ByJared Ficiur, writer at
Jared Ficiur

There's no denying it - sex is a huge part of our culture and part of our television viewing. Sex sells and TV knows it. It's commonplace now to make sure you have the hottest actresses and the steamiest love scenes to help make a show popular. It hasn't always been that way, though. Originally it was not only taboo to talk about such topics on television, but it was commonplace for networks to get fined for using certain subject matters.

Here's a look back through time at television shows that pushed boundaries and helped bring sex out into the mainstream.

I Love Lucy (1952)

Back in 1952, when Ricky was loving Lucy, everyone knew they slept in separate twin beds - but did you know they weren't even allowed to use the word "pregnant?"

I Dream of Jeannie (1960)

This show portrayed its protagonist in a bikini that was owned by her 'Master'. It was not only considered extremely risqué in its time for her outfits, but also for the fact that she was 'owned' by her 'Master' and the implications that came with it.

Bewitched (1964)

A man married to an immortal witch and their struggles to have a normal marriage isn't risqué but they were the first on screen couple to share a bed who were not also married off screen.

Gilligan's Island (1964)

Mary Ann and Ginger were often shown wearing less clothing because they were stranded on a deserted island. Mary Ann was often showing off her midriff, with Ginger showing her cleavage or vice versa. Originally neither actress was allowed to show off both at the same time.

Star Trek (1968)

An episode of this science fiction drama portrayed the first interracial kiss on television - it was between Captain Kirk and Commander Uhura. The director was unsure of how the network would react so they filmed two takes. The first was the kiss, the second a passionate hug in case the network didn't feel a black woman and white man could kiss on television. Shatner ruined the take with the hug so the network would be forced into using the kiss.

Maude (1972)

Two months before abortion became legal countrywide the title character, Maude, found herself unexpectedly pregnant in her forties. After some soul-searching both her and her husband decided it was better for them to have the abortion.

Soap (1977)

This television show was originally a soap opera parody. Billy Crystal played an openly gay character. Even though physical affection was nonexistent at the time, having an openly homosexual character was very new.

Roseanne (1988)

This family sitcom often tackled large topics of the time. Roseanne organized a wedding for two of her gay friends, her mother came out of the closet and dated a woman a quarter of her age. One of the daughters got pregnant before marriage. There's even a very awkward scene where the father, John Goodman, explains masturbation to their son and tells him it's normal. DJ responds, "Do you do it?" and Goodman replied "Everyone does it; we just don't talk about it!"

Golden Girls (1985)

Even though this sitcom was about four older women in their golden years, it still pushed boundaries by discussing sex, and proved that older women still wanted sexual encounters.

ThirtySomething (1989)

Two men simply sharing a bed caused several million dollars in sponsorships to disappear. This scene was simply two men lying in bed without shirts discussing their lives. It wouldn't create a fuss nearly twenty years later.

LA Law (1991)

Amanda Donahue played a bisexual character and in an episode, she earned the distinction of the first on-air kiss between two women when she kissed a lesbian colleague.

NYPD Blue (1993)

The steamy love scenes caused several ABC affiliates to opt out on airing the pilot, and over its twelve year run, it pushed boundaries with its naked bottoms - both male and female.

Friends (1994)

This popular sitcom followed four friends in New York City and throughout their many, many, MANY sexual exploits. One character divorced a lesbian and the following year showed her and her partner's wedding. Monica and Chandler started hooking up for fun in Season 4, which led to a relationship, marriage and children. Joey and Phoebe both had more sexual exploits than the others combined as there were always jokes about how slutty they both constantly were - Joey especially.

Sex and the City (1998)

This female-centric show followed four women in New York City and portrayed them as being just as sexually active as any man. They were proud of their exploits. Never letting themselves feel ashamed and constantly shared them with one another.

Will & Grace (1998)

During a live taping of the Today Show two men started making out as Al Roker interviewed them—the first gay kiss on television. Later on, Will & Grace characters Will and Jack (with Roker guest starring) created a parody of this live recording. Will & Grace had been airing for years and even though they had two homosexual characters, they'd never shown two men kissing.

Queer As Folk (2000)

This ensemble show followed five gay men, a lesbian couple and an older gay man struggling with HIV in Pittsburgh. The show often had nudity and sexually explicit scenes or dialogue.

Without a Trace (2006)

An episode of this show has the crime team investigating a teenage sex orgy that led to rape and murder. The episode depicted flashbacks of the orgy as the crime team followed the path of the assault. The show was fined $3 million for its depiction of the orgy.

Gossip Girl (2009)

A short three years later, this edgy show portrayed a one guy-two girl threesome with no financial repercussions.

Glee (2009)

This dramedy pushed boundaries and the characters, both student and teacher, were shown pursuing their sexual interests - homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual. It even portrayed the lead in an emotionally abusive relationship with his wife and the viewers were hoping for him to cheat on her with another character.

Cougar Town (2009)

Originally the show followed recently divorced 40-year-old Jules as she decides to have her lost twenties. She balances work, her teenage son, and casual sex with men in their (actual) twenties.

Modern Family (2009)

Three separate, but related, families are portrayed in this sitcom. One of which is a homosexual couple and their adopted Vietnamese daughter. Eventually, once gay marriage is legalized, they get married.

New Girl (2011)

In this new-age comedy a girl gets dumped after she finds her boyfriend cheating and she moves in with three male roommates who teach her about life. The four share a bathroom and very intimate details and secrets.

You're the Worst (2014)

In the pilot we meet two toxic, self-destructive characters who hook-up and later begin dating. The show follows them with their sexual exploits, and has them explore a threesome with another woman.

Whether you like it or not sex is part of our culture and a huge part of all forms of media. It's fascinating to me to look into the past and see how taboo it was to discuss such an everyday subject. Even to the point where our married TV couples had to sleep in separate beds on screen because it was an insinuation to have them climb under the same covers. Sex is a touchy subject, and it still can offend some people. So how much is too much? Sound off in the comments below!

Source: IMDb, Wikipedia


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