According to reports, Britain’s longest running soap opera, Coronation Street, will be screening its ‘raunchiest ever’ sex scene on Friday 22nd October. The episode will be screened before the 9pm watershed when plenty of children are likely to be watching. A member of the production team has been quoted as saying ‘these episodes will be, without a doubt, the hottest ever shown by any soap’. Apparently the producers are ‘bracing themselves for a backlash of complaints’.
In an effort to outdo each other and up their ratings, the producers of soaps are increasingly pushing the boundaries of what is shown before 9 o’clock. We are now seeing things at 7.30pm which, not long ago, would only have been shown after the watershed. No longer is anything left to the imagination.
The watershed exists to protect children from potentially harmful and unsuitable content. Because of this there’s an expectation that programmes shown before 9pm will be suitable family viewing.
From Lolita beds to child-size padded bras in Primark, this is all part of a gradual shift. Our children are being bombarded with sexual images and references long before they’re ready to deal with them.
David Cameron has condemned this shift, he said there’s a ‘creeping sense that we’re sleepwalking to a place where porn is the norm’.
No doubt we’ll be told this is all harmless fun and won’t change the way in which children who watch it behave. We would argue that this is incredibly naïve and we’re not alone in this. Earlier this week the broadcaster Sue Perkins, in an article about the portrayal of gay and lesbian people on television, said that soap operas are the programmes that can really change perceptions because they are "watched by millions of middle Englanders week after week".
Research shows that exposure to sexualised imagery is linked to children's experience of increased anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, body image problems, eating disorders, self harm, and sexually transmitted infections. Children are also becoming sexually active at younger and younger ages.
Producers of soaps need to behave more responsibly; our children deserve better.