The Ethical Problems in Media in Terms of Sexual Content

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The purpose of this paper is to observe the phenomenon of ethics in the media. It basically presents the possible problems in the ethics. The tasks of this article are about examining the social dilemmas, social behavior and attitudes in sexuality in TV series. In order to examine the topic, the first seasons of native and foreign versions of the same Tv series were used. “Shameless” which was created by John Wells(2011) and its Turkish spin-off version “Bizim Hikaye” which was created by Fatih Aksoy(2017) were used to observe the ethical dilemmas in different cultural environments. Shameless which is the genre of comedy-drama series was shot in the South of Chicago. It is about the Irish American family, Gallagher’s, dealing with their alcoholic father Frank. The eldest daughter of the family, Fiona, takes the responsibility as a parent of five children and her father. The story of Fiona and other characters were settled as creating the balance with their daily life problems. Bizim Hikaye, the Turkish spin-off version of Shameless, basically covers the same topic as Shameless.

Although the topic of the series are almost the same in every perspective, it is completely different in sexual scenes. This situation clearly reflect the sexual boundaries between cultures. The main idea of the discussion is focused on if it is proper to restrict sexual content in the given examples. Moreover the selected TV series are analyzed in order to understand how does it affect the society, to what extend it should be limited, censored or restricted in terms of ethical perspective. Furthermore, should it be limited, restricted or censored at all? This case was discussed a lot in the societies nowadays, and it is believed that it is significant to understand the ethical issues existing in such TV series. In order to understand the ethical issues, we should focus on different perspectives. The given TV series will be analyzed in terms of nudity, sexual intercourses, gestures and expressions which could be seen as sexual, cultural differences in terms of sexuality and perception of homosexual relationships. In the Turkish spin-off version of Shameless, Bizim Hikaye, it is easily observed that sexual content is obviously restricted or limited. Perspective of sexuality will be questioned through different cultures.

Analyses of Sexual Content

Sexual content in television is examined through the following concepts: nudity, sexual intercourses, sexual gestures and expressions, and perception of homosexual relationships. Nudity or nakedness could be expressed as wearing no clothes. “Partial or full nudity accounted for almost half (41%) of all sexual content, and one-quarter centered on relationships, including crushes, dating, marriage, and divorce. As other studies of sexual content in the media have found (Pardun, 2002), almost three-fourths (76%) of the content depicting relationships were with non-married people.” Taken together, these two models of outcomes (i.e., the Significant relationship between sexual media restrictions and sexual behaviour and the homogeneity of sexual content in different environments) suggest that this is not the degree of sexual content, but the degree of impact of sexual behaviour. It’s the content that is most important for understanding the role of the media in adolescent sexual activity and intentions. Furthermore, communication through gestures and facial expressions can be expressed as transfer of ideas, messages without using the words.

This type of communication is expressed by hand gestures, body language and facial expressions. It is observed that communication through gestures and expressions are seen obviously more in sexual behavior, since it is easier to express yourself comparing to using words. “Behaviors were categorized on a four-point scale, with the first level comprised of physical flirting. This category is coded when a character uses his/her own body in a way that is meant to arouse or promote sexual interest in another. This type of action accounts for 18% of all the sexual behavior observed in the study.” The study of four-point scale sexual behavior consists of four different types of content which expresses sexual behavior. Those four scales include passionate kissing, sexual intercourse, intimate touching and physical flirting including gestures and expressions. In addition to that, same-sex relationships also have an important role in sexual content in media. A homosexual relationship could be described as a sexual relationship between people of the same sex. The perception of homosexuality in different cultures could differ significantly, in some cultures, even it could be observed as an unethical situation. However in terms of screening of homosexual or bisexual relationships in the media should not be limited at all. In the following observations, the importance of ethical issues in sexual content is discussed. Furthermore, those concepts are closely related to each other.

Nudity and Nakedness

There is a gap between cultures in terms of the existence of nudity in media. For example in the opening scene of Shameless, first season – first episode, Fiona is partly naked, running inside the house to wake up her sisters and brothers. Comparing with Bizim Hikaye, Filiz is running inside the house to wake up the children but she is wearing clothes. Moreover in the third episode, Kevin is lying in the bed completely naked, this scene was shown without any censorship, then he stands up and walks through the room in complete nudity while Ian, teenager brother of Fiona, was in the room. Compering this scene with its spin-off edition in Turkey, there is no nudity at all, moreover their clothes are more conservative. As observed, there is a significant gap between cultures in terms of the existence of nudity in media. In Turkey, it is seen that nudity in Turkish television does not exist at all. However, there are new sources of media for TV series in the country, such as Puhu TV and Blu TV. In these type online media sources, it is also examined that there is a slight difference in the existence of nudity compared to Turkish television. It is possible to see partial nudity in online media channels in the country. Turkish owned online streaming services have also come to forward.

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In 2012, Doğuş Media Group launched its online streaming service ‘puhutv’, and there was fervor a year ago when the channel demonstrated its first Fi series based on the bestseller of Turkish writer Azra Kohen. The series quickly became a sensation, largely due to scenes showing nudity and sexual intercourse. “Turkey’s watchdogs took notice. In March parliament passed a law that expands the powers of Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), including blocking internet broadcasts. With the new law the state hopes to have some degree of control over online content that it considers dangerous.” In brief, nudity is shown in American television in a significant count compared to Turkish television. It is critical to understand the boundaries between nudity and restrictions of Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council. Namely, exigence of sexual content in a country may lead the broadcasters to go online in order to deal with the restrictions on television.

