{[ promptMessage ]}

Bookmark it

{[ promptMessage ]}

week3 reading2

week3 reading2 - CHAPTER 13 Research on Sex in the Media...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–19. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 4
Background image of page 5

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 6
Background image of page 7

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 8
Background image of page 9

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 10
Background image of page 11

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 12
Background image of page 13

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 14
Background image of page 15

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 16
Background image of page 17

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 18
Background image of page 19
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: ' CHAPTER 13 Research on Sex in the Media What Do We Know About Effects on Children and Adolescents? NEIL M. MALAMUTH EMILY A. IMPE'I'I' University of California, Los Angeles Overview Research into the ways that media influence children and adolescents has mainly revolved around two interrelated themes: that media messages, especially those featuring violent or sexual content, often teach objectionable beliefs and behaviors and that young people are particularly vulnerable to such messages (Roberts, 1993). These concerns continue to underlie most of the studies focusing on sex- ual content despite the emergence of recent interest in other areas of media influence (Singer & Singer, 1998). Some segments of the general public have recently become par- ticularly vocal about their anxiety regarding sexual content in the media, for they have per- ceived a dramatic increase in the frequency of such content. By way of protest, for example, the Parents Television Council, chaired by celebrity Steve Allen, placed full-page ads in major newspapers seeking to support political and fund-raising campaigns against media “filth and sex” (as well as violence), primarily because of the alleged effects on children (e.g., see the Parents Television Council ad in the Les Angeies Times on October 7, 1999, p. E4). One ad claims that there is “massive evidence” to support a wide range of negative effects. In response to such public concerns, tech- nological and legal mechanisms have been in- troduced to enable parents to restrict their children’s exposure to “objectionable” media. For example, the V—chip is an electronic de- vice that allows parents to filter out programs that contain certain content that they do not want their children to view. Naturally, the suc- cess of this system is dependent on the accu- 269 270 THE POPULAR MEDIA OF GROWING CHILDREN racy of the program ratings provided by the television industry. Unfortunately, however, a recent systematic evaluation of these ratings found that a large majority of programs that contain sexual behavior were not appropriately labeled as sexual in nature (Kunkel et al., 1998). Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide a case involving a challenge to the Playboy Corporation. It is based on a law that requires cable companies producing sex- ually explicit programs to block “signal bleed." Congress passed the “signal bleed” law as part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (Exon, 1996), parts of which have been judged unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 1997). The purpose of this segment of the law was to protect young people from inadvertent exposure to fleeting images or sounds that might come through to nonsubscribers even though the program is scrambled or largely blocked. In both of these instances, it appears that the currently available technological means of restricting what some people per- ceive as intrusive sexual content into Ameri- can homes may not sufficiently change the availability of such content. It is likely that the controversy over this matter will become even more heated in the next few years. This chapter is designed to examine scien- tific theory and research regarding the effects of sexual content in the mass media on chil- dren’s and adolescents’ attitudes about sex and their sexual behaviors. Research on sex- ual media has often been divided into two categories. The first may be referred to as “embedded sexual content." Here the sexual content is embedded within a larger context that includes considerable nonsexual content; the primary purpose is not to sexually arouse the consumer, although this may be one of the varied effects of exposure and a significant contributor to its mass appeal. Such content would be illustrated by a soap opera in which some of the scenes, although typically not a majority, include references to or actual por— trayals of sexual interactions. Such embedded sexual content would often be depicted with only opaque or limited explicitness. The sec- ond category, which we will refer to as “sexually explicit media,” consists of materi- als that primarily depict nudity and simulated or actual sexual acts (e.g., intercourse, fella’ tio, etc.) not embedded or interwoven with much nonsexual content. The primary