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Movies don't need sensual content to have value

Nov. 4, 2010

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McClatchy Tribune News Service

By Cara Leigh
Contributor

Sex.

Have I got your attention now? I thought so.

I'm no conservative, but I've found myself fussing over the cinematic (and social) fixation with sex of late. Not just any plain old sex, though. Teen sex.

Riddle me this: When's the last time you saw a mainstream young adult flick and the content did not mention virginity or the dirty deed?

Sex is everywhere these days. Lately, cinema's naughty infatuation has transcended to an adolescent level. With movies like "Easy A" and "The Virginity Hit" being fired at us left and right, it's kind of hard to ignore.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm well aware that movies have featured people "doing it" for ages. But the mainstream film industry has been pandering this once-taboo content to younger and younger demographics each passing decade, and desensitizing youths to the point where sex is presented to them as a casual social hurdle.

Now when I say "youth," I primarily mean people between the ages of 16 and 23. For those of you who detest this general label, sit tight and bear with me.

In our culture, sex is unavoidable. Historically, movies containing sexual content have been tailored to a fully grown, swanky, martini-sipping generation who gasped at a hint of thigh.

This definitely is not your grandparents' sexy fanfare.

Teen cinema has been openly acquainted with the quest for sex since the groovy '70s ("Little Darlings," anyone?). In the '80s it had brat pack fads like "The Breakfast Club," "Weird Science" and "Sixteen Candles," and in the late '90s there came a little film called "American Pie."

This is child's play compared to the past few months in movie releases. Now it's tales of high school sex gossip gone awry, a documentary of a sexually desperate nerd and a Facebook genius who admits that his site was a tool to score him a little sugar.

I'm not making any naïve or obtuse assumptions here. I know that our generation's not the first to explore sex cinematically, but we're absolutely the first to be bombarded with popular films glorifying sex-based youth struggles ("Superbad" and "The Girl Next Door" ringing any bells?). Not bad films per say, but films that demand sex as a required checkpoint in high school or early college.

Because how dare anyone be a virgin these days? It's, like, so lame. Virginity's a delicate subject, and cultural revolutions have brought this once private matter into public scrutiny. In any case, you're judged for a choice that's nobody's business but your own.

Sex has become an out-in-the-open social disease, a parasite of anxiety and expectation. It's a teenage dilemma, a generational obstacle ... but it's not everything. Or am I just being a giant square?

Well, on behalf of all us nerds out there, I think Hollywood should take a few months off and check itself into sex rehab.