Still, Agron said that "Glee" was not the first time Hollywood had pushed the envelope, citing Madonna, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and "Gossip Girl." The photo shoot, she said, was supposed to portray "very heightened versions of our school characters."
The only reason the GQ photos got the reaction they did, Thompson said, is because the characters play underage teens.
"In any other context even the most explicit of them, the locker room with the legs spread ... especially in a magazine like GQ," he said," would not be the least bit controversial."
Sharon Lamb, a psychologist and professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and author of "Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes," said that the cast and staff of "Glee" has a responsibility to remember who their audience is, no matter what the age of their actors.
"I think they have a moral obligation to their viewers. GQ, perhaps not," she said.
"It has a lot of junior high and high school students watching it," Lamb said. "Parents and children put a lot of trust into these people and they make their career."
Though the Parents Television Council argued that "Glee" is "only masquerading as a family show," the musical-comedy has explored some very mature topics from the beginning.
Agron's character, Quinn, became a teenage mother on the show last year. Montieth's character, Finn, has a recurring problem with premature ejaculation. And Michele's character, Rachel, spent part of last season trying to act on a crush for her teacher.
There have also been numerous pot references as well as one-night stands and girl-on-girl action. And a recent episode featuring Britney Spears -- as well as actress Heather Morris, writhing around in skimpy outfits as she channeled the singer -- also raised eyebrows.
"Anyone who thinks 'Glee' is a kids' show hasn't been watching," Thompson said.
Henson said she has friends who bicker constantly with their children over the right to watch "Glee."
"Clearly parents have the ultimate responsibility," she said. "It is set in a high school, and who's interested in a show set in high school? Clearly pre-teens and teens."