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Last Updated: Friday, 10 September, 2004, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
Should sexual images be curbed?
Magazines in newsagents
Most people want tougher rules on the use of sexual images aimed at children according to a BBC poll.

The ICM report, commissioned as part of BBC News' Healthy Britons poll, questioned over 1000 adults on various public health issues.

Eighty-six per cent of those questioned agreed that the government should impose tougher restrictions on sexual images on children's TV and in magazines, in order to discourage under-16s from having sex.

However, more than a third of respondents thought their sex lives were their own business and would only want information on STIs.

What do you think of the findings? Should there be tougher restrictions on sexual images on children's TV and in magazines? What action should be taken to cut the rates of sexually transmitted infections?

This debate has now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

Easy to fix. Stop buying the magazines. They'll go away.

When are parents going to start to take some responsibility for what their children see and do?
Dave, Doncaster, UK

Easy to say in a poll. But will those same parents take complete control of what their children wear? Will they prevent the use of make up, piercings, or revealing clothes? Too much trouble, far easier to blame 'images' that they permit the emulation of.
James St George, London, England

If there are sexual images in children's TV, then stop calling it children's TV.
Ed Johnson, Zurich, Switzerland

If more people were willing to say how they feel in the store, maybe these magazines would be on a higher shelf
Cas, Didcot
The other day I walked past a store at the train station and right at eye level for children was a magazine with a half naked women. I actually went in and complained, and the women in the store said she`d note my comments. If more people were willing to say how they feel in the store, maybe these magazines would be on a higher shelf.
Cas, Didcot

Whatever the merits of it, 14 and 15 year olds are exposed to sexual issues. Therefore instead of depriving them information, surely we should welcome the fact that some teen magazines address the issues and promote a message of responsibility and safe sex. You can't hide from sex and hope it goes away. It's part of society, so lets address the issues in a mature and sensible manner.
Dan, UK

The images and ethos presented by the immature minds in the media are repulsive to myself and many others. I am not a 'fuddy duddy' but this has gone too far in the name of 'giving the public what they want'. This is cheap and lazy pop culture that is resulting in a decedent and immature approach to life.
John Karran, Merseyside, UK

The people promoting sex education solely from parents are living in a dream world where the UK is a utopia of well-educated, caring parents with liberal attitudes and a vast medical knowledge, with opinions unencumbered by religious rhetoric. This view is dangerously naive. The standard of parenting is so poor that the government and schools have to take up the slack. Just ask any social worker. More sex education in school, please.
Clem, London

Why shouldn't young adults know about how their bodies work?
Sam, Huddersfield, UK
All of the magazines I have seen that are aimed at under 16s do talk about sex, but, they emphasise the importance of safe sex and waiting until you are ready. Why shouldn't young adults know about how their bodies work? Most of the children who are reading these magazines don't feel comfortable talking to their parents about sex (mainly because their parents don't want to discuss this with their child) and are surely better getting accurate information from these magazines about STIs and pregnancy than the old wives tales that used to go around the playground.
Sam, Huddersfield, UK

The problem with curbing this stuff is that in the next breath folks will be complaining about high numbers of teenage pregnancies. A compromise needs to be found where some sexual images are shown to give our kids the knowledge they need about sex (not just the plumbing as taught in junior school) and the connection between sex and loving relationships.
Dougie Lawson, Basingstoke, UK

Just take a look at the reading matter your sons and daughters are being peddled - then catch Christina Aguilera and her ilk, strutting their apprentice prostitute stuff on Top of the Pops. Our children are being sexualised by the media from an ever younger age, completely without our consent as parents. How happy are you about this? How surprising is it that rates of STI infection are rising?
Edward, UK

I would prefer that they are allowed to remain children and not be forced to deal with adult issues
Catriona Straine, Edinburgh, Lothian
I personally hate sexual images shoved in my face and I certainly do not want them in my children's faces. When they are mature enough to deal with sex then they can look at what they want. Until such times, then I would prefer that they are allowed to remain children and not be forced to deal with adult issues.
Catriona Straine, Edinburgh, Lothian

I don't understand how limiting young people's access to sexual imagery is going to improve their sexual health; it'll get rid of the one opportunity parents get to broach the subject with kids! Surely if parents were less embarrassed about sex then their kids would be less inclined to take risks in the name of experimentation. Maybe sex on TV should be more realistic and show the damage it can cause instead.
Glyn Jones, Cardiff, Wales

