Skip to main content

Masturbation and the Media

Abstract

This paper explores the important role the media play in informing young people about masturbation. A pilot study of focus groups with twenty-two young Australians aged between 14 and 16 explored what they know about sex and sexuality, and where they have found that knowledge. This paper reports on their knowledge about masturbation. Although researchers agree that masturbation can be a positive part of healthy sexual development, most young people reported that they received very little positive information about it from their parents or in formal sex education in school. These young people’s discussions around this topic were largely ambivalent, but also highly complex due to the varying levels and types of information that they receive. In this context the media play a vital role in providing information about masturbation through books and magazines for young women, and television comedies for young men.

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

Notes

  1. 1.

    We use the term ‘sexuality education’ here in order to make clear that we are referring to education about all aspects of human sexuality—including relationships, assertiveness skills, pleasure, consent and so on. We avoid the term ‘sex education’ because research has shown that this is often understood to involve a more biological approach to teaching about sex. The term ‘sexuality education’ is not used in this context to refer specifically to education about a person’s sexual identity—although this can be encompassed in this broader approach.

References

  1. Allen, L. (2001). Closing sex education’s knowledge/practice gap: The reconceptualisation of young people’s sexual knowledge. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 1(2), 109–122.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Allen, L. (2008). They think you shouldn’t be having sex anyway’: Young people’s suggestions for improving sexuality education content. Sexualities, 11(5), 573–594.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bandura, A. (1994). Social cognitive theory of mass communication. In J. Bryant & D. Zillmann (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (pp. 61–90). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bloor, M., Frankland, J., Thomas, M., & Robson, K. (2001). Focus groups in social research: Trends and uses of focus groups. Retrieved from SAGE Research Methods Online database.

  5. Brown, J. D., & Bobkowski, P. S. (2011). Older and newer media: Patterns of use and effects on adolescents’ health and well, ÄêBeing. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 95–113.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Buckingham, D., & Bragg, S. (2004). Young people, sex and the media: The facts of life?. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Buckingham, D., Willett, R., Bragg, S., Russell, R., & Dorrer, N. (2009). Sexual goods aimed at children: Research conducted for the Scottish Parliament, June-December 2009. Edinburgh: Equal Opportunities Committee, Scottish Parliament.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Buston, K., & Wight, D. (2006). The salience and utility of school sex education to young men. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 6(2), 135–150.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Byers, E. S., Sears, H. A., Voyer, S. D., Thurlow, J. L., Cohen, J. N., & Weaver, A. D. (2003). An adolescent perspective on sexual health education at school and at home: I. High school students. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 12(1), 1–17.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Cohen, J. N., Sears, H. A., Byers, E. S., & Weaver, A. D. (2004). Sexual health education: Attitudes, knowledge, and comfort of teachers in New Brunswick schools. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 13(1), 1–15.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Coleman, E. (2002a). Masturbation as a means of achieving sexual health. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 14(2–3), 5–16.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Coleman, E. (2002b). Masturbation as a means of achieving sexual health. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 14(2–3), 5–16.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Collins, R. L., Elliott, M. N., Berry, S. H., Kanouse, D. E., Kunkel, D., Hunter, S. B., et al. (2004). Watching sex on television predicts adolescent initiation of sexual behavior. Pediatrics, 114(3), e280–e289.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Cooke, K. (2007). Girl stuff: Your full-on guide to the teen years. Camberwell, VIC: Viking.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Dyson, S. (2010). Parents and sex education: Parents’ attitudes to sexual health education in WA schools. Perth: Department of Health, WA.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Eisenberg, M. E., Bernat, D. H., Bearinger, L. H., & Resnick, M. D. (2008). Support for comprehensive sexuality education: Perspectives from parents of school-age youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 42(4), 352–359.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Elders, J., & Kilgore, B. (1997). The dreaded “M” word. Nerve.com. Retrieved from http://www.nerve.com/dispatches/elders/mword.

