07 October, 2005

A study on sex and drugs in film

A new Australian study in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine "concludes [that] blockbuster movies paint a consequence-free view of sex and drugs," and moreover that this "might be bad for your health."

Alas, the study is not available for free, but a university library near you may have that journal in stock.

One of the authors in the study is Dr. Hasantha Gunasekera, from the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney. He is quoted in Australian media as saying, "The study showed there were no references to important consequences of unsafe sex such as HIV transmission, spread of STDs or unwanted pregnancy."

You may recall that I wondered some time ago why Americans (myself included) are so tolerant of violence in film, and so intolerant of sex in film, at least as far as film ratings and public outrage go. I suggested a rational motivation along these lines:

[W]hen violence is depicted on-screen, it is almost always depicted along with its consequences, namely suffering... : bleeding, even death. ... [However,] I have never seen a film with a sex scene that goes on to show the natural consequences of that act; not once. There is abundant sex in films: married sex, unmarried sex, adulterous sex, etc. I can't think of any instances where this act was then shown to lead to pregnancy, or to venereal disease.

In my opinion, this suggested a moral criterion for film: are the consequences of an act depicted realistically? Apparently, some doctors have similar thoughts, especially as it affects the third world.

I further argued that this criterion turns the conventional wisdom upside-down, since it implies that American culture's prudish approach to sex in film is more mature than the European view. This remains debatable of course, and has little to do with with the study, so Alessandra's and Zsolt's comments remain valid. I was nevertheless entertained to find that someone in medicine had a thought similar to mine.

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