The Disappearance of the Sex-Talk-Taboo

It’s often thought that virginity was a much more important thing to hold in societies before ours today, with our parent’s stories of retaining it until their late teens and the religious disapproval of pre-marital intercourse. Sex seemed to be unspoken of. However, is this really the case? With stories of 13 year olds falling pregnant being shunned in tabloids, “16 and pregnant” filling the MTV’s time structure and the idea of children raising children being a highly controversial matter in discussion, the impression is given that this is a new problem of the 21st century. It may not be the strong religious beliefs that enforce these chaste views anymore, but instead this has been replaced with the media’s creation of this subject as a social idiosyncrasy. And now, because the sex-talk taboo has all but disappeared, what’s being perceived is the introduction of youth sex.

Reality is far from this. Think back to last time you watched ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet were just 17 and 13 years old, yet this was hardly explicit in Baz Luhrmann’s cinematic screenplay. A 22 year old DiCaprio was cast as Romeo, 5 years the true Shakespearian characters elder. Even in pre-1400 literature, Chaucer presents the regularity of young marriage in ‘The Wife Of Bath’s Tale’ with the narrative voice of the epic poem talking of her 5 husbands, the first of which at the age of 12. This text however also reflects the taboo of sex talk prior to today’s society, with Chaucer’s writing creating controversy with its exploration of women’s manipulation with sex, and the idea of sex being an enjoyable activity of sorts. Despite this taboo of sex being dismissed in films set in the past significantly challenging this idea of sex being unspoken until the modernity of our decade, exemplary of this Sam Taylor-Wood’s ‘Nowhere Boy’, the biopic of John Lennon’s teenage years, set mainly in the 60’s; a particular scene capturing his mother explaining to Lennon (Aaron Johnson) that rock n’ roll is about “Sex.” However, would that line have been written were the film released earlier? Imagine this biopic being released in the 70’s rather than 2009, it is likely that should that line have been written, it would have certainly be cut out, maybe not so strongly due to any controversial uproar, but simply to avoid the topic. And this conversation between mother and son can be read by the audience as highly uncomfortable, yet again suggesting that despite the talk of sex, it is still negatively portrayed through discomfort.

With the media syringing us with the idea of youth sex being a contemporary problem, is an aberrant reading the only way to realize this isn’t the case? Creating worries in parents, forming the nugatory stereotype of teenagers ‘on the rampage’, and forcing this down consumers throats with cinema, television, and even news coverage is specifically presenting this as a social idiosyncrasy, without the consideration that, in fact, it isn’t.


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