their sexuality, to perform sexual acts, and the marginalization of sexuality as a priority. Dear White People deals with sexual dynamics existing in the black community at a university-level, and then, Sex Education is based entirely around the subject of sex among teenagers, delving into many different areas and struggles common among people of this age.
TV’s troublesome relationship with sexuality is that there’s a genuine fear of depicting it in the wrong manner and a fear of audience response. Thereby, sexuality’s commonly flattened to unrealistic behaviours. Sure, boundaries are being pushed however if you’re getting your sexual education from Netflix, it’s probably as accurate to the real thing as pornography is.
What’s ‘appropriate’ is something which probably varies from individual to individual. What a teenager wants to see in their depiction of sexuality will be different from someone of an older generation, not to mention the differences between genders, cultures, belief systems, and more. There’s a lot to criticize about TV’s historical depictions of sex and gender however these days, shows like Sex Education can exist and treat sexuality in a way where all are respected. That’s a good thing!
As boundaries continue to be pushed though, audiences are sometimes pulled back and forth regarding what’s inappropriate in sex on TV. For example, Game of Thrones has depicted sex in some problematic ways. Just like in pornography, there are teenagers and young adults watching this programming, being exposed to sex at a very early age and being taught certain perspectives while others are not shared. This is why it’s important to understand sex on Netflix or TV is always going to be viewer-based with the purpose being entertainment, whether that’s taking a comedic, villainous, romantic, or yes, sexual tone.
Where the future of TV, Netflix, and streaming serial programming leads is up for debate but thankfully, we’re seeing a change in the way content is written in that it’s ok to talk about sex and to depict it realistically. Although we can disagree on how much sex should be shown, the perspective from which certain events may be shown, and/or how advanced current depictions of sex are, there’s a lot of promise in the air that the future could be that much more positive to more diverse depictions of real sexual experiences.