Study: More Sex Shown on TV
Study: More Sex Shown on TV
By LYNN ELBER, AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Sexual content on television has risen sharply since
1997, showing up in two of every three programs last season, according to
a study released Tuesday.
Research conducted for the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found sexual
content in 68 percent of the 1999-2000 shows studied, compared with 56
percent in 1997-98.
Such content includes talk about sex, flirting, kissing, intimate touching
and depictions of intercourse.
Only 10 percent of programs were found to emphasize sexual risks and
responsibilities - virtually unchanged from 1997-98. But shows featuring
teen-agers were more likely to include such issues, something the report
called an impressive trend.
Overall, one of every 10 programs on TV is estimated to include a scene in
which characters engage in sex, up from 7 percent, the report said. Fox's
``Ally McBeal'' and ABC's soap ``Port Charles'' were noted as having
``While we haven't yet had the chance to review the entire study, we are
confident in the rigorous standards we apply to all entertainment
programming at ABC,'' ABC spokesman Kevin Brockman said. ``We take our
responsibility to our viewers as seriously as we do our responsibility to
provide entertaining, quality programming.''
Fox declined to comment.
In all, 1,114 broadcast and cable programs, including movies, series, soap
operas, news magazines and talk shows, were randomly selected and analyzed
by researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Ten
networks or channels were studied: ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, HBO, PBS, TNT, USA,
Lifetime and WB.
The study found that more teen characters are being depicted engaging in
intercourse. In 1997-98, teen-agers represented 3 percent of all
characters having sex; in the new study, the figure had tripled to 9
But shows in which teens talk about or have sex are twice as likely to
include discussion of the risks or responsibilities compared with all
other programs with sexual content.
That is an ``impressive pattern'' because TV is an influential force for
young viewers ``just developing their ideas about sex,'' the report said.
Half of high school students in 1999 had engaged in sex, according to
government figures cited by the foundation. Yet few teens get information
on the subject from parents, the report said.
``Not surprisingly, media portrayals may fill this gap as the most readily
available alternative,'' it said.
Among sitcoms, 84 percent contain sexually oriented language or action, up
from 56 percent in the previous study. Only movies, at 89 percent, have
Among dramas, sexual content rose from 58 percent to 69 percent.
``Temptation Island'' aside, the study found that reality television was
the least sexy genre: 27 percent of such shows in 1999-2000 included
sexual content, well below the overall average.
Talk shows and soaps were the only two genres that did not show an
increase in such content: The sexual content in soap operas dropped from
85 percent to 80 percent; in talk shows, it dropped from 78 percent to 67
The foundation is an independent philanthropic group that studies health
care, including reproductive and AIDS-related issues. It is not affiliated
with the Kaiser medical organization.
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