Is there too much sex on TV?

A journalist reached out to me with a current question: With many television shows now depicting more detailed sexual scenes (like West World and Game of Thrones, or even Orange is the New Black), have we crossed a point to too much sex? Below is the first part of the article and some of my thoughts on the topic. To read the entire article by Kayla Cobb at Decider (through the New York Post), click here or below.

 Is there too much sex on television? San Diego sexologist, Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, weighs in.

Is there too much sex on television? San Diego sexologist, Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, weighs in.

It’s an age-old question that has worried TV critics and parents alike: how much sex is too much sex? We’re all fans of seeing hot actors getting down and dirty, and shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld have been happy to deliver. Even network shows like How to Get Away with Murder haven’t been shy about showing their own surprisingly heated moments, and  streaming services, like Netflix’s Easy, have actually made sexually explicit content even more common. In short, modern television hasn’t held back when it comes to sexiness. But what impact does seeing all of these steamy scenes have on us? And is there such a thing as watching too much sex?

“If there really is no good plot line that’s engaging folks then, yeah, it’s just going to be like porn,” sociologist and sexologist Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus told Decider. “If we want to get off, we go to porn or erotica. But we watch our TV shows because we really want to be engaged and care about the characters and the story line.”

Gunsaullus isn’t necessarily drawing a line and saying porn is bad. Far from it. Depending on the couple, she sometimes recommends her clients watch porn and erotica together. But where porn can be pure sex, fiction needs to be held to a higher standard. Highlighting the 2011 comedy Bridesmaids, Gunsaullus noted a depressingly relatable sex scene between Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm. In the scene, Hamm is clearly “into it,” while Wiig is not. “It’s not unusual for women to take a while for their bodies to really warm up, especially before you move to intercourse,” Gunsaullus says.

Though Gunsaullus knows that shows and movies can’t logistically show 10-minute sex scenes, there needs to be a middle ground between reality and erotica. “Certainly our media and our movies present kind of the porn, easy version of sex, and that’s really not what it is,” Gunsaullus adds. “That’s partly connected to our high divorce rate because people don’t have the skills to talk about [mismatched desire levels] and they’re embarrassed and they’re uncomfortable and they feel guilty and they feel rejected. It’s just so complicated, and our media is absolutely a piece of that.”

And then of course there’s the issue of sexual violence on television. Game of Thrones has always received a deserved amount of criticism for the way it depicts sexual violence and sex scenes through a male gaze. But outrage over a scene that featured the villainous character Ramsay Bolton raping his new wife, Sansa Stark, sent fans over the edge. That criticism led director Jeremy Poeswa to reveal that the creators, “were responsive to the discussion and there were a couple of things that changed as a result.”

Read the rest of Kayla Cobb's insights about sex on television here!

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego Sexologist, Sociologist, & Sexuality Speaker