PRESENCE OF SEXUAL MESSAGES
There are two primary types of portrayals involving sex examined in this report: talk about sex, and physical behavior. Both types of portrayals hold the potential to influence viewers’ beliefs and attitudes about sexual issues. The first statistics are about the proportion of all programs containing messages about sex.
More than half (56%) of all television show contain some sexual content. A total of 39% of all programs studied contain one or more scenes with a substantial emphasis on sex. Rather, across all 528 programs with any sexual content, there is an average of 3.2 scenes per hour involving sex. Clearly, sexual talk and behaviors are a common element in television programming, and many shows that include sexual messages devote substantial attention to the topic. Most scenes involving talk had a substantial focus on sexual themes and topics.
23% of programs in the sample that contained sexual behavior, roughly two-thirds of these shows (16% of programs overall) contained precursory behaviors only, while roughly one-third (7% of programs overall) either depicted sexual intercourse actually occurring or strongly implied it was about to occur or had just occurred between two partners.
The degree of explicitness associated with the portrayal of sexual behaviors was also analyzed. Explicitness was measured on a four-point scale encompassing provocative dress, some disrobing, discreet nudity, and nudity. Across all programs including any sexual behavior, the average level of explicitness was very low. The difference in explicitness between programs with precursory behaviors only and programs with sexual intercourse is substantial, although the level of explicitness for the latter group is still relatively modest. This indicates that, on average, television’s portrayals of intercourse involve some disrobing but generally avoid much nudity.
To summarize the findings on the presence of sexual messages, we see that a majority of programs contain sexual content of some type. More than twice as many shows contain talk about sex as contain sexual behavior. About two of every three programs that present sexual behavior depict precursory behaviors only, such as passionate kissing or intimate touching. Still, approximately one of every three programs that include any sexual behavior depicts or implies sexual intercourse. From a broader perspective, roughly one of every 14 programs on television (excluding news, sports, and children’s shows) presents sexual intercourse either by depicting it directly or by portraying characters who are about to begin or have just finished making love.
TYPES OF TALK ABOUT SEX
It has already been established that talk about sex is found more frequently on television than actual sexual behavior. Yet there are a range of different types of talk about sex. The most common type of talk is about sex involved comments about one’s own or others’ interest in sexual topics or activities.