func- tion of such portrayals for consumers is to view nudity or sex, often as a stimulant for sexual arousal. Sometimes the distinction be- tween embedded and explicit sexual content is not so clear. For example, Playboy magazine regularly includes considerable nonsexual content (e.g., interviews with jazz artists) as well as nude portrayals, and the Starr Report, an official state document focusing on Presi- dent Bill Clinton, included much sexually ex- plicit content. Nevertheless, there are still some meaningful distinctions that may be made between these two types of media that will help frame our discussion. This chapter is primarily focused on re- search on “embedded sexual content,” but we also briefly consider some relevant findings on sexually explicit media. Although in focus- ing on the first category we primarily consider research in which the participants have been below the age of 18, some of the studies we draw on used young adult participants, typi- cally college students. Because there are sound theoretical and empirical reasons to as- sume that the effects found with these young adults would also be expected for younger in- dividuals, we include these studies as well. According to public perceptions, both chil- dren and adults believe that the media have become a very central source of information about sex for young people. Louis Harris and Associates (1987) found that 64% of US. adults think that television encourages young people to initiate sexual activity. In addition, a study of roughly 1,000 adolescents revealed that television is considered to be their great— est source of pressure to become sexually ac- tive (Howard, 1985). According to a Time/ CNN poll (Stodghill, 1998), 29% of US. teens cited television as their principal source of in- formation about sex, up from 1 1% in a similar poll conducted in 1936. While 45% mentioned “friends" as their major source, only 7% of teens identified parents, and 3% cited sex edu— cation. Of course, such studies seek to disen- tangle these influences into separate catego— ries, but, in reality, these factors may actually interact in important ways. For example, chil- dren may be more influenced by sexual media when they watch television with friends as op- posed to alone. The act of viewing enticing sexual images with friends may affect pres- sures that teens already feel to talk about or engage in various sexual activities in order to fit in and feel normal. Of course, the public at large may believe that children and adolescents are influenced by sexual portrayals in the media. but scien- tific research may or may not support such be- liefs. Before proceeding to discuss theory and research pertaining to potential influences of mass media containing sexual content, we will first consider the extent to which youth are ac- tually exposed to such content and the nature of the portrayals to which they are exposed. Content and Frequency of Exposure to Sexual Content In this section, we summarize research on the frequency of both media with embedded sex- ual content and sexually explicit media. Embedded Sexual Content Various commentators have recently noted that there has been a dramatic increase in sex- ual content in the media. For example, USA Today noted that “prime time is saturated with sex, and more explicitly so than ever. A look at the TV season that is unfolding this week will leave even jaded viewers stunned of what they see” (Levin, 1999, p. E1). Similarly, a re- cent cover article in the magazine Entertain- ment Weekly (Jacobs, 1999) bore the headline “Sex on TV: It’s Everywhere You Turn, but Sex in the Media: Eyjfects on Children 271 Just How Far Will It Go?" This article focused on how television programs are engaging in fierce competition to lure teenage audiences by dramatically increasing the sexual content of their programs: In this post-Lewinsky world, as networks compete with cable, and cable competes with Internet, and everyone competes with R-rated antics on the big screen, it seems TV has sex on the brain. It’s everywhere. Flip to Ally McBeal and see the under-the- knee orgasm trick. Check out Friends, where Chandler and Monica have all-day nooky sessions. Drink in Howard Stern’s CBS shows, where he slathers mayonnaise and bologna on a woman’s naked tush. Look at MTV‘s new series Undressed, where, in the first episode, a character snuggles up to a seven-inch vibrator. And sample the WB‘s Dawson ’3 Creek, Bufifi: the Vampire Slayer, and Felicity, where there’s more deflowering going on than in a badly managed green- house. (pp. 22—23) Does systematic research support the com- mon perception that sexual images and mes- sages are increasing in frequency? There have not yet been published analyses of the content in the last year or so, when the alleged dra— matic increases in sexual content are pur- ported to have been particularly sharp. But even studies analyzing the content of prime- time television, soap operas, and music tele— vision in earlier years found what by most standards would be considered large amounts of implicit sexual activity. An average of three sexual acts per hour across all types of tele- vision programming was documented by Greenberg (1994). On