If magazines and media aimed at young people, intend to feature sexual behaviour, then they should also cover the problems incurred from it at the same time.
Candy Mortimer, Bishops Stortford, Herts

We live in a throw away society and this extends to people's own lives. There are clear adverts about the risks of smoking and yet people still do it. Why do we think that adverts about the risks of unprotected sex would make a difference? What would be required is a total change in attitude towards sex - from magazines, to fashion, to TV, to music..... But that just ain't going to happen.
Mark, Didcot, England

It's up to society to provide the younger generation with proper moral guidance
Maurice, Birmingham, UK
When you have pre-teens dressing and trying to act like adults, there should no surprise that you get these sorts of problems. You have songs by boy and girl bands, aimed at youngsters, with videos showing erotic movements and lyrics with adult content and meaning. Kids' magazines carry articles and images which put pressure on them to grow up faster than they are mentally capable of doing. Society, as a whole, is responsible for these actions, so it's up to society to provide the younger generation with proper moral guidance.
Maurice, Birmingham, UK

Forgive my cynicism, but when exactly did children start listening to what their parents told them?
Ian, Glasgow, Scotland

When I last watched a bit of a children's Saturday morning programme on the BBC, what struck me is how provocatively the female presenters were dressed. Strappy tops with plenty of cleavage and tight trousers. I grew up in the eighties and I remember the presenters looking normal, not like they are (glamour) models.

It's not prudery that makes me want sexual images curbed. It's got to be damaging the emphasis we put on it - like we have no value unless we're highly sexualised. It's a widespread thing though - tabloid newspapers, lad mags, porn mags, women's mags, TV, TV presenters, TV ads... in fact is there one aspect of our visual culture that's not dominated by sex?
Wendy, UK

There was I think very little access to sexual or porn images several hundred years ago. However, young people still had sex/became pregnant. Besides, do we really wish to start a first phase of heading back to repressive eras when people had no educational knowledge or experience of sex until they were married? I certainly don't think that's mentally healthy.

An outright ban on teenage girl's magazines which run articles like - "how to get your man in bed" - aimed at 12-16 year olds. Less sexual imagery on children's TV and music shows would also help.
Ian, UK

It should be made compulsory for all to have a sexual health check for STDs and HIV
There are hundreds of young people out there who have an STI and do not even know it - I was one of them and never suspected it. It should be made compulsory for all to have a sexual health check for STDs and HIV. I took a test at the local clinic, was treated and cured and felt great that I had taken responsibility for my actions and stopped a chain of infection. This should be done as a matter of urgency.

By whom should action be taken? As always with issues like this, it sounds like an excuse to dump the blame on "the government" rather than people taking responsibility for their own lives and actions. Better sex education in the home, and parents spending time with their children, would go an awful long way without the need for anyone else to stick their oar in.
David Hazel, Fareham, UK

Charge people for treatment. Maybe that will help focus people's mind and slow down the epidemic of irresponsible promiscuity.
Jon Cooper, UK

I'm sorry but I have no sympathy for people who end up with STI. There is already an abundance of information on prevention from clinics, campaigns, GPs, well-women centres etc so the facts are already there for people who want them. For those who don't (or more likely, are too lazy to look), on their own head be it...
Tony, London

Maybe it is time for shock tactics
Nigel, Scotland
I was a child in the 80's with the ads "Aids: Don't die of ignorance". Most of my friends from the same era said that advert made them think throughout their life about safe sex. Maybe it is time for shock tactics.
Nigel, Scotland

The abstinence message should be promoted among all those in secondary school and university. Abstinence is the only 100% effective solution against sexually transmitted infections.
Ray Flores, New York, USA

There needs to be a more liberal attitude towards sex and the education that is proved. While people under the age of 16 are worried that they are breaking the law by having sex they will not buy condoms in a shop. The embarrassment of speaking to a shopkeeper and fear of breaking the law will prevent people buying condoms. The whole country needs a new attitude.
Michael, London

The only method that offers 100% protection is abstinence
Jonny, England
The simple fact is that the only method that offers 100% protection is abstinence. Handing out condoms is all very well, but what is even more important is stressing to teenagers that saying no is also a valid option.
Jonny, England

Anyone who is sexually active (even with a single partner) should be able to get checked regularly, not put on a 6 month waiting list to be checked for Aids. And anyone who has unprotected sex knowing that they have a communicable disease should be prosecuted for assault (and manslaughter or murder if it causes death), it's every bit as bad as driving while drunk.
Chris C, Aylesbury, UK

