Opinion: News not nudes: how LGBT media is oversexualized

If you peruse any media outlet that advertises itself to LGBT individuals, you will likely find informative news or political commentary dovetailed with articles on sex and sexuality. While many LGBT-oriented news sites provide important information and insight on the lives of LGBT individuals — as well as the social or political struggles they face as a community — sex-related content can discourage potential viewers or annoy regular consumers, as the media outlet could be seen as too upfront or inappropriate for a news site.

LGBT news sources became more prevalent following LGBT rights struggles in the 50’s and 60’s, and have since become beacons of gay life and times, representing a literary light in an uncaring social environment. They helped communicate issues such as politics, life and style, news and other noteworthy events. However, sexualized content also co-existed with news media since many publications’ inception, in part as a rebellion to a homophobic world, but also to find some sense of normalcy for sexuality. This trend has continued on to modern day publications of LGBT life, and while it still provides a sense of belonging — as well as being informative — the issue of the sexualization of some content still stirs debate. Some readers feel that sex-related media should remain separate from news-related media, as it may devalue the media’s’ legitimacy or be an unnecessary discussion of inappropriate situations or themes.

On the other hand, sex in LGBT media has been a way of normalizing same sex relations and discussing intimate factors of gay life seldom spoken about in public. It created an environment and culture that was more accepting of itself and its desires, expressing physical gay love where nobody else had dared. It also contributed to educating LGBT individuals about sexual health, practices, and hazards. After AIDS reared its ugly head in the early 80’s, sexual content began to cover the lives and losses of those with the disease and how to prevent it, making information related to sex not just important but potentially life-saving. Through this lens, sex-related material in LGBT media may still be rife with importance, as it continues to provide insights into intimate gay relationships, as well as remaining a guide to safe sexual practices.

Although it’s easy to understand that sexualized media can be considered obscene for many audiences, it would be wrong to censor it. It provides insights into LGBT life that would not be portrayed elsewhere, and its impact on the LGBT community survives because of it. However, openly sexualized material on public forums and newspapers may detract potential viewers due to its vulgar content. So, what’s the answer? Simple: we should embrace the sexualized content for what it’s worth, but keep public sexual content informative rather than explicit, and also keep art and explicitly sexual content in sections of media other than news. It’s worth noting that sex and LGBT media have gone hand-in-hand for a long time, and while some of us feel prudish about the subject, there’s always room for sex-related media in the news. So long as it isn’t explicitly pornographic, that is.