TV's Tasteless Trampling of the Taboo

If I were to tell you that sex on TV is incessant, you’d tell me you already know that. To which I’d tell you that you really, really don’t have a grasp of just how much sex is steaming up the tube.

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently issued a new biennial study finding that the number of sexual scenes on television has nearly doubled since 1998. Think about it: just seven years. In its review of more than 1,000 hours of programming, the study found that 70 percent of all shows include some sexual content, and that these shows average 5.0 sexual scenes per hour, compared to 56 percent and 3.2 scenes per hour respectively in the Victorian days of 1998.

These increases combined represent nearly twice as many scenes of sexual content on TV since 1998. Not everything increased: The number of shows in which sexual intercourse is either depicted or strongly implied is down slightly in recent years (from 7 percent in 1998, to 14 percent in 2002, to 11 percent in 2005).

Many sex scenes and sex chatter are played for laughs in sitcoms. The new ABC show "Hot Properties" had an entire plotline on Nov. 4 making fun of one character’s encounter with a man she claimed she didn’t know was a male prostitute. When he asked for his money, she replied she "did stuff to him, too" so she deserved a discount. He gave her a coupon for the next time around. Ha-ha.

In 2005, prostitution is played for laughs, and so is bestiality. I kid you not. On the Nov. 8 episode of the ABC drama "Boston Legal," one of the show’s lawyers was asked to defend a man in a divorce proceeding. He stated that his wife was seeking an annulment because he "strayed" — ready? — with his pet cow. He explained "we became very close" and he’d "had a bit to drink." The lawyer spit out: "You strayed — with livestock?" He protested: "It’s not what you think. It was all very loving." As she backed away from him, he admitted a "mistake," but argued that he’s been a model philanthropist and a deacon at his church.

A deacon — of course. Hollywood loves to make its sickos into active churchgoers.

How low will Hollywood go? Even lower. Try mocking God. The Nov. 13 episode of the Fox cartoon "American Dad" featured the show’s titular CIA agent’s housewife dancing in the streets in Saudi Arabia in a black bra and panties, singing a song and shaking her breasts at the Arab men. "If you wanna drive a car, you better have a penis. So if you’ve got a vagina, vulva, a clitoris, and a labia … stay the hell away from Saudi Arabia." With these explicit references to sexual organs, can we get any closer to baiting the FCC’s Keystone Kops than a sentence like this?

But wait, it gets worse. When the teenage son Steve pleads for help in the desert, God descends from Heaven "in the form most pleasing" to the boy – voluptuous Angelina Jolie. After God in female form tells him to enjoy being a child, he asks: "Hey, can I see your boobs?" God replies: "All right. But be warned: A single glance at the rack of Infinite Wisdom could drive a man to madness." Steve responds that, "Oh. Now I have to see them." And God flashes him like a "Girls Gone Wild" spring-break video. The boy is blinded in the sacred glow and is transformed, white-haired, like Moses. He offers God’s cure to all the problems of the Middle East but gets rejected when he claims God is a woman.

If the U.S. military showed this cartoon to Guantanamo detainees, it would be considered a world-class human rights offense. But since it’s just on American television, God is merely another easy mark for envelope-pushing fun and profit.

Appearing on a panel to discuss Kaiser’s findings on oversexed TV, Fox boss Tony Vinciquerra still blames parents for letting their children watch the sewage he puts out. Fox has spent "tens of millions of dollars" promoting lockout technology to parents, and "It’s a five-minute exercise. It’s not difficult and parents do need to take that responsibility." He claimed they debate the propriety of their TV offerings daily.

If that’s so, the on-air content suggests that how-low-can-you-go crowd wins every time.