the basis of an estimate of 1 hour of viewing per evening on weekdays and 2 hours on the weekends (low estimates compared to adolescents’ actual viewing averages), Greenberg calculated that a viewer would be exposed to 27 sexual acts per week, or a minimum of 1,400 per year. Studies fo- cusing on sexuality in advertising conducted in the mid-19805 generally reported that sexu- 272 THE POPULAR MEDIA 0F GROWING CHILDREN ally oriented appeals were quite prevalent and increased over time (e.g., Soley & Kurzbard, 1986; Soley & Reid, 1988). Reichert (1999) found similar results by assessing images of men and women in magazine ads in 1983 and 1993. The data showed a significant increase in the proportion of sexually oriented appeals over a 10-year period. They reported a 32% increase between 1983 and 1993 in the num- ber of couples engaged in sexually suggestive contact. More specifically, in 1983, 21% of the couples in the ads were shown engaging in sexually suggestive contact; by 1993, more than half (53%) did so. These changes were ' more substantial in “gendered magazines” such as Cosmopolitan and Esquire than in general interest magazines such as Time or Newsweek. Content analyses of soap operas reveal a similar increase in sexual portrayals, although the frequency estimates vary considerably (Greenberg & Brand, 1993; Greenberg & Busselle, 1996; Lowry & Towles, 1989). In such soap operas, it is primarily unmarried rather than married heterosexuals who have sex and these differences have increased over the years. For example, Greenberg and Busselle (1996) found that the average hourly number of sexual incidents in soap operas increased from 3.7 in 1985 to 5.0 in 1994. Rates ofinter- course among married couples stayed the same, whereas rates of unmarried sex increased; the ratio of unmarried to married intercourse in- creased from 2:1 to 3:1 over the decade. In con- trast to what is portrayed in the media world, studies with representative samples have shown that, in the “real world," there are not substan- tial differences in the frequency of sex as a function of people’s marital status (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994). In addition to changes in the frequency of sex among unmarried individuals, Greenberg and Busselle’s 1996 soap opera analysis indi- cated that differences across the decade can be accounted for by an increase in date—rape story lines (there were none in 1985) and is- sues related to pregnancy. The 1994 soap op- eras depicted considerable amounts of nega- tive consequences of engaging in various sexual acts as well as rejection of sexual over- tures. The researchers state that the growing frequency of sexual incidents in recent years can be attributed to increases in “disgust" as well as “lust" themes. They state that viewers are currently “provided with a more balanced presentation of the benefits and the conse- quences of sexual activity than reported in earlier studies” (p. 160). Ward (1995) reviewed the 12 prime-time television programs that children and ado- lescents watched most during the 1992-1993 season. Her study is an intriguing content analysis of the thematic content of discussions about sexuality on television. The results re- vealed that the most common types of mes- sages about sexuality centered on the male sexual role. The! theme that men typically view women as sexual'obj'ects and value them based on theirphysical‘ appearance was partic- ularly common'Tewe‘r messages focused on the female sexual role, but the most common theme was that women are attracted to spe- cific types of men (i.e., physically attractive, wealthy, romantic, or sensitive). Surprisingly, few messages were concerned with women’s passivity or the idea that women set limits on men’s sexual advances. Another common theme was the presentation of sexual relations as a competition between men and women. In her discussion of the content analysis, Ward points out: 0n the one hand, frank discussions of sexu— ality on television may seem to be liberal and progressive, a powerful step forward from the days in which the word “pregnant" was unacceptable and married couples slept in separate beds. However, the content of these discussions is still traditional in many respects, especially concerning the impor- tance of physical appearance for women and "scoring" for men. (p. 61 1) In another recent study, Grauerholz and King (1997) conducted a content analysis of 48 hours of prime-time television focusing on the portrayal of sexual harassment. According to their definition of such harassment, many in- stances were portrayed, but none were labeled as harassment. Instead, they were typically portrayed in humorous ways, and victims ex- perienced little harm or difficulty in stopping the harassment. Sexually Explicit Media The “pornography industry" was recently described by Forbes magazine as a $56 billion global industry that has become much more mainstream in recent years. Some “hard core” Internet pornography companies are now even listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange (Morais, 1999). When writers describe this sexually explicit media industry, they are typically referring to the type of sexually