COLUMN: The sexualization of teenagers on TV must end


Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Columnist

During my 20 years of life, I have seen my fair share of TV series, many which feature characters in high school.

The older I get, however, the more uncomfortable I feel watching TV series centered around teenagers for one reason only: the hyper-sexualization of teenagers is unbearable.

I know what you may be thinking: “But Kyara, some teenagers do have sex. It makes sense for series to include sex scenes.”

To that I say: Sex can have a place in teen series, but sexualization shouldn’t.

Exploring one’s sexuality is an important aspect of many teenagers’ real lives, and though it can be important to explore that in television, too many TV series go about it all wrong.

The problem starts first with TV series casting a bunch of 20 to 30 year old’s to play teenagers, which creates unrealistic expectations about what teenagers should look like.

I understand that one of the reasons that adults are cast to portray teenagers is because minors can only work limited hours and require additional accommodations for school and break time, while adults can spend longer days on set.

The problem isn’t necessarily the fact that they cast adults. We have seen TV series, such as “Gilmore Girls” cast adults who pass as teenagers. For example, Alexis Bledel was 19 years old and Keiko Agena was 26 years old when they both played 16-year-olds on the show.

It worked because they looked and acted like teenagers, but many other TV series cast adults as teenagers so those older actors can perform sexual situations without raising ethical concerns.

Teenagers turn on their televisions or whatever streaming service they use to see underage characters with mature bodies being depicted in overly sexual manners, and that’s where the root of the problem is.

The sexual situations in teen series are often overdone to intrigue the audience, focusing less on the awkward self-exploration that can happen during adolescence and focusing more on the sexualization of these underage characters to make the show more interesting.

For example, in “Riverdale,” Betty strips down to a set of black lingerie and dances to Gary Jules’ “Mad World” in front of an audience partially made up of adults.

In “Euphoria,” Kat signs up for a PornHub membership to become a cam girl even though she is still a minor.

In “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” the series had an orgy scene that featured half-clothed underage characters.

Show writers write in these sex scenes simply to sensationalize the show, completely disregarding how these shows play a huge part in how young people are exposed to sex.

When teenagers are exposed to sex on television without the education to contextualize it, it only makes it harder for them to understand how sex should play a role in their real lives. All those sex scenes only make teenagers feel like they will fall behind if they don’t regularly partake in those sexual activities too.

Not only that, sexualizing teenagers on television will only validate the sexualization of teenagers in real life, which puts young people at harm.

I hoped the sexualization of teenagers was something we left in the past with series like “Gossip Girl” and “Pretty Little Liars,” so it’s very disappointing to see it happening today. I hope that we as a society grow past this so future generations don’t have to keep seeing overly sexualized minors on TV.


Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]