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Posted March 17, 2003

The Statistics on Sexual Content on TV

according to a study released by the Kaiser Family


Two-thirds of all shows 64% contain some sexual content," defined as anything from flirting to intercourse. This number is down from the 68 percent figure recorded during the 1999-2000 season.

Ninety percent of soap operas have sexual content, putting the genre at the top of all others for percentage of shows with sexual content. It was followed closely by movies with 87%, comedies (73%), dramas (71%), talk shows (65%), news magazines (53%) and reality shows (28% ).

More than half of the sexual behaviors shown on TV was passionate kissing. Physical flirting, intimate touching and implied intercourse each accounted for between 13% and 15% of the sexual behaviors. The depiction of sexual intercourse accounted for 3% of all sexual behaviors.

Females were nearly twice as likely as males to instigate flirting behavior on screen, while males, by a very small margin, were more likely to instigate other sexual behaviors.

Portrayals that incorporate a theme of sexual patience were found in just 25 scenes, accounting for just 1% of the total of all sexual behaviors documented throughout the week that was examined.

Portrayals of people having intercourse the percentage with those who have "an established relationship" increased from 50% to 61% between the 1997-98 and 2001-02 seasons. At the same time, the percentage of people who have sex when they have just met dropped by more than half, from 16% to 7%.

Programs most popular with teens are: "Malcolm in the Middle," "The Simpsons," "Bernie Mac," "Friends," "Fear Factor," "Survivor," "7th Heaven," "King of the Hill," "Grounded for Life" and "That '70s Show."

The study said: "The findings from our sample of programs most heavily viewed by teenagers makes clear that these shows have unusually high levels of sexual content. This finding obviously holds important implications for young people's sexual socialization."

The study added: "The fact that intercourse is strongly and clearly implied in a story rather than depicted directly does not diminish its likely socialization effects for young viewers. Indeed, children who are old enough to have developed physically and emotionally such that they are interested in sex will also be old enough to clearly draw the intended inference from scenes of intercourse strongly implied."