Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 24, Issue 5, pp 595–615 | Cite as

Talking about sex: Common themes about sexuality in the prime-time television programs children and adolescents view most

  • L. Monique Ward
Article

Abstract

Although concern is often raised about television's role as a “teacher” about sexuality, little is known about the specific content of sexual messages on the programs children and adolescents view most. To explore this issue, a content analysis was conducted of the twelve prime-time television programs most preferred by children and adolescents. For three episodes of each program, all interactions between the characters were examined for the presence of verbal statements about sexual issues. Relevant statements extracted were coded using a list of 17 categories reflecting scripts about sexuality common in our culture. Findings indicated that discussions about sexuality were quite common on these programs. On average, 29% of the interactions on an individual episode contained verbal references to sexual issues, with the level surpassing 50% for some episodes. There were more messages about the male sexual role than about the female sexual role, and more that emphasized a recreational orientation toward sex than a procreational orientation. The most frequently occurring types of messages were those in which sexual relations were depicted as a competition, in which men commented on women's bodies and physical appearance, and in which masculinity was equated with being sexual. The importance of physical attractiveness as a key asset was emphasized for and by both sexes. Results are discussed concerning adolescents' potential uses of this input, and concerning directions for further study.

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Monique Ward
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos Angeles

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