Sex Positive… MTV?

by Johnny Murdoc

TLC Promote Safer Sex

If you watch MTV these days, you can be forgiven for not realizing that the network was once on the vanguard of promoting safe and healthy sexuality. Shows like Jersey Shore do little to inspire the sex-positive conversation that we’d all like to see happen. During the 1990’s, when I was lucky enough to be a teenager—but not actually lucky enough to have MTV for much of that decade— MTV’s programming was slathered in safer sex messages and images. There was a slew of one hour specials and documentaries, and popular artists (and MTV regulars) like TLC were integrating condoms into their clothing to show their support. In 1991, Salt-n-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex” was featured prominently on the network:

Of all of the things that MTV did to spread the conversation about sex, though, their multi-season soap opera Undressed is probably my favorite. Undressed ran from the summer of 1999 into 2002, with six seasons. Each episode focused on a series of interconnected stories that addressed the sex lives and complications of young adults, and was known for presenting sex-positive information. Gay and lesbian characters were represented frequently on the show in a time when there were few positive representations of gays and lesbians in popular entertainment.

While Undressed hasn’t made its way to DVD just yet, MTV has posted the show’s entire first season online. While the show hasn’t aged perfectly and is undeniably a product of the late ’90s, it’s frank discussion about teen and young adult sexuality is nearly unprecedented in American Pop Culture to this day. Coming out of eight years of federally mandated abstinence-only education (with additional federal funds being spent on abstinence-only education programs to this day), it seems more important than ever that culture aimed at young adults promote safe, healthy sex practices.

I’m going to embed the first episode below, but the entire season is worth checking out!

Updated with a few more videos, below the cut:

Wraith’s comment below made it impossible for me not to share En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” video, which also led to me discovering two amazing ads that MTV ran (although I don’t know when they ran. They may support my above blog post, or counter my argument. Whatever, they’re awesome.)


  1. Johnny, thanks for making me feel like less of an old man, complaining about “kids these days” when I try to explain to the younger generation how awesome MTV used to be and how they basically got ganked. For me, MTV was “Free Your Mind,” “Rock the Vote,” “Choose or Loose,” and “Sex in the 90s.” The next generation got “Cribs,” “Pimp My Ride” and “The Jersey Shore.” Even “The Real World” sucks now, but times change and maybe we get the TV we deserve.

  2. Man, I’m basically jonesing for a reason to post the video to “Free Your Mind,” now. Last New Year’s our party devolved (evolved?) into a “No, let me show you this awesome music video from the ’90’s!” game, and “Free Your Mind” was a big one for me.

    While searching for the video, I did just find this awesome MTV ad campaign called “Free Your Mind” as well, but I don’t know when they’re from. I’m going to post them, now.

  3. I was actually referring to the “Free Your Mind” ad campaign, but I’m not gonna argue against any excuse to post the music video. En Vogue + Mark Romanek + Jean Paul Gaultier = The Awesome.

  4. Once I saw it, I figured you might be, but that’s the first time I’ve ever seen the ad campaign. Glad I found it, though. It’s crazy just how much stuff like this is still needed today. We’ve come so far, but it’s so easy to see how, in some ways, we haven’t moved at all.

  5. Johnny, was Undressed the series that featured a MMF triad attempting polyamory? They lived in the dorms, and the girl wanted to date both of them, so they became a triad. Am I remembering that correctly?

  6. Charlotte,

    According to at least one website and a handful of Youtube videos, this did happen.

    “Rare female example: One plot of MTV’s Undressed had a college woman torn between a straitlaced jock and a troubled but cute brooding artist. After waffling between them for weeks, they eventually enter into a long-term three-person relationship.” (

    Also: and

    Holy hell, I need this entire show on DVD more than ever, now.

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