Sexual Gestures and Expressions

Four-point scale model includes the sexual gestures and expressions as a part of physical flirting. Communication through gestures and expressions are seen clearly more in sexual behavior, since it is easier to express sexual ideas comparing to using words. For example, in Shameless, when Fiona meets with a guy for coffee, she exhibits her emotions by her gestures and mimics. For example, she bites her lips and smiles slightly while she is talking with the guy. It is compared to the Turkish TV series, gestures and mimics are used as the same with foreign TV series. However, sexual content is quite different between the both of them because the difference of sexual intimacy can be seen clearly on both of them. “At the second level on the four-point scale of sexual behavior is intimate touching of another’s body in a way that is meant to be sexually arousing. Intimate touching accounted for 6% of all observed cases of sexual behavior.” In season 1, Lip who is the oldest brother of Fiona, gets into sexual intercourse with his friend Karen while they were studying. The important thing which was observed in this scene was that, there was almost no verbal communication at all. They started the sexual intercourse by expressing their sexual desire with gestures and face expressions.

In Bizim Hikaye, while Rahmet was helping Müjde about studying, a similar sexual behavior occurs as the girl’s gestures and face expressions imitates her sexual desire. However they end up with a kiss on the cheek, and this shows the significant difference between two series. “The majority of sexual behavior (56%) portrayed on television consists of passionate kissing. This type of act was coded only in cases where the kiss conveyed a sense of sexual intimacy between two partners. Kissing is one of two behaviors that represent the second step or level in the four-point scale of sexual behavior.” In the following episodes of Bizim Hikaye, the relationship of Rahmet and Müjde progressed, and they had a passionate kissing. It is an interesting situation, because as observed in the Turkish version there is no sexual intercourse at all between Rahmet and Müjde. Moreover they choose to express the sexual behavior by kissing. It is concluded that Turkish culture and Turkish television prefer to express the sexual behavior without using sexual intercourse scenes. Although the American version seems to have more intimate scenes, the basic idea of sexual behavior could be given with different expressions such as kissing or touching in the same way as seen in the Turkish version. The intimacy of sexual activity should not be limited to sexual intercourse, the same level of intimacy could be felt in the other third of the four-point scale, which are physical flirting including gestures, passionate kissing and intimate touching.

Same-Sex Relationships

The perception of homosexual relationship is the another huge difference between the Turkish TV series and foreign TV series because it is shown and respected in American media. However, Turkish media does not include these relationships like homosexual and bisexual. Cameron Monaghan plays a role as a homosexual young boy with the name Ian in Shameless. Even if it is not ordinary for his family and friends, he is respected from others. And also, it is settled as one of the topics in this TV series. It is compared to spin-off ‘Bizim Hikaye’, it is possible to say it is not shown at all. Turkish version of the Shameless alters the story as a heterosexual relationship. In Bizim Hikaye, the actor who is Hikmet has the relationship between a girl rather than a boy. Therefore, it gives us the example of the media-tic differences depending on their cultures. Whether these restrictions are ethical or not according to their cultures is a controversial issue because audiences all around the world should have the same right. However, it is the certain thing which restrictions depend on the culture. In that context, it creates a vision to consider LGBT rights in Turkey because it is not respected in the society. They are the personal preferences and every individual has a right to sustain their lives whatever they want, if it does not create a problem to the society.

As a result of this, they should have their right to be visible in the media just as their right to live as respected in the society. Here comes another ethical issue, is it ethical to ban LGBT content in Turkish media? Of course it not ethical, “With these bans, neither societal peace nor public order can be attained. Public space cannot be under the monopoly of a ‘sensitive fraction’ as has been pointed out by the governor’s office! It should not be forgotten that the equal citizenship demand cannot be banned on the basis of anyone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual identity!”. In terms of media ethics, Turkish television should not be afraid to broadcast this kind of content. As media is the most important communication tool in a society, media ethics directly affects the perception of ethical behaviors in the community. An ethical environment should exist where ethics is based on well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. Unfortunately culture is very significant when deciding about what should be limited or restricted to be shown in the media, however, in such a situation like that media should take action to take down this apprehension in the Turkish society.


In conclusion, the existence of sexual content in American TV series, Shameless, and its comparison with its Turkish spin-off, Bizim Hikaye, is examined in this article. Whether the restrictions of sexual content in TV series is necessary or not is discussed in terms of nudity, sexual behavior and homosexuality. It is clearly shown sexual content and its restrictions are identified according to different cultures. However we were also able to come up with the idea where the restrictions do not mean it is ethical or unethical in media for most cases, because it is possible to make audience feel the same sexual meaning in the media content by different approaches. Those different approaches demonstrates that a passionate kissing scene could be as powerful as a sexual intercourse scene or nudity. Considering the Turkish society, it could be right to restrict sexual content in some of the four-point scales, because the sexual content can still be given with the other third of four-point scales where the society is already adapted to see. However in terms of screening of homosexual or bisexual relationships in the media should not be limited at all, so that every person living in the same society could have the same rights of living freely. Although the LGBT group is very small and excluded in Turkey, it is media’s responsibility to take down this perception of the Turkish society.

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