Skip to main content

PORTRAYAL OF MARRIED SEX IN THE MOVIES

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bryant, J. & Rockwell, S. (1994). Effects of massive exposure to sexually oriented prime-time television programming on adolescents' moral judgment. In D. Zillman et al. (Eds.), Media, children, and the family: Social, scientific, psychodynamic, and clinical perspectives. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Chavez, L. (April 17, 1996). Hollywood misses American reality. USA Today, 14-A.

  4. Corliss, R. (July 29, 1969). Film and other four-letter words. National Review, 21, 760–761.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Crist, J. (August 1969). Sex and violence in movies and TV: How harmful are they? Good Housekeeping, 169, 59–61.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Economics review (1998). Motion Picture Association of America [On-line]. Available at http://www.mpaa.org/useeconomicreview/1998/sld001.html.

  7. Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1994). Growing up with television: The cultivation perspective. In D. Zillman, J. Bryant and A. Huston (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Greenberg, B. S. (1994). Content trends in media sex. In D. Zillman, J. Brynt and A. Huston (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Greenberg, B., Siemicki, M., Dorfman, S., Heeter, C., Stanley, C., Soderman, A. & Linsangan, R. (1993). Sex content in R-rated films viewed by adolescents. In B. Greenberg et al. (Eds.), Media sex and the adolescent (pp. 45–58). Creskill, NJ: Hampton.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Hellwig, Greg (webmaster, Convergentdata.com). “Re. Top 25.” (May 8, 2000). [Internet e-mail to the authors]. Available as e-mail from the author, dempsey@unt.edu.

  11. Huston, A., Wartella, E. & Donnerstein, E. (1999). Measuring the effects of sexual content in the media: A report to the Kaiser Family Foundation [On-line]. Available at http://www.kff.org., 1–6.

  12. Huey, J. (June 17, 1991). What pop culture is telling us. Fortune, 123 (13), 89–72.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Janus, S. S. & Janus, C. (1993). The Janus report on sexual behavior. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Kinsey, A., Pomeroy, W., Martin, C. & the staff of the Institute for Sex Research, Indiana University (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: Saunders.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Kinsey, A., Pomeroy, W., Martin, C. & the staff of the Institute for Sex Research, Indiana University (1953). Sexual behavior in the human female. Philadelphia: Saunders.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T. & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Lippert, B. (Nov. 7, 1994). Fire and ice. Mediaweek, 4 (43), SS4-SS6.

    Google Scholar 

  18. New study first to quantify illicit drug and substance use in movies and music popular among youth (1999, April 28). White House Office of National Drug Control Policy [On-line]. Available at http:// www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/news/press/042899.html.

  19. Sapolsky, B. S. & Tabarlet, J. O. (1991). Sex in primetime television: 1979 versus 1989. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 35 (4), 505–515.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Sex in the 90s: Kaiser Family Foundation/ABC Television 1998 National Survey of Americans on Sex and Sexual Health [On-line]. Available at http://www.kff.org/content/archive/1430/abc.html.

  21. Sex on TV: Content and context (1998). Kaiser Family Foundation [On-line]. Available at http://www.kff.org, 1–3

  22. Schickel, R. (July 5, 1999). All eyes on them. Time, 154 (1).

  23. Sirico, R. A. (1999). Watch your bottom line, Hollywood. Forbes, 163 (8), 169.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Soley, L. & Reid, L. (1988). Taking it off: Are models in magazine ads wearing less? Journalism Quarterly, 65, 960–966.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Videodyne Home Video Information [On-line]. (1999). Available at http:// www.convergentdata.com/tradata.htm.

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

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.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Dempsey, J.M., Reichert, T. PORTRAYAL OF MARRIED SEX IN THE MOVIES. Sex Cult 4, 21–36 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-000-1019-3

Download citation

Keywords

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