Writing@CSU Home Page | Writing Gallery | Talking Back | Issue 1

logoAre They Really Our Friends?

Nic Roberts



            “Good morning class.  If you would all settle down, we’ll get started.  I am sad to say that today will be our last discussion on our current topic.  Now, can any one tell me what that topic is.  And remember, this is a high school health class, not the locker room , or middle school.  Let’s keep it clean.  Yes, Martin, what is this week’s topic?”


            “That’s right, this week’s lessons have been on sex.  Now I thought we would end our discussion on this subject with some practical steps for you.  Something to make it all a little more relevant to you.  So today we are going to pick a television show, and analyze the sexual messages that it is giving.  Now, who has a show that we can discuss?

            The Simpsons!”

            “I want one with actual people in it Lucas.  Lets try a different one.”

            “How about Sex and the City?”

            “I’ve never even heard of the show.  Who’s seen that show? . . . Well, it doesn’t look like enough of the class has seen that one.  There has to be some show that the majority of you watch or have at last seen a few times.”

            “What about Friends?”

            “Has everyone seen that one? . . . Good, we’ll talk about Friends, then.  Now, who would like to give us a brief description of the show?  Laura, you want to give it a try?”

            “O.K.  So Friends is about these friends.  There are six of them: Joey, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe.  They all live in New York.  They spend a lot of time in a little coffee shop and in their apartments.  The show is just about their lives.  The all go out a lot, and have fun.  Ross and Monica are brother and sister.  Monica and Chandler just got married.  They are really cute.  And I am glad that Chandler is starting to get thin again.  Ross and Rachel have gone out and broken up a lot, but Rachel just found out that she is having Ross’ baby.  Ross freaked out and wanted to marry her, even though he has been married three times already.   Phoebe and Joey might be hooking up soon.  They have this weird thing going on between them.  And then there is Gunther, he works in the coffee shop.  And then there is ugly naked guy he….”

            “That’s good Laura.  I think that is all the background that we need.  Now, from what you all have seen, and from what Laura has just told us, what does this show have to say about sex?  Yes, Brian.”

            “That sex is O.K.?”

            “Can you be a little more specific?”

            “Uhmmm . . . that casual sex is O.K.?”

            “That’s better.  Now can anyone give me some examples of how the show shows this?”

            “Well they are always having sex with new people.  Joey is always meeting new women.”

            “O.K., but let’s get specific.”

            “Well, there was an episode when Chandler had sex with Rachel’s boss, even though he wanted to break up with her.”

            “That one time, Phoebe had sex with that guy, but she had to assure him that it didn’t mean that they were in a relationship.  She even told him that he didn’t have to call her.  Joey called him his god.”

            “Those are good.  Does anyone have another one?”

            “Monica and Richard had sex, even though they were just ‘friends’.”

            “Ross slept with the girl from the copy place.  When he and Rachel were on a break.

            “Rachel slept with her ex-fiancé in his dentist chair.”

            “Alright, now what are all of these examples saying.  They all seem to have a pretty common theme to them.  Anyone have a guess?  What message is this show trying to give to you about sex?”

            “I think they are saying that casual sex is O.K.”

            “Brian, can you go a little deeper than that?  Like, what is casual sex?  And what do you mean by O.K.?”

            “Well, casual sex is like sex without any sort of commitment.  You don’t have to be worried about anything long term with the person, it’s just the sex.  And then you can move on to someone else.”

            “Does that sound like a good definition to everyone else?  . . . Good, so, how is it O.K. then?”

            “They show all of the characters doing it.  Nothing bad ever happens to them.  They just keep on finding new people to sleep with.”

            “So, from what we’ve been talking about this week, what can you tell me is a consequence of these actions?”



            “Emotional problems.”

            “Good, now does the show talk about any of these consequences?”

            “Rachel got pregnant from a one night stand with Ross.  That shows a consequence.”

            “Yeah, but this is like the 8th season, it took them long enough.”

            “Is there anything else?”

            “When Ross slept with the copy girl, he and Rachel broke up.  That would be emotional, wouldn’t it?”

            “Yes it would.  So are there any other negatives the episodes show?  They seem to be a lot harder to think of.  Do they ever give any explanation about why nothing ever happens to them?  Do they ever discuss any sort of protection?”

            “They do a little.  One episode Monica and Richard didn’t have sex because they didn’t have a condom.”

            “Ross and Rachel used a condom when Rachel got pregnant.”

            “That’s interesting.  Now can anyone tell me how that could happen?  How can you use protection and still end up pregnant?”

            “Because condoms aren’t one hundred percent effective.  They talked about that in the show too.  Ross and Joey were very surprised to find out that they were only like ninety-seven percent.  Is that right?”

            “Well, under optimum conditions it’s about ninety-seven percent, but when they aren’t stored correctly, or when they're kept for too long, it’s closer to seventy-five percent.  Well, they don’t really talk a lot about protection, then.  So do they give any other reason why they never have anything bad happen? . . .  No?  So then, they are painting a pretty false picture about sex, aren’t they?  Do you think that this message is accepted by our culture?”

            “I think it is.  People see these good looking characters having all of this sex, and they think that since nothing bad happens to them in the show, that nothing bad will happen in real life.  They don’t always worry about protection, or sleeping with numerous partners.”

            “Very good.  Now, do you think that your generation specifically has accepted this message?”

            “I think so.  I think that we don’t understand how easy it is for something like an STD or pregnancy to happen.  We just go around not worrying about those things.”

            “Do you think that shows like Friends add to that belief?”

            “I think that if you don’t know the truth about sex, then you will be a lot more likely to believe anything that you see about it.  Like, the other night, there was this commercial on during Friends.  It was for a dating service.  It said that you should enjoy things like casual sex in an elevator, before it’s too late.  They were talking about before you get married.  I think that we see so much of it that we start to believe it.”

            “So, does the show do anything to challenge this idea? Anything to say that there is another alternative?”

            “Well, Monica and Chandler got married.  That challenges it.”

            “How so?”

            “Well, it shows that a relationship, especially a long term one, can be a good thing.”

            “I guess it does.  Anything else?  It seems like this show does much more to sell this belief about sex than it does to challenge it.  So, as the primary audience of the show, what do you think is a solution?  Should we try to cancel the show?  Should we get them to talk more about condoms?  What do you guys think?”

            “I think that by teaching us about the risks, we can make better choices.  I don’t think that canceling the show will do any good.  You would have to cancel almost every show on T.V.  If we know the consequences, we will be less likely to listen to what the show is trying to tell us about sex.”

            “So, I think we decided that the show isn’t necessarily bad, but some of its messages are misleading.  And you are all going to be able to evaluate what you are being shown in an informed and objective manner.  Right?  Well, that’s the bell, I will see you all on Monday.  Make sure you read chapter six.  We will be starting on exercise next week.  Have a safe weekend.”