How is sex portrayed on TV?

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This study examines televised portrayals of sexual intercourse. Programs (N = 152) representing the overall television landscape are assessed for the presentation of intercourse acts, the characters who engage in them, and their consequences. Results indicate that 16% of characters involved in sexual intercourse acts on television are teenagers or young adults. Female participants are more attractive and more likely to be victims of sexual crimes than male characters. Consequences of sexual intercourse portrayed are mostly emotional in nature and tend to be more positive than negative in valence. Positive consequences tend to be transient whereas negative consequences are presented as more enduring and emotionally impactful. Though HBO includes the greatest number of shows with sexual intercourse acts, few differences across channels are observed in the presentation of sexual intercourse, indicating a fairly uniform portrayal. Findings are discussed in light of theory, past content analyses, and implications for viewer effects.

Source: “The Portrayal of Sexual Intercourse on Television: How, Who, and With What Consequence?” from Mass Communication and Society, Volume 12, Issue 2 April 2009 , pages 143 – 169

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