  18. Escobar-Chaves, S. L., Tortolero, S. R., Markham, C. M., Low, B. J., Eitel, P., & Thickstun, P. (2008). Impact of the media on adolescent sexual attitudes and behaviors. Pediatrics, 116(1), 23.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Eyal, K., & Kunkel, D. (2008). The effects of sex in television drama shows on emerging adults’ sexual attitudes and moral judgments [Article]. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 52(2), 161–181. doi:10.1080/08838150801991757.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Fine, M. (1988). Sexuality, schooling, and adolescent females: The missing discourse of desire. Harvard Educational Review, 58(1), 29–54.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Forrest, S., Strange, V., Oakley, A., & Team, T. R. S. (2004). What do young people want from sex education? The results of a needs assessment from a peer-led sex education programme. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 6(4), 337–354.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Gagnon, J. H. (1985). Attitudes and responses of parents to pre-adolescent masturbation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 14(5), 451–466.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., Signorielli, N., & Shanahan, J. (2002). Growing up with television: Cultivation processes. In J. Bryant & D. Zillmann (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (2nd ed., pp. 43–67). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Goldman, J. (2008). Responding to parental objections to school sexuality education: A selection of 12 objections. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 8(4), 415–438.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Hawk, S. T., Vanwesenbeeck, I., de Graaf, H., & Bakker, F. (2006). Adolescents’ contact with sexuality in mainstream media: A selection-based perspective. The Journal of Sex Research, 43(4), 253–363.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Hogarth, H., & Ingham, R. (2009). Masturbation among young women and associations with sexual health: An exploratory study. Journal of Sex Research, 46(6), 558–567.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Jerman, P., & Constantine, N. (2010). Demographic and psychological predictors of parent-adolescent communication about sex: A representative statewide analysis. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39(10), 1164–1174.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Kaestle, C., & Allen, K. (2011). The role of masturbation in healthy sexual development: Perceptions of young adults. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(5), 983–994.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Kunkel, D., Cope, K. M., & Biely, E. (1999). Sexual messages on television: Comparing findings from three studies [Article]. Journal of Sex Research, 36(3), 230–236.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Lilley, C. (Writer). (2011) [Television]. In Princess Pictures (Producer), Angry Boys. Australia: Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

  31. Lupton, D., & Tulloch, J. (1996). ‘All red in the face’: Students’ views on school-based HIV/AIDS and sexuality education [Article]. Sociological Review, 44(2), 252–271. doi:10.1111/1467-954X.ep9606043740.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. MacFarlane, S. (Writer). (1999) [Television]. In 20th Century Fox Television, Film Roman Productions, Fuzzy Door Productions & Hands Down Entertainment (Producer), Family Guy. USA.

  33. MacFarlane, S. (Writer). (2005). A Smith in the Hand [Television]. In 20th Century Fox Television, Atlantic Creative, Fuzzy Door Productions & Underdog Productions (Producer), American Dad. USA: Fox Broadcasting Company.

  34. McKee, A. (2004). Is doctor who political? European Journal of Cultural Studies, 7(2), 223–259.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. McKee, A., Albury, K., Dunne, M., Grieshaber, S., Hartley, J., Lumby, C., et al. (2010). Healthy sexual development: An interdisciplinary framework for research. International Journal of Sexual Health, 22(1), 14–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Morgan, D. L. (1997). Focus groups as qualitative research. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Parker, T., & Stone, M. (Writers). (1997) [Television]. In Comedy Central, Braniff, Comedy Partners & South Park Studios (Producer), South Park. USA.

  38. Parker, T., & Stone, M. (Writers). (2002). Jared Has Aides [Television]. In Comedy Central, Braniff, Comedy Partners & South Park Studios (Producer), South Park. USA.

  39. Parks, L. (2010). Aussie youth play it safe when it comes to sex info. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://www.fpnsw.org.au/851916_3.html.

  40. Powell, R. A., & Single, H. M. (1996). Methodology matters: Focus groups. International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 8(5), 499–504.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Rich, M. (2005). Sex screen: The dilemma of media exposure and sexual behavior. Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 116(1), 3.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Rogers, A., McRee, N., & Arntz, D. L. (2009). Using a college human sexuality course to combat homophobia. Sex Education, 9(3), 211–225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Roskos-Ewoldsen, D. R., Roskos-Ewoldsen, B., & Carpentier, F. R. D. (2002). Media priming: A synthesis. In J. Bryant & D. Zillmann (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (2nd ed., pp. 97–120). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Sorenson, A., & Brown, G. (2007). Report on the sexual health education of young people in WA. Perth, WA: WA Health.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Steele, J. R. (1999). Teenage sexuality and media practice: Factoring in the influences of family, friends and school. The Journal of Sex Research, 36(4), 331–341.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Stewart, D. W., Shamdasani, P. N., & Rook, D. W. (2007). Focus groups. London: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Turnbull, T., Van Schaik, P., & Van Wersch, A. (2010). Adolescents’ preferences regarding sex education and relationship education. Health Education Journal, 69(3), 277–286.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Wilkinson, S. (1999). Focus groups. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 23(2), 221–244. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1999.tb00355.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Anne-Frances Watson.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Watson, AF., McKee, A. Masturbation and the Media. Sexuality & Culture 17, 449–475 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-013-9186-1

Download citation

Keywords

  • Masturbation
  • Sex
  • Sexuality
  • Sex education
  • Sexuality education
  • Media
  • Television
  • Young people
  • Adolescent sexuality