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So Unsexy: All of the Cringeworthy Ways Teen TV Handles Sex

TV is not, nor has it ever been, a substitute for sex ed.

By Entertainment

Illustration by Annie Leue.

My favorite thing about teen television is how all of the problems are contained within a very specific microcosm that does not include making rent. My least favorite thing about teen television is all of the outlandish ways they handle talking about sex, that usually don’t include an open dialogue between two consenting partners. Here are some of teen TV’s worst offenders when it comes to cringeworthy plots about sex. Sure, crimped hair and flare jeans may go out of style, but using the social construct of virginity as a plot point is eternal.


Nathan and Haley get literally married on “One Tree Hill”

Somehow, in the halcyon days of 2004, showrunners for the CW’s “One Tree Hill” decided it would be more believable for basketball/ literal playboy Nathan Scott, and tutor-girl/ songstress Hayley to get married shortly after they could obtain drivers licenses, rather than have an open dialogue about safe sex. I feel like their reasoning had something about Hayley wanting to “remain” a virgin, but honestly, realizing that virginity is a social construct would have saved (pun intended) a significant amount of money, time, and ¾ of season 2’s plot points.


Dylan is an recovering alcoholic, apartment owner, and virgin on “Beverly Hill’s 90210”

One of the biggest mysteries of teen TV shows is how at least one teen always manages to afford their own apartment. In “Beverly Hills 90210,” bad boy Dylan (Luke Perry) is a leather-clad, recovering alcoholic. He’s also an apartment owner, and …  a virgin? It doesn’t add up! He doesn’t even have to strategically plan for when his parents are away at an unspecified lakehouse.


Lane has the worst honeymoon of all time onGilmore Girls”

“Gilmore Girls” character Lane Kim (Keiko Angeina) always wondered why her mom was so against sex. After a disastrous, sandy, honeymoon to Mexico with her rockstar-turned-inept-husband Zack, Lane comes to the conclusion that her mom was reluctant to discuss sex because it’s actually horrible. Obviously, Rory (Alexis Bledel) is horrified that her friend had such an unpleasant experience, made only worse by the season seven development that Lane is pregnant with twins. One of the biggest injustices of “Gilmore Girls” is Lane’s character arc in the later seasons. #justiceforlanekim’18


Emma gets a “social disease” on “Degrassi”

Canadian teen television show “Degrassi” is known for two things: 1. Shooting Drake and 2. The tagline, “It goes there.” In season seven, Emma’s (Miriam McDonald) late night trysts in “the ravine” happen to coincide with a school-wide chlamydia outbreak. Once Emma realizes that she’s one of the unsuspecting Degrassians who fell into the clap-trap thanks to her late night outings with Jay (Mike Lobel), she delivers one of the most iconic lines of the franchise: “You gave me a social disease!” Even if the melodrama makes it oddly surreal and hilarious, “Degrassi” has always excelled in presenting all aspects of sexual health, from regular STI screenings, safe sex, abortion, adoption, and,  in more recent seasons, some wonderful queer/ coming out storylines.

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