Moral Panics

Moral Panics

Moral panic can be a person, a group of people, a situation, or an event that emerges to become a threat to the values and interests of the society. Moral panics are interpreted by the threats they present and their portrayal in the media.

A 2003 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show claimed that there was a widespread fashion among teenagers to take part in adult sex parties, called rainbow parties. Each girl wears a different shade of lipstick, and each guy tries to end up sporting a rainbow of colors left by the shades of lipsticks worn by the girls. In June 2005, the New York Times published an article titled, “Are These Parties for Real?” by Tamar Lewin. In the article, Dr. Deborah Tolman, the director of Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at the San Francisco State University, said, “This ‘phenomenon’ has all the classic hallmarks of a moral panic. One day we have never heard of rainbow parties and then suddenly they are everywhere, feeding on adults’ fears that morally bankrupt sexuality among younger teens is rampant, despite any actual evidence, as well as evidence to the contrary.”

The stories about rainbow parties were so widely accepted to be true that sex educators across the United States started to make investigations about such parties. Simon & Schuster quickly published a paperback novel titled Rainbow Party to warn teenagers about the nonexistent danger from rainbow parties. The idea for the novel came from a publisher at Simon who saw the specific episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Many parents objected to the novel, and Publishers Weekly ands Today published articles about large book chains and small children’s bookstores not selling the book.

According to the New York Times, no sex educators could conclusively prove that even one rainbow party had ever taken place. In addition, no teenager had ever been to an actual rainbow party. Now, you hear that colored nail polish is replacing lipstick as a new trend.

You have been asked to evaluate moral panics and urban legends that were promoted by media exposure. Create an evaluative report on this issue and include information on the following:
•Analyze and explain what types of stories are likely to cause moral panic. Give at least one example.
•Should there be sanctions against media outlets that persist in alarming the public about invalid issues? If so, what kind of sanctions should be made?
•After a story has reached national prominence, for example, through The Oprah Winfrey Show or Larry King Live, does the host have a responsibility to investigate and correct any erroneous information presented? Why or why not?
•Examine whether the publicity surrounding rainbow parties reinforce the public’s belief that juveniles are out-of-control delinquents and deviants.
•How would this story and others like this affect the way concerned parents treat teens?

Create a 3- to 4-page Microsoft Word document that includes the answers to the questions in the above scenarios.