explicit media consumed primarily by male audiences (Malamuth, 1996). This is also our focus here. Indeed, when it comes to obviously sexually explicit media, this is a much larger segment of the media compared with content designed for female audiences. For example, the num- ber of magazines featuring female nudity (e.g., Playboy, Penthouse, Out, etc.) is many times greater than the similar content for females (e.g., Playgirl), where a substantial number of the consumers are gay men. There are many content analyses of sexu- ally explicit media. The findings were sum- marized by Malamuth (1996). Most com- monly, the portrayals are of female nudity and of men having casual sex with numerous, easily accessible young women. Most of the focus is on physical attributes and activities (rather than emotional or relational elements). It should also be noted, however, that there is a very large media industry called “romance novels," which often have a high degree of sexual explicitness as well (Abramson & Pinkerton, 1995). These novels are consumed mostly by females, including many teenage girls, but they generally have very different content than the sexually explicit content pri- marily consumed by men (summarized above). (As described by Symons, 1979, similar dif— ferences in male and female patterning are ev- ident in homosexual sexually explicit media.) Sex in the Media: Efi'ects on Children 273 Malamuth (1996) analyzed the explanations for these gender differences in some detail. The data summarized earlier indicate that exposure to various types of embedded sexual content is likely to be very frequent among many youth, but there are also data suggesting that many young people are often exposed to at least some sexually explicit media, even though, by law, much of this material is sup— posed to be restricted from children. For ex- ample, Bryant (1985) conducted a study to obtain normative information on the amount of exposure that children have to various types of R- and X-rated media. The findings indi- cated that, by age 15, 92% of males and 84% of females had looked at or read Playboy or Playgirl; by age 18. the proportion rose to 100% of males and 97% of females. The aver- age age of first exposure was reported to be 1 l for males and 13 for females. With regard to X-rated films, 92% of 13- to lS-year—olds said they had already seen such a film, with an av- erage reported age at first exposure of 14 years, 8 months. Similar findings were also recently reported by Kahn-Egan (1998). This investi- gator conducted a study of the ease of accessi- bility of various types of sexually explicit me- dia, including the Internet, and also surveyed several hundred third through eighth graders about their actual exposure to such media. She found evidence for easy accessibility to such media, including many sites on the Internet that are supposed to be restricted to adults only. In addition, a high percentage of the sample (48%) reported having visited Internet sites with various types of “adult" content. Sexual content was the most popular type of adults’ site visited. Theoriaed Influences In this section, we discuss some general theo- retical issues pertaining to media effects. Al- though these are clearly relevant to the topic of sexual media, they are applicable to many other content areas as well. We will later con- sider the extent to which research on sexual 274 THE POPULAR MEDIA 0F GROWING CHILDREN media can benefit from more systematic guid- ance by relevant theory. Reality and Fantasy One of the most important questions re- garding media effects concerns the extent to which people may be immune to influence when they are aware that portrayals are fic- tional. (Of course, it should be noted that much of the sexual content in the media in re- cent years, such as the explicit descriptions of President Clinton’s interactions with Monica Lewinsky, described nonfictional events.) Much of the content we are focusing on (e.g., soap operas) presumably is recognized as fic- tion by many observers. In some ways, it might be argued that the distinction between fantasy and reality is somewhat different in the sexual arena than it is in many other areas. For example, when someone is portrayed as having shot another individual in a fictional media episode, the viewer can assume that the person was not actually shot. However, when someone undresses in front of the camera, viewers can reasonably assume that the per— son has actually consented to be portrayed in the nude (except in rare cases when “body doubles” or computer morphing is used). The distinction between fantasy and reality is an important one. The perceived realism of fiction affects its impact on judgments and behavior (e.g., Busselle, 1998; Geen, 1975). However, media research has documented re— liable effects even when participants are clearly aware that they are viewing or reading fictional portrayals. For instance, Strange and Leung (1999) recently found that both factual and fictional news stories had similar influ- ences on changing participants’ judgments about the causes and solutions for societal problems (e.g., education and health care). In ad...
View Full Document

{[ snackBarMessage ]}