Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television/Censoring Sex: A Historical Journey through American Media

By Lambiase, Jacqueline | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television/Censoring Sex: A Historical Journey through American Media


Lambiase, Jacqueline, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


* Levine, Elana (2007). Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp. 320.

* Semonche, John E. (2007). Censoring Sex: A Historical Journey Through American Media. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 301.

Conducting research about sexually oriented mass media has always raised eyebrows in parts of academic circles. After all, it involves popular culture and, well, sex.

Yet this research proves to be challenging and important, providing intellectual pleasure for many reasons. One is a pleasure of the text in the sense of Roland Barthes. It's the pleasure of watching reruns of a 1970s game show such as "Match Game," packing enough sexual innuendo to make me smile and also to think about changing the channel. My 12-year-old daughter found "Match Game" earlier this year on the Game Show Network, and I found myself watching it for a short round, purely for the nostalgic joy of hearing dead comedians cracking wise. For her part, my daughter was taking in some of the sexualized discourse and puzzling over the rest, just as I did at the same age in the real 1970s.

Do the veiled jokes mean that it's OK for me and for her, just as it might have been OK for my parents and for me in the 1970s? Does sexualized content really work only in tandem with inhibitions and barriers? Do censorship, sexist portrayals, or taboos help complete the cultural work achieved by sexually tinged media products, whether they be advertising, movies, sitcoms, or musical performances?

Elana Levine keys her own exploration of these topics to 1970s television, when even the lowly game show became a sophisticated sexual feast of words. And she tackles "Match Game," a show about contestants filling in the blanks, just as television itself was attempting to do with programming in the midst of the sexual revolution.

Levine's research analyzes verbal and visual sexual depictions and behind-the-scenes network and censor wrangling in Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television. Her narrative follows the increasing sexual content in all kinds of programming, opening with a history of the three-way competition among networks and their use of sex to attract audiences and win ratings. But ABC, CBS, and NBC deployed sexually oriented programming in different ways, i.e., NBC allowing characters to engage in sex, but dispensing consequences to those characters and prohibiting them from using birth control. Birth control, after all, meant characters had planned sexual encounters, rather than just being swept up in passionate moments.

Levine, a mass communication scholar at the University of WisconsinMilwaukee, also examines what kinds of sexual content are seen as taboo, such as paid advertising for condoms, a prohibition still in place at some networks even today. Yet in chapters 3 through 6, it is her incisive and detailed analysis of sexual content within programming that makes this book a valuable resource for scholars and students alike.

Many made-for-TV movies exploited anxiety about sex, especially teenage sexuality. Levine's analysis of "Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway" showcases this anxiety. Like much work in this book, it also provides context for the promotion of this movie (one of the Brady Bunch girls, Eve Plumb, hits the mean streets!) and the reactions of viewers.

A chapter on female sex symbols and jiggle TV-"Charlie's Angels," "Wonder Woman," and "Three's Company" among others-concludes that these shows provided familiar and unambiguous guidelines for feminine and masculine appearance and behavior, despite women serving in new roles. Through her investigation of how and why TV depicted sexuality, Levine asserts the medium neutralized feminist overtones in these programs, making the new seem old and the radical seem safe.

An important national debate about sexuality and rape, which led to a paradigm shift in the latter half of twentieth-century American jurisprudence, is captured in Levine's discussion of soap operas in their didactic mode. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television/Censoring Sex: A Historical Journey through American Media
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.