Study shows that sexual content on TV has risen

By Linsey Heiser
February 8, 2001

by Linsey Heiser

news editor

According to research done by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 68 percent of the 1999-2000 television shows contained some sort of sexual content. This number is up from 56 percent in 1997.

One out of every 10 programs on television will include some sort of sexual encounter between characters. The two shows to actually show intercourse were FOX’s “Ally McBeal” and ABC’s “Port Charles.”

In total, 1,114 shows, including movies, sitcoms, soap opera, news shows, talk shows were included in the study done at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The networks viewed were ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, HBO, PBS, TNT, USA, Lifetime and WB.

Most of the sexual scenes found in programs were engaged in by teenagers. Nine percent included teenagers up three times from three percent in 1997.

On a positive note, the shows that involved teenagers in sexual situations were more likely to include a discussion about the risks and responsibilities about sex than other scenes with adults.

According to the report, the discussion of the responsibilities of sex is an “impressive pattern because television is such an influence on the lives and the decisions of adolescents.

More teens get their information about sex from television than from their parents. Because half of all high school students in 1999 had been sexually active, it is important to include this important information that otherwise might not be made aware to students.

Also contained in the programs studied were sexually-oriented language or action. Eighty-four percent of sitcoms contained this, up from 56 percent in the 1997 study. Movies contained 89 percent of sexual language or action.

The sexual content in dramatic programming rose from 58 percent in 1997 to 69 percent in the recent study.

Reality television was found to have the least sexual content with only 27 percent. However, the recent “Temptation Island” is sure to raise this number in the next study.

Talk shows and soap operas were the two genres to not have an increase in sexual content from 1997. Soap operas dropped from 85 to 80 percent, while talk shows dropped from 78 to 67 percent.

The Henry J. Kaiser foundation is an independent philanthropic group that studies health care, including reproductive and AIDS-related issues.

The study was released on Tuesday, Feb. 6 and was reported by WPHL WB 17.

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