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While media research has incidentally addressed the portrayal of sex between married partners, this study specifically analyzed how sexuality between married couples is depicted in popular films, as represented by the top 25 movie video rentals of 1998. Of the occurrences of sexual behavior (N=105), married partners represented 15 percent of the total compared to 85 percent for unmarried couples. The most common sexual behavior among husbands and wives was passionate kissing, which accounted for 63 percent of their sexual activity. By comparison, implied intercourse was the most common sexual behavior among unmarried partners, occurring in 38 percent of their sexual encounters. This and other findings suggest that sexual behavior among married characters is rare and rather mundane compared to those having unmarried sex. These findings and their implications are discussed.

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Additional information

The authors wish like to thank kim Vetter and Andrew McIntosh for their assistance in coding the films and to Craig Henderson for assistance with data analysis. In addition, this research was partially funded by Blockbuster Entertaiment and Payless Video.

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Dempsey, J.M., Reichert, T. PORTRAYAL OF MARRIED SEX IN THE MOVIES. Sex Cult 4, 21–36 (2000).

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  • Sexual Behavior
  • Married Couple
  • Sexual Encounter
  • Married Partner
  • Kaiser Family Foundation