It is latish at night, and all day, you have felt completely fine, yet you are going to need a distraction to get to sleep. Feeling not right deep down. You turn your usually strong, happy, sarcastic self-off, and you allow yourself to be vulnerable again, so this tall hansom loving guy who clearly cares an awful lot about you is holding you in his arms once again. You are still in tears, so he will rub your back, hold you closer and listen to what you are saying each time while uttering words of reassurance. The following morning, you open your phone. There is either someone who is giving you terribly irritating mixed signals, or there is someone who you liked yet they have not responded to your message in over two weeks now, or if you are one of the “lucky ones,” then there is someone, nonetheless the situation is nowhere near as perfect as you would like it to be. Yes, it is never quite what you expect…
What is the Root Cause?
One of the reasons why so many young people are heavily influenced by unrealistic expectations regarding relationships and sex, are that young people do not have access to many sources. According to an article from opus, only a third of teens looked to their mothers for relationship advice, and 17% looked to their fathers. Meanwhile, they are reluctant to look to their peers, in case they come across as inexperienced in contrast. Instead, 94% look to TV, and 90% look to movies to learn about romance. Whilst, social media has become more popular, making it another means for teenagers to get advice concerning relationships. This is especially the case when influencers choose to interact with their followers and subscribers as if they were their friends, meaning that young people are likely to see their worlds as something closer to reality. This could therefore lead to young people choosing to get involved in relationships before they are ready, assuming that everything is good about them, whilst it could halt their progress in understanding the importance of aspects like communication in a relationship. Meaning that young people are more likely to end up in an unhappy or toxic relationship.
Unrealistic Expectations on TV
If you are a teenager/young adult yourself, then you are probably already aware of the extent to which shows like gossip girl, skins and euphoria are popular with this generation. We will start with gossip girl, where rather than actually watching the show, I have extracted some information about it off opus. Opus states that gossip girl is about romantic relationships between groups of friends. It states that these relationships are advanced, monogamous and experienced, when in reality romantic relationships between teenagers are unlikely to be this way. Because thinking of it, as a teenager, you have only really just stopped being a child, therefore the romantic relationships experienced, if any, are likely to be confusing, messy, cringy and overall, a bit rubbish. Consequently, as a study showed, the more an individual believed in television portrayals of romance, the less likely they were to be committed to their relationships. This is not particularly surprising, considering that these displays are likely to create overly elevated expectations for people, therefore when someone faces problems within their relationship, instead of trying to accept that things are never going to be perfect, they are more likely to turn their backs. This of course is something which can affect adults as well as teenagers, nonetheless, it is true that watching many of these films as a teenager could result in this impact as they become adults.
Unrealistic Expectations on Social Media
If the obsession with romance on TV is not enough for teenagers to try to get their head around, there are plenty of influencers and the like, who are more than happy to share or portray their own romantic relationships to their audiences. This is especially the case considering that there seem to be so many YouTube couples. As well as individuals still featuring a lot of their relationship with their significant other online. And you know the drill with social media, people, especially influencers, tend to only share the positives. This could lead to people having false expectations concerning relationships, meaning that any negative experiences are forgotten. These false depictions could also lead to people who are in relationships focusing more on the image of that, rather than focusing communication and other essential elements that lead to a healthy relationship. This can also lead to feelings of jealousy because people in relationships will be jealous of the unrealistic portrayals of other relationships.
Unrealistic Expectations of Sex
On TV, sex is often displayed in a false light, where the experience seems next to perfect. Now, I am unfortunately no sex expert, nevertheless I know that for teenagers, sex is going to be far from perfect. However, I am afraid that teen dramas instead choose to portray teen sex as something which is refined, glamorous and something which people who are not experienced would not be able to achieve. Therefore, when teenagers watch these shows, they expect this is the way which sex should go. This could encourage teenagers to take steps when they are not ready, and even mean that they are less likely to seek out advice concerning sex, leading them to miss out on advice regarding safe sex, thinking that they already know what they need to know. Furthermore, it is never a help that these scenes are portrayed by actors who are a lot older than the actual character who they are playing. However, a good example of a character who is a little more realistic yet has still been very inappropriately sexualised is the character of Kat Hernandez (Barbie Ferreira). Kat was an awkward teenager who was learning to navigate her appearance whilst not having had any sexual experiences. This all began to change swiftly when she began to discover herself sexually by engaging in casual sex with older men and exploring the world of BDSM through online web chats. Kat would wear little to nothing and start dancing for middle-aged men, who became her regular viewers and target demographic. Not only was she making money through this, but she was also thoroughly enjoying it, as she garnered plenty of male attention and admiration. Now while this may be something like what some teenagers may experience, it is by no means something which all teenagers would naturally go for. Therefore, this encourages risky behavior among young people.
How to Improve this situation?
From this, I think it would be good if there were more films and TV shows out there that portrayed more realistic cases of young romance and sex. Now while there are so many shows which portray sex unrealistically, one which did send a positive message was sex education! Moreover, schools ought to focus more on teaching children about how to navigate safe sex and healthy relationships. This should not just be constrained to heterosexual people but should be just as much geared toward LGBT+ people. Moreover, we should make the subject of relationships and sex less of a taboo, so that young people feel more confident discussing this among their peers, and hopefully their families, so that they get a more realistic picture on these situations.