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Should She or Shouldn't She? : TV teen stars on 'Moesha' and '7th Heaven' consider having sex--and it's not because of their boyfriends.

November 23, 1998|GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ah, November, when a young girl's fancy turns to shopping marathons at the mall, winter formals and losing her virginity.

At least that is what is taking place this week in two different series as a pair of TV's most popular and strait-laced teenage girls contemplate having sex for the first time. And both 15-year-old Lucy Camden and 17-year-old Moesha Mitchell are the ones taking the initiative, not their boyfriends.

The story lines in WB's "7th Heaven" and UPN's "Moesha" follow a succession of shows depicting the sexual longings of teens. WB's "Dawson's Creek" raised eyebrows in its premiere season this year with its core quartet of 15-year-olds and their active libidos, particularly one boy who was having an affair with his 36-year-old English teacher. And Fox's "Party of Five" for several years has featured plot lines revolving around the sexual lives of its young characters, particularly Julia (Neve Campbell) and Sarah (Jennifer Love Hewitt).

Although parents of young fans of "7th Heaven" and "Moesha" do not have to be concerned about whether there will be any scenes of graphic sex with the respective heroines, producers of "Moesha" were particularly concerned about audience reaction and making sure the subject was handled delicately.

"There's always a concern about approaching this, particularly when so many young people watch our show," said Vida Spears, an executive producer of "Moesha" along with her partner, Sara Finney.

"We've stayed away from it before, but on the other hand, Moesha is a senior in high school, and whenever we talk to kids about our show, they always tell us to keep it real," Spears said. Added Finney, "It's pretty difficult to keep away from the subject of sex and keep it real."

Not Out to

Glamorize Sex

Brenda Hampton, creator of "7th Heaven," a drama about a minister and his family, said she wasn't worried about audience reaction to tonight's episode because she believes it does not deviate from the wholesome nature of the series.

"It's really just a part of a larger story in which parents are encouraged to talk to their children about sex," Hampton said. "The episode is about sex, but no one so much as gets kissed. It doesn't make sex look pretty."

Vicky Rideout, director of the entertainment media and public health program for the Kaiser Family Foundation, a group that monitors television content and its impact on viewers, had not seen the episodes but said she generally approves of programming that deals responsibly with the issue of teens coping with the peer pressure of having sex.

"Viewers, particularly young people, get a lot of their ideas and information about sex from television," Rideout said. "We are always encouraging producers and writers to think about the messages they are sending out. That doesn't mean they can't show characters having sex, but they need to be thoughtful and considerate of that audience. And they need to realize that they have an opportunity and obligation to present young people with information about a decision they will all face."

In tonight's "Let's Talk About Sex" episode of "7th Heaven," Lucy (Beverley Mitchell) is upset that her older and more experienced boyfriend (Wade Carpenter) isn't more interested in her, and she considers having sex with him to deepen their relationship. In addition, her 16-year-old sister Mary (Jessica Biel), who is also inexperienced sexually, secretly goes to a coed sleepover, even though she has no intention of having sex.

The episode also explores the consequences of teenage pregnancy when the Camden parents (Stephen Collins and Catherine Hicks) try to help two 16-year-old pregnant girls.

The subject is handled a bit more bluntly in "Birth Control," the installment of "Moesha" that airs Tuesday. The episode makes it clear that the emotional and physical relationship between Moesha and her boyfriend Aaron (Brandon Adams) is escalating, and Moesha, saying she knows "I desire him," discloses to her friends that she is ready to lose her virginity.

Moesha, on the advice of her friends, goes to the local free clinic to get information on birth control pills and condoms. But her plan to keep the liaison from her parents is derailed when her stepmother (Sheryl Lee Ralph) finds the birth control pills in Moesha's purse.

"Moesha" executive producer Finney said several scenarios were considered in terms of showing the title teen's interest in having sex.

"We talked about it a lot, and we really didn't want to be preachy," Finney said. "But in this country, kids are sexually active at a very young age, and we wanted to be able to give them some advice."

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