Early sexual intercourse among American adolescents represents a major public health problem. Although early sexual activity may be caused by a variety of factors, the media are believed to play a significant role. In film, television, and music, sexual messages are becoming more explicit in dialogue, lyrics, and behavior. In addition, these messages contain unrealistic, inaccurate, and misleading information that young people accept as fact. Teens rank the media second only to school sex education programs as a leading source of information about sex. Recommendations are presented to help pediatricians address the effects of the media on sexual attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of their patients.
Youth, Sex and the Media - CyberCollege
Here is a brief overview of some of the major studies on the effects of television sexuality:
Several studies have linked increased exposure to the mass media with dissatisfaction with virginity among teenagers (Brown & Newcomer, 1991; Peterson, et al, 1991; Kunkel, et al, 1999)
The students who think television accurately portrays sex were more likely to be dissatisfied with their first experience with intercourse (Brown & Newcomer, 1991:80).
Teens that had been exposed to a highly sexual TV drama rated descriptions of casual sex encounters less negatively than teens that had received no sexual content exposure (Bryant & Rockwell, 1994:230).
A study of black women aged 14 to 18 revealed that adolescents who see X-rated movies have less-favorable attitudes toward condom use than other teens (Wingood, et al., 2001:1116).
Just as with media violence, it is not true that exposure to media sexuality will automatically make young people behave irresponsibly. However, the research indicates that the material erodes behavioral barriers, shapes attitudes and expectations about sexual relationships, and thus influences later behavior.
Sex is usually used for specifically commercial purposes on television, because it is an easy and cheap way to get the undivided attention of most viewers. "Sex sells!" However, this purely commercial speech is generally undertaken without any moral compass, and without consideration of social, psychological or emotional impact. The programming barriers that once kept suggestive television away from children have largely crumbled, and young children are exposed to material that is far too mature for them.
Report from University of California - Santa Barbara:
Youth, Sex and the Media Part I
Other theories may better predict the effects of new media, which offer a greater opportunity to select the content one prefers and allow the user to create and distribute, as well as receive, content. Furthermore, such content is often discussed and exchanged within social networks. The Media Practice Model argues that media use is selective, with users focusing on content related to the predominant issues of interest to them. Thus, adolescents whose interest in sex is growing as a result of puberty and other forces are more likely to select media with sexual content. Three studies have confirmed such a relationship empirically.- Other work suggests that youth who use media specifically as an opportunity to learn about sex may be more influenced by their exposure.
Sex in Media - Radford University