James Hibberd
December 07, 2011 AT 12:00 PM EST

The second season premiere of MTV’s Teen Mom 2 launched to the biggest ratings in the franchise’s history, while a conservative parent group took aim at the show.

Teen Mom 2 delivered 4.2 million viewers, up 17 percent from the series debut back in January. The MTV release notes that the Centers for Disease Control announced the U.S. teen birth rate declined 9 percent in 2010 and is now at the lowest level ever reported. In other words: We’re not glamorizing teen pregnancy so get off our backs already!

But the folks over the the Parents Television Council say the show is harmful to young women nonetheless, launching a well-timed press release this morning admonishing Teen Mom and other MTV series:

“After many years of pursuing equality for women, the findings of today’s study suggest a glamorized, but grossly distorted view of what it means to be feminine,” says PTC president Tim Winter of his organization’s research. “Compared to men, women were far more denigrating to themselves and other females … With MTV reality ‘stars’ as celebrity role models, teens are learning that outlandish behavior is rewarded, and that degrading, sexualized language is not only accepted, it is encouraged.”

The thrust of the PTC’s argument is that MTV reality stars on shows like Teen Mom, Real World and Jersey Shore are setting a bad example — they’re insecure, mean and sex obsessed. “Females talked about sex acts more than men, talked about sex more graphically than men, mentioned sexual body parts more than men, and talked about intercourse and foreplay more than men,” wrote the PTC. “Only 24% of what females said about themselves was positive.”

Of course, the reason these shows are hits is because there’s plenty of viewers who want their reality stars acting insecure, mean and sex obsessed. How else are we going to feel superior to them? Do we really want spent 10 p.m. watching a sober JWoww study for her midterms?

“The saddest commentary is how ultimately these media themes and images serve to paint a very vivid picture of low expectations,” Winter says.

Which is precisely right. But isn’t it that we have low expectations for the reality performers on the shows, not for ourselves? The question comes down to whether you believe reality stars serve as detached entertainment, or your believe reality stars function as role models — whether they’re meant to or not. What do you think?

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