By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Prime time television is glorifying adulterous relationships and taboo sex while depicting marriage as either non-existent or burdensome, says a new report by the Parents Television Council (PTC).
“Happily Never After: How Hollywood Favors Adultery and Promiscuity Over Marital Intimacy on Prime Time Broadcast Television” is the result of a month-long study of major broadcast networks totaling more than 200 hours of programming. The study found, among other things, that references to adultery outnumbered references to marital sex 2 to 1.
“These study results suggest that many in Hollywood are actively seeking to undermine marriage by consistently showing it in a negative manner,” said PTC President Tim Winter.
The Family Hour, which is the time slot with the largest audience of young viewers, contained the highest frequency of references to non-married sex. Family Hour references to non-marital sex outnumbered references to sex in marriage by a ratio of almost 4 to 1, the report found.
But even more troubling than the marginalization of marriage and glorification of non-marital sex on television is TV’s recent obsession with outré sexual expression, Winter said.
“Children and teens are now exposed to a host of sexual behaviors that less than a generation ago would have been considered off-limits for broadcast television.”
Some of the once-taboo-for-TV sexual behaviors that are now found on prime time television include threesomes, partner swapping, pedophilia, necrophilia, bestiality, and sex with prostitutes, in addition to depictions of strippers, references to masturbation, pornography, sex toys, and kinky or fetishistic behaviors.
“Behaviors that were once seen as fringe, immoral, or socially destructive have been given the stamp of approval by the television industry. And recent studies show that children are influenced by those messages. Throughout much of the history of broadcast television, the networks adhered to a voluntary code of conduct which stipulated that respect should be maintained for the sanctity of marriage and the value of the home. Our report finds that not only are the boundaries no longer respected – they have been obliterated,” Winter said.
Even worse, content descriptors, which are intended to alert parents to inappropriate content and work in conjunction with the V-Chip to block such content, were often lacking or inadequate.
For example, on ABC, 38 percent of programs airing during the Family Hour that contained sexual content did not receive the “S” descriptor and during the 9:00 pm hour, 71 percent of programs containing sexual dialogue did not carry a “D” descriptor. Every network had problems with the consistent application of “S” and/or “D” descriptors during every time slot.
Of all the networks, ABC had the most references to marital sex, but many of the references were negative. References to non-marital sex, by contrast, were almost universally positive or neutral.
NBC contained only one reference to marital sex in 46 hours of programming, but 11 references to non-marital sex and one reference to adultery were made.
References to incest, pedophilia, partner swapping, prostitution, transsexuals/transvestites, threesomes, bestiality, and necrophilia combined outnumbered references to sex in marriage on NBC by a ratio of 27 to 1.
NBC also had as many depictions of adults having sex with minors as there were scenes implying or depicting sex between married partners.
“Broadcasters, knowing television’s ability to influence behavior, must exercise greater responsibility when handling sexual situations during primetime hours – opting for less graphic visual content, and favoring storylines that don’t celebrate promiscuity, glamorize criminality, or denigrate monogamy,” Winter said.
“The American people need to hold the networks and their local broadcast affiliates accountable for pushing questionable content into their homes over the publicly-owned broadcast airwaves. In addition, advertisers need to reconsider their role as underwriters of such material, and whether they want to continue associating their brand names and hard-earned corporate images with salacious sexual content. While the Supreme Court awaits its next legal review of indecency on television, now is the time for families to raise their collective voice against the tide of graphic sexual content invading their homes.”
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