I think we have to admit that the Government's current approach - i.e. pouring money into family planning clinics and explicit sex education - is not working. We're finding more sexually transmitted diseases in exactly the places where this is being done. Why don't we try what has drastically brought down the HIV/Aids rate in Uganda and elsewhere: encouraging people to set a high value on sex, and save it for a permanent commitment?
Helen, London

Personally living in an area which has numerous stag and hen nights with the sole intention of one night stands, I think it should become compulsory for STI testing as well as educating people perhaps with advertising as graphic as the smoking campaigns. Regular testing will at least stop some transmission.
Louise, Blackpool, England

It is a waste of money to advertise safe sex
Chris, Bradford, UK
You'll never stop under age children having sex, and persuading them to use condoms will be difficult. It is a waste of money to advertise safe sex, as it has been advertised before. The responsible already know and should be educating their children, the foolish ignore it and let their children find out the hard way. An eternal problem, spend the money on something that will make a difference.
Chris, Bradford, UK

Short of introducing a sex police force with the power to arrest the undressed, I struggle to grasp how on earth the government could expect to have a better picture of what exactly young people are up to than their parents. Hope of persuasion alone in this department when anti-smoking and obesity issues have little or no impact must clearly be deemed futile.
Patrick Staton, Guildford, UK

Whatever happened to the word NO?
Heather, Manchester

How about shops stop producing 'sexy' children's clothing. I mean, thongs for a pre-teen - that's ridiculous. If parents are unable or unwilling to say no to their children, then the children must be protected by others. Also, stop sexual images being targeted at children. That way, the majority won't feel pressured into behaving in a sexual way. You will always get some children who are more sexually aware than their peers and there's not a great deal you can do about that except attempt to educate them as to the health issues.
Bridget, Cambridge, England

Teenage magazines aren't to blame - they've always peddled a strong message about safe sex AND about not letting anyone pressure you AND about self-respect. I read Just 17 as a teenager which was relatively explicit and it didn't affect my judgement.
Wendy, UK

Promote abstinence as another viable alternative
Gareth Williams, Cardiff
I absolutely agree on tougher restrictions in magazines and promoting clearer understanding on sex issues. We should also teach young people that they have to take responsibility for their actions - so they think about consequences before having sex, and promote abstinence as another viable alternative to contraceptives.
Gareth Williams, Cardiff

It is fair enough saying that your sex life is your own, but if the report on the BBC news this morning is correct, 1 in 7 people suffering from Chlamydia is in my opinion a cause for concern. Minding one's own business also comes with responsibility.
Paul, England

Sex sells papers and magazines so censorship is not an option in our capitalist culture. Education has to be the answer, but how do we make the message stick? I would be in favour of explicit and scary documentaries on STIs.
Al, Tunbridge Wells, UK

Oh for heaven's sake!! Don't PARENTS take responsibility for anything anymore? Isn't it up to them to make sure that their kids understand that if you sleep around and have unprotected sex that you'll get an infection? It's not exactly rocket science. And it's certainly not up to the government. Take some responsibility!!!
Jo, UK

We need to return to a society which does not openly condone under age sex as long as they are "careful". Too many children believe that it is OK to have sex before they are 16. That is the problem.
Michelle, Glasgow

Are the people who say they want the government to spend more on promoting safe sex the same people who are blithely having unprotected sex with serial partners? We've had sex education in schools for years, and the rate of STDs and unwanted pregnancy has increased massively! Lack of good, involved parenting, too much sex on TV - that's where the blame lies.
Helen, Manchester, UK

As long as the British maintain their Victorian attitudes towards sex education and all matters relating to sexual behaviour, nudity etc there will be major problems with STDs. I bet liberated countries like Holland and the Scandinavian countries, where so-called 'sexual images' are treated with a relaxed attitude, do not have the STIs/STDs problems that we are experiencing. Let's get a life and get with it! As soon as forbidden fruit becomes freely available it becomes less popular - with the obvious knock on effect - fewer problems.
Alan Glenister, Bushey, Herts, UK

I find it shocking that 20 years after the discovery of HIV/Aids, British society is still fidgeting and blushing about sex education and condoms. The only way to reduce increasing STI infections amongst our kids is to frankly and openly educate them in the schools, from an early age. Do not make the mistake of leaving it to their parents, as all too often they will have little or incorrect knowledge, and themselves will be too squeamish to deliver the information correctly. And yes, condoms MUST be made freely available to all in our community, regardless of age.
C. Bennett, London



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