• Television Shows Celebrate Hook-Up Culture

    by  • March 12, 2015 • Misrated, Ratings Reform, Sex, Sexualization, Television • 8 Comments


    Hook-up culture is having its moment on cable television.

    In just a few days, VH1 will be rolling-out Walk of Shame Shuttle, essentially Taxi Cab Confessions for the basic cable tier; a reality series in which a drivers pick up young adults after a one-night-stand and get them to talk about their hook-ups on camera.

    Like Sex Box, currently airing on WE tv, Walk of Shame Shuttle isn’t about helping the young adults who have clearly made some poor choices, choices they will probably come to regret; it’s an exploitative gimmick, a cheap stunt designed to attract viewers looking to laugh at these people who have laid their sex lives bare on national television for a little notoriety.

    And given its TV-14 rating, it is also abundantly clear VH1 isn’t going after adult viewers. They are targeting teens, who will be taking their social cues and expectations about sex, love, and relationships from the individuals profiled on this show and others like it.

    Multiple studies have established television’s place as a “sexual super-peer,” feeding the perception in the minds of impressionable young viewers that everybody is having multiple casual sexual encounters, and that there are no real-world consequences for this kind of behavior.

    However, this isn’t the extent of TV’s celebration of cheap, meaningless sex.

    Later this month, the A&E network (formerly Arts & Entertainment: a network once associated with high-brow entertainment like America’s Castles and quality dramas like Horatio Hornblower) will be skimming the very bottom of the barrel with a new reality series about a community of “swingers”– couples who trade sex partners – called Neighbors with Benefits.

    In trailers for the series on the A&E website, we are told by one woman that she’s “just your every day, typical, suburban housewife except that…” “We are swingers!” her husband chimes-in.  Another woman says, “Swinging enhances the love that we have.”

    As if reading from the same script, a different woman in a second trailer says, “Swinging is a way to enhance the relationship that you already have with someone.”

    Kudos to whoever at A&E is coaching these women to keep them on script. It sure looks like they’re working hard to sell America on the notion that having sex with people outside of your marriage is good for your relationship.

    In yet another clip, a husband announces to party guests that “You’re allowed to help yourself to anything in the house.” His wife asks coyly, “Am I part of the house?” “You are part of the house,” he answers.  Is this what a loving relationship looks like? A husband treating his wife like another piece of furniture? Just part of the house?

    Most parents want to help their children make smart choices. Most parents want their children to find healthy relationships built on a foundation of mutual respect. They want their children to find love and happiness. But that’s not the future shows like these would encourage. These programs undermine the teaching and values that parents work so hard to instill in their children.

    There are those who would claim that this is progress; that programming like this is merely reflecting the realities of the modern world. But data suggests that television is not so much a mirror as a hammer. It doesn’t reflect reality back at us; it shatters old paradigms and reshapes the attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs of the viewer. Instead of promoting healthy, committed relationships, these networks have chosen to celebrate behavior that is ultimately destructive. And as a cable subscriber, you are footing the bill.



    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    8 Responses to Television Shows Celebrate Hook-Up Culture

    1. Mike Barry
      March 22, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      Television is nothing more than a mind control device. There are 6 Corporations that own the media. Their main focus is to dumb us all down to the point that we are mere sex crazed mindless violent animals. They tell us what they want us to know. The main goal is to desensitize and demoralize us with their bread and circus while the super powers create war and havoc world wide. I have been a reader of Parents TV for a long time now. The t.v. programs are getting worse. Sometimes it feels like we are losing the battle even though some of these programs get shut down due to no sponsors thanks to Parents TV and their readers. I believe the time has come to just encourage people to turn off their televisions and put them in a closet taking them out only once in a while as a treat and focusing on families having conversation and playing board games or cards for entertainment so they can interact.

      • Jonathan
        March 30, 2015 at 8:19 pm

        Really a mind controlling device? That has to be be the funniest thing I have heard in a long time. Television does not turn people into violent or sex driven people. Good luck trying to get people to turn their TVs off because it’s never going to happen.

        • Christopher Gildemeister
          April 1, 2015 at 7:56 am

          You should tell politicians that TV has no influence on people. It’s estimated that politicians will spend $3 BILLION dollars on TV ads for the next election.

          And for that matter, why do advertisers spend $5 million for a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl, when what people see on TV has absolutely no influence on their behavior whatsoever?

          • Jonathan
            April 1, 2015 at 7:47 pm

            I am not talking about politicians and Super Bowl ads. I am saying that TV does not turn people into violent people. Yes there are studies that show it does but there are studies with more evidence that show it does not.

            I’ve been watching violent movies/shows since the age of 10 and I am not a violent person. Same with video games. I’ve never even had a Violent thought. My thirteen year old brother watches TWD and he’s not violent.

            The reason you blame TV is because you don’t want to look at the real issues of why people become violent. They fact that most murders have mental issues, abused by parents/peers or are just evil by nature.

            • Christopher Gildemeister
              April 3, 2015 at 9:42 am

              Saying “I watch violent movies and I’ve never murdered anyone” is the perfect example of a straw-man argument. The PTC does not say — and has never said — that watching a violent TV show turns everyone who sees it into a drooling, murderous lunatic. But it DOES *INFLUENCE* the way viewers think. Again, there are the examples of commercials. Why would businesses pay billions of dollars a year to air commercials if seeing them doesn’t influence viewers? The whole PURPOSE of media is to change thoughts, affect emotions, and influence behavior.

              When you see a Pepsi ad, you don’t instantly rush out and buy a case of Pepsi. Media is more subtle than that. But it does have a cumulative effect, even if it’s only to predispose you to thinking Pepsi is okay.

              If what people see and hear has no influence on them, why do we send kids to school? After all, what they’re seeing and hearing doesn’t influence them or change their behavior, right? So why bother?

              You simply cannot say that yes, political ads and product commercials and education influence thoughts, but thousands of hours of violent content (in TV, video games, or elsewhere) doesn’t.

              Obviously, violent programming isn’t the only cause of real-life violence, or even a major one. But it DOES have an influence. Smoking one cigarette won’t give you cancer, either. But it will affect your health to a tiny degree…and if it becomes a habit, will have major impacts on your body.

              And it is not true that you have “never even had a violent thought.” If you’ve watched a violent program and thought about it, you’ve had violent thoughts.

    2. Ann Macdonald
      March 20, 2015 at 7:24 am

      Amazing that A&E used to mean the Arts and Entertainment station. Now it is no better than an X rated channel that exploits teens and promotes violent and degrading programs.

    3. Sharleen Peck
      March 18, 2015 at 12:56 pm

      Exploiting sex for ratings is deplorable and, more than that, almost criminally irresponsible. The results can be devastating to relationships, result in record STD’s (which I am told we are already seeing), and encourage behavior that can ultimately cause a suicide. We need responsible television that encourages the best in people, not the worst.

    4. Jeannie Walker
      March 17, 2015 at 7:36 pm

      Stop all the SEX on tv. Teens are impressionable and watch things the shouldn’t b/c parents aren’t paying attention. I have always thought A&E was a good station for families to watch. As an adult I’m offended by all the SEX on tv shows and commercials!

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