MTV's critics insist that, by airing shows like "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom," the cable network is glamorizing teen pregnancy. Encouraging teen girls to get pregnant so that they, too, can become television stars.
It's a convincing argument. Flip through the channels and you'll see all sorts of people doing all sorts of stupid things for the sole purpose of getting on TV, so it really doesn't seem like a stretch.
MTV, on the other hand, insists its shows are doing a public service by making teenage pregnancy look unappealing.
It cites a study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy that indicates 79 percent of girls and 67 percent of boys ages 12-19 said the show made them think about pregnancy risks.
And Drew Pinsky agreed with the study.
"Viewers are not stupid, particularly young people," said Pinsky, who has appeared on "16 and Pregnant" specials. "When you show them the consequences of behavior from a relatable source, they get it. They don't go, 'Oh, that looks like fun.' "
Pinsky's credits include the radio sex-advice show "Lovelines," TV's "Celebrity Rehab" and "Strictly Sex," and his HLN interview show "Dr. Drew." He argues that any teen who gets pregnant to be on TV has a "pre-existing â¦ pathology."
"It merely is an excuse to do something they already would be doing, which is heading into trouble and acting out," he said. "But for the average person, it has a beneficial effect."
The question hit home when Izabella Tovar, a 16-year-old from Draper, appeared on "16 and Pregnant" a month ago.
Despite the fact that he is a reality star himself, Pinsky is not a big booster of the sort of train-wreck TV that has multiplied across the channels.
"P.T. Barnum would be proud," he said. "We've gone from a fascination with the physical freak to the behavioral freak, the emotional freak."
But the TV reality freak show genre "doesn't seem to have an appreciable effect on people's choices and behavior."
Pinsky cautions against putting too much blame on TV.
"The celebrities that I treat are not the way they are because of reality television," he said. "They're the way they are because they're alcoholic addicts."
But when we learn that high-school girls make "pregnancy pacts," when we see girls on "16 and Pregnant" getting fan mail, when it's reported that stars of "Teen Mom" earn $60,000 a season, how do we not, in good conscience, worry about those "at-risk" teens Pinsky was talking about?
Let's not kid ourselves. MTV doesn't air "16 and Pregnant" as a public service. It's a commercial venture.
It's not like they were doing studies about the possible effects of the shows before they went on the air. Only after.
Scott D. Pierce's column appears Mondays and Fridays in The Mix. Contact him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce; read his blog at sltrib.com/blogs/tv.