Television and Sexuality: Regulation and the Politics of Taste

Television and Sexuality: Regulation and the Politics of Taste

Television and Sexuality: Regulation and the Politics of Taste

Television and Sexuality: Regulation and the Politics of Taste

Synopsis

In recent years there has been a marked increase in both the volume and diversity of sexual imagery and talk on television, condemned by some as a 'rising tide of filth', celebrated by others as a 'liberation' from the regulations of the past. Television and Sexuality questions both these responses through an examination of television's multiple channels and genres, and the wide range of sexual information and pleasures they provide. The book explores the way that sexual citizenship and sexual consumerism have been defined in the digital era to reveal the underlying assumptions held by the television industry about the tastes and sexual identities of its diverse audiences. It draws on the work of key thinkers in cultural and media studies, as well as feminist and queer theory, to interrogate the political and cultural significance of these developments. With topics including the regulation of taste and decency, sex scandals in the news, the biology of sex in science programmes, and gay, lesbian and postfeminist identities in 'quality' drama, this book is key reading for students in cultural and media studies and gender studies.

Excerpt

Looking across the array of ongoing public debates concerning television, it is striking to note how fiercely contested the ones revolving around human sexuality and its representation tend to be. From one society to the next, alarm bells are recurrently being sounded, not least by those intent on holding television culpable for undermining what they consider to be proper moral values or standards of taste and decency. Typically, much is made of the perceived power of television to influence public attitudes unduly in this regard — witness, for example, the extraordinary furore ignited when singer Janet Jackson's 'wardrobe malfunction' left her breast briefly exposed on US television. 'It took the Bush administration 10 months to launch an inquiry into the apparent failures of intelligence in the lead-up to the war on Iraq', remarked journalist Marina Hyde at the time. 'It took them less than eight hours to launch a full-scale probe into the apparent failure of Jackson's undergarments in the course of a televised performance during the Super Bowl halftime' (Guardian, 7 February 2004).

Jane Arthurs's Television and Sexuality is a welcome exploration of this hotly contested terrain. It succeeds in drawing together disparate strands of critique into an innovative interpretive framework, always with an eye to engendering fresh insights into the cultural politics of sexuality. In the course of showing how — and why — the boundaries demarcating what it is appropriate for television to depict are fraught with tension, Arthurs devotes particular attention to the ways audiences are addressed as both sexual citizens and sexual consumers. Accordingly, she examines how different television genres — including comedy, drama, news, current affairs, science documentaries and 'soft-core' pornography, among others — legitimize, to varying degrees, certain uses and pleasures for imagined communities of taste within the constraints of wider regulatory codes. Television in a digital age, she argues, has a crucial role to play both within the personal sphere in the formation of our sexual selves and as a public sphere that contributes to political debate about sexual practices and their . . .

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