While my teenage son was at youth group one Sunday afternoon, I was on the computer researching a new television show marketed to teenagers called “Sex Education.” It shows male and female nudity including close-ups of genitals. It has teenage characters not only having sex, but also abortions. The Netflix series is described as a comedy, which in my opinion, is laughable.
I can’t think of anything funny about watching teenagers have sex while I nosh on popcorn like I am watching an episode of the “Andy Griffith Show.” I know some teenagers have sex. I also know there are physical and emotional consequences that they are not mature enough to handle. I could rattle on about this – the science of it, the immorality, and the struggle of trying to feel whole after giving away a part of oneself intended to unify two souls in the context of love and the bounds of marriage. But I would just be another moralistic adult preaching to the choir. It wouldn’t change the fact that some teenagers are going to have sex anyway. They had it long before sexting, internet porn, and the legalization of abortion.
What has changed is the horrific way teenage sex is being normalized by mainstream media to the point that it is considered entertainment. Teenage sex as television entertainment. It’s incredulous. Parental responsibilities to teach about the sacred nature of sex have been disregarded — outsourced to Netflix despite the completely irresponsible premise of a “comedy” teaching the many dimensions of human sexuality. The reviews of the show are generally positive as the characters are described as endearing and empathetic. I even read reviews by teenagers who say that it is a realistic depiction of what teens struggle with. Maybe so. Yet by normalizing teenage sex as something to explore, we are ignoring the spiritual component that is more complicated than its physical counterpart. By debasing sex to something to share as freely as a stick of gum, we exchange the wholeness of the person for a fraction of carnal pleasure. Teenagers are left to sort broken pieces of themselves – feeling more confused than ever as to why something that was marketed to fill them has left them empty. Is Netflix going to create a show to help with that?
Teenagers may be confused about sex, but I am confused how anyone can conscionably produce a show that condones and encourages teen intercourse by reducing it to comedy. One that is described by Joyce Slaton of Common Sense Media where “characters have sex with lots of movement, noise, and realistic talk about orgasms, sexual practices, positions, body fluids, body parts, and on and on.” We are talking about minors. Kids whose bodies are still growing and brains which are still developing. Our babies who are biologically able to make babies of their own, yet who are not mature or responsible enough to care for them. Now they can watch their insecurities, fantasies, and inexperience play out on television as realism instead of a reflection of the surrealism in which morality has dipped.
With morality becoming unconventional and teen sex normalized, parents can’t afford to be ambiguous about our roles as primary educators of our children. I know that parents have often done a poor job of talking to their children about sex. It’s uncomfortable. It’s awkward. It’s embarrassing. Most kids aren’t going to share their sexual concerns with parents for the same reasons. Shows like this are going to fill the gap between that prepubescent conversation many of us had about our children’s changing bodies to the questions that arise as they experience the cognitive dissonance of seeing peers, television, and other adults portray sex for the sole purpose of pleasure.
By the time my son returned home from youth group, I was finished educating myself on one of television’s latest offerings. I felt demoralized — like the fight was too complex, the world too broken, and absurdity too mainstream. But then I saw a text from his middle school youth director, herself a teenager. It read, “Middle school trying to hold on to virtue while kicking away temptation.” I was reminded that in spiritual warfare, children can be fierce warriors. They may not have the platform of a television series, but they have a passion for truth. The truth is not going to come from any media which encourages them to explore temptation while ignoring virtue. “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14).
We Christians have some educating of our own to do.
Full disclosure: I have not and have no intention of watching “Sex Education.” You can use parental controls to block the show from your children. To read the review I referenced, please go to https://www.commonsensemedia.org/tv-reviews/sex-education
Please pray for our children.