Should Sex and Violence Aboard an Airplane Be Limited? The In-Flight Entertainment Conundrum

“My wife was in the middle with my daughter on the window. They were watching their various movies when my wife noticed the movie the woman diagonally in front of her (on the aisle of the row in front of her) was watching. She first noticed a fairly graphic sex scene that turned into some pretty graphic violence. Later there was another sex scene with (blurred) nudity. I assume that Delta blurred the nudity and that it was in the original.”

Should Sex and Violence Aboard an Airplane Be Limited? The In-Flight Entertainment Conundrum

That paragraph you just read was originally written in this article by Dan Miller of Points With a Crew. “My wife was trying to not watch the movie but mostly concerned about my daughter catching a glimpse of who knows what on the screen.”

Although Dan Miller admits that he is “probably more conservative than the average person” and is certain that he has “a lower tolerance for murder, violence and sex scenes in movies”, he is certainly not the only person who feels that way: Sarah Coburn-Rothermel — a mother of two young children who lives in Tulsa — posted a petition back in December of 2013 wanting American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and NBC Universal to stop showing violent and sexually inappropriate movies and television programs on drop-down and bulkhead screens aboard airplanes after she allegedly witnessed several movies with French dialogue showing scenes with domestic abuse and sexual situations accompanied by English subtitles laced with profanity.

That petition is now closed — but not before 3,638 people pledged their support — and it prompted me to write this article on whether or not children should be protected from sex, violence, alcohol and profanity while traveling back on Sunday, August 23, 2015.

Both of my parents smoked cigarettes. My father invited me to try one when I was young. I declined, but he did not insist. I would not be surprised if the invitation from my father to try a cigarette was similar to the invitation from my grandfather to try a beer, which I related in greater detail in the aforementioned article: to satisfy a curiosity I never had in preventing me from possibly wanting to indulge later on in my life.

Both of those attempts were successful.

Despite the supposed theory that children are more than likely to pick up the bad habits of their parents, the smell of second-hand smoke was more than enough to deter me from ever wanting to smoke anything — such as cigars, cigarettes, pipes, crack and marijuana — and to this day, I still have no desire to smoke.

In fact — despite my parents, relatives and friends cursing on a regular basis — I vowed at a young age that I would never use profanity. As a part-time actor, I refuse to use profanity if it is in a script. Usually the director and writer will work with me, as there is always a way around using profanity. To this day, I do not even use mild profanity, let alone strong profanity. Why? Because to me, profanity serves absolutely no purpose. Sure, it might be funny in a comedy routine — but not if it is used gratuitously or excessively, in my opinion.

I still enjoy watching cartoons created from as many as 80 years ago. They are filled with violence — yet somehow I am not a violent person; nor have I been traumatized or mentally scarred in any way as a result of Elmer Fudd blowing the beak off of Daffy Duck with his shotgun or Jerry dropping an anvil on Tom.

For the record, I have never had a desire to drop an anvil on anyone — despite the number of times I have witnessed that in cartoons.

Even if children should be shielded from questionable entertainment which contains sex and violence, should they therefore also not witness anyone consuming alcoholic beverages aboard airplanes during a flight?

What Works For Protecting Children

A petition will not protect children from sex, violence, alcohol and profanity, in my opinion — nor will shielding them from those activities. Rather, proper parenting and supervised controlled exposure could go a longer way towards protecting a child — similarly to experiencing illness at a young age to develop a stronger immunity later on in life. Of course — unlike, for example, a certain former spokesperson for an international chain of sandwich shops who admitted to guilt of engaging in sexual activities with children younger than the legal age of consent — I vehemently believe that a child should not perform a sexual act or commit violence at a young age; but it is virtually impossible to shield that child from witnessing those activities at some level when they are presented as a movie or television program, as they are a part of life for many people.

Although I agree that some times and places are more appropriate than others, if an adult wants to watch entertainment containing sex, violence or profanity — or imbibe in an alcoholic beverage — while in a hotel room or seated as a passenger aboard an airplane during a flight, that should be the choice of that person. That choice should not be removed solely due to the censorship of someone else who does not want his or her child to be exposed to those activities — whether in real life or via recorded content.

If a parent is concerned about someone else watching entertainment which he or she deems inappropriate for his or her children, simply offer a more appropriate distraction — such as a favorite toy or puzzle; or perhaps provide entertainment which the children will enjoy…

…or if the situation is conducive to such a conversation and the child is old enough, have a discussion to educate the child on the content of the entertainment in question and prepare that child for when he or she gets older and becomes bombarded with inappropriate content.

At the most basic level, the child should receive proper guidance. Explain the consequences of violence — as well of as the abuse of drinking alcoholic beverages and engaging in sexual activities — to a child at an appropriate age. Detail the benefits of sex and alcoholic beverages; but also suggest when and how they should be used. Empower the child to form his or her own opinions and decisions about sex, violence, alcohol and profanity rather than to forcefully ban it from the child without explanation — which in turn may only foster his or her curiosity all the more.


Just to be clear, I do not view the decision by a lodging chain such as Hilton Worldwide to eliminate offering the option of selling adult content as a form of censorship — if only because with the advent of the Internet, there are actually more choices that are less expensive which are no longer “officially sponsored” by the hotel property attempting to sell it directly.

I also do not consider pornography to be the same as entertainment containing sex. Entertainment containing sex can actually be tasteful and integral to a storyline in a movie, a photograph in an article, or the lyrics of a song — especially when the human body is portrayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner as artistic and beautiful — and can stimulate emotions and romanticism; whereas the purposely intentional focus of pornography is the arousal of hormones and sexual organs by presenting or describing explicit sexual activity in a blunt and unapologetically tasteless manner of eroticism.

Despite having been exposed to those vices, I do not drink alcoholic beverages, engage in violence or use profanity at all — but I have no problem with other people who drink, curse or want to watch violence as entertainment. Those are their choices; and I stick to my choices.

The original image of Penny Flame by Alan of Chicago and uploaded by Sodakan was used under the Creative Commons 3.0 license and is found here. Illustration and alteration of the image is by Brian Cohen.

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