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No, Explicit Sex Scenes in Teen Dramas aren’t ‘Edgy’, They’re Weird

Over the summer, I decided to watch the reboot of ‘Gossip Girl’ as it aired on HBO Max. I was excited for the show, three of the main characters were Black or multiracial women, one of the actresses is trans, and there were going to be prominent queer characters throughout the series. For those who had seen the original, this was a massive improvement. And the show was going to air on HBO Max, allowing for graphic content that wouldn’t be allowed onto the original show’s platform of the CW. The show is rated TV Mature for language, sexual content, and other things. 

Which brings me to the question: why do people keep making teen dramas with explicit or highly suggestive sex scenes? Even if all of the actors are adults, these characters are supposed to be 15-18, and there are scenes with nudity and/or highly graphic simulated sexual acts. Or for shows such as ‘Riverdale’, the sex scenes are filmed with expensive lingerie and lingering camera shots, none of which depict what teenage sex is actually like. Allegedly, this is what these scenes are for. Teenagers have sex, everyone knows this, so why can’t teenage shows include it in their episodes? 

The problem isn’t the fact that sex included. Several shows and movies have included it without running into this problem. Personally, I’m a fan of the ever-so-popular fade to black scene that so many teen dramas and rom-coms utilize. It gets the same message across, and there’s plenty of space for the character to talk about sex and consent and all of the other important things. The problem I have is when the scenes are meant to be sexy, when the audience is supposed to watch them and find the situation arousing. These characters are minors, there’s no reason why explicit sex should be depicted between minors. 

The solution seems simple. The actors are all already in their twenties, a significant portion of the viewers are adults, so why not make the characters adults? They can be college students, young adults in the workplace, literally anything besides children. Instead, platforms like HBO insist on making show after show depicting explicit teen sex for their primarily adult viewership. Even if the viewers are made up of teens, these shows are giving them wildly unrealistic expectations for what sex at 16 is going to look like. It’s not “realistic” or “informative” like so many of these show runners claim, so what’s their purpose? Is it shock value, like the explicit scene in the first few seconds of the 2021 ‘Gossip Girl’ meant to capture viewers’ attention, showing that it’s going to be nothing like the TV-14 original? Either way, the thought of a group of 20-40 year old show runners gathering around to write and direct a detailed sex scene between characters that are supposed to be 16 doesn’t sit right with me.

Taelor Daugherty

Agnes Scott '22

Taelor Daugherty is an English Literature-Creative Writing major at Agnes Scott College. She plans either go into media-related journalism or into the film and television industry as a screenwriter.
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