Mixed messages surround us

It's hard to remember that there was time of great media prudery until the so-called and much-vaunted sexual revolution that took over the magazines, movies and eventually television. The kinds of things that I know my daughter is going to grow up with are things that I would have never ever been able to see, no matter how hard I looked.

But let's remember what this prudery enforced.

It kept gays in the closet. It sent women to back-alley abortionists. Some little girls and little boys grew never being able to say that their uncle or their father or some relative had raped them or molested them.

So I think that there are real physical, psychological dangers to keeping sex in the closet.

Having said that, I think we've gone the other extreme now, where every ad, every made-for-TV soap opera suggests that the first thing you do is jump into bed. And this is ridiculous.

I think if you watch MTV, you would be totally confused about whether to begin having sex tomorrow or wait until your wedding night.

On the one hand, there are shows that are meant to be sex education shows. They are hosted by young people, and these shows say, 'Wait, wait, wait.' Shortly after that you watch some video that suggests that the last thing you should is wait, that your hormones won't let your wait.

So kids are getting very mixed messages about whether abstinence is the cornball, ridiculous response to the AIDS epidemic, or whether it is the most enlightened, intelligent, forward thinking, cutting-edge approach.

I don't know whether abstinence, the message for abstinence can challenge all of the glamorous images about sex, especially (since??) those consuming the glamorous images about sex are surfing on their hormones.

Professor of Cognitive Science at
Hampshire College in Amherst , Mass;
author of Where the Girls Are: Growing up Female with the Mass Media

To inquire about this project
in video, and printed formats,
send an email to project creator Dan Habib.

All photos ©2010, Dan Habib