Lund & Blaedon
UW-L Journal of Undergraduate Research VI (2003)
Sex And The Media: The Impact Of Television Habits On Sexual
Sarah Lund & Lindsey Blaedon
Faculty Sponsor: Betsy L. Morgan, Department of Psychology
The current study focused on the role of TV in regards to sexual attitudes and perceptions. The
participants were 120 female students from an introductory psychology class ranging in age from
18 to 24 years old from a medium sized, Midwestern, public university.
They completed three
primary measures: television viewing habits, sexual attitudes, and responses to sexual scenarios.
Furthermore, half of the participants completed the measures after waiting in a room while
viewing sexually explicit music videos and half waited with no TV present.
The results supported
our hypothesis that those participants exposed to sexually explicit videos before responding to
sexual scenarios rated scenarios as less sexual than those not exposed to the videos.
will add to a growing literature that explores the influence of sexual television on attitudes and
give insight into the short and long-term impact of television on sexual perceptions.
Over the past several decades television has become a large influence on people’s attitudes and behaviors.
“Television has been found to reflect and possibly shape the attitudes, values, and behaviors of young people”
(Greeson, 1991, p. 1908).
Television has become so influential that it serves as a teacher, often providing a common
source of information for young adults (Chapin, 2000).
The role of media in teens’ lives has raised concerns in
many areas; however, aggression/violence and sexuality are two key areas of research.
The current study focuses on
the relationship between TV viewing and sexual attitudes and perceptions.
Concerns have been raised about TV as a teacher of sexuality by social commentators (Ward, 1995) and by
researchers. Interestingly, even parents think that television has a large impact on adolescents’ attitudes and they
recognize that many adolescents spend more time watching television than they do in school or with their parents
A survey completed by 1400 parents found that parents thought television was the second most
influential source of information next to themselves.
However, only 13% of these parents thought that television
provided their children with accurate information (Lowry & Towles, 1989).
Louis Harris and Associates (1987)
found that the majority (64%) of adults in the U.S. believe that television encourages teenagers to initiate sexual
activity (Strouse, Buerkel-Rothfuss, & Long, 1995).
When examining the research on TV and sexuality, one concern is that television characters serve as role
models for young adults. Bandura’s (1977) social learning theory states that new behaviors seen by individuals are
likely to be observed, and reproduced. Researchers argue that television provides adolescents with models whose