Television More Oversexed Than Ever, Study Finds

Company for dinner: Eva Longoria and Jesse Metcalfe on
Company for dinner: Eva Longoria and Jesse Metcalfe on "Desperate Housewives." (Abc)

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By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, November 10, 2005

Teenagers watching television are bombarded with nearly twice as many sex scenes as seven years ago, according to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Sex, lots of sex. Sex, sex, sex. Casual sex, dirty sex. Hot, sweaty, recreational sex with desperate housewives on expensive, carved, imported-from-Italy dining tables. Adolescent girls performing oral sex on middle-aged managers of expensive clothing stores in backrooms jammed with nekkid mannequins in exchange for some of that expensive clothing -- plus accessories!

In the slightly more than 1,000 shows scrutinized in the study, nearly 4,000 scenes had sexual content, compared with fewer than 2,000 in 1998, when the foundation started studying TV sex.

And yet the rate of teen pregnancy in this country has plunged by about one-third during approximately the same time.

Clearly, the television networks are doing something wrong.

Especially since, of the TV programs pregnant with sexual content (70 percent of all shows, averaging about five sex scenes per hour), only a very small percentage included a message about the risks and responsibilities of sex.

Only about 14 percent discussed contraception, abstinence or other "safe sex" messages, the study found, though Kaiser veep Vicky Rideout, who oversaw the study, admitted during its unveiling yesterday that a first good-night kiss at the door between two television characters probably does not call for an on-screen discussion between the guy and chick as to whether they should use a condom.

Yes, the Kaiser study includes a first good-night kiss at the door in its definition of "sexual behavior." And "sexual content" includes any discussion about sex.

Given that, it's a wonder they found only 4,000 scenes in those 1,000 shows over the course of the study. Maybe they didn't get some of the jokes in those "Sex and the City" reruns on TNT.

TNT is, in fact, among the networks scrutinized for the study, along with HBO, Lifetime and USA cable networks, though why they chose those particular networks over ones that, say, teens actually were watching, like MTV, remains a mystery to The TV Column.

Last year, for instance, 6 percent of HBO's viewers were teens, compared with nearly 30 percent ages 50 and older. Lifetime, the Men Are Pigs and the Women Who Love Them network, had an audience of only 4 percent teens and more than half age 50 and older. More than 40 percent of the audience for USA Network and TNT was 50 or older and about 5 percent were teens. MTV had nearly 30 percent teens in its audience, 3 percent viewers 50-plus.

But, as with most studies, it's best not to ponder these things too closely lest the top of one's head start to come off. Back to the study:


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