By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A new report published by the Parents Television Council™ (PTC) details the nature and extent of Hollywood’s obsession with sexualizing teen girls.
The report, entitled: Tinseltown’s New Target: A study of Teen Female Sexualization on Primetime TV, is based on a content analysis of the most popular primetime broadcast shows among 12 to 17-year-olds during the 2009-2010 TV season. PTC found that when underage female characters appear on screen: more sexual content is depicted; the teen girls show next to no negative response to being sexualized; more sexual incidents occur outside of any form of a committed relationship; and there is less accuracy in the TV content rating.
“The results from this report show Tinseltown’s eagerness to not only objectify and fetishize young girls, but to sexualize them in such a way that real teens are led to believe their sole value comes from their sexuality. This report is less about the shocking numbers that detail the sickness of early sexualization in our entertainment culture and more about the generation of young girls who are being told how society expects them to behave,” said PTC President Tim Winter.
“Storylines on the most popular shows among teens are sending the message to our daughters that being sexualized isn’t just acceptable, it should be sought after. It is outrageous that TV executives have made it their business to profit off of programs that depict teen girls blissfully being sexualized by casual partners and only showing disapproval for being sexualized five percent of the time.”
Winter also chastises the networks for leaving off the “S” descriptor that warns parents about the sexual content of these shows more than 75 percent of the time.
“But parents and the PTC aren’t just asking for more warning, we are asking the entertainment industry to take immediate steps to reverse this trend,” Winter says. “It will take action from parents, actors themselves, and advertisers who pay for TV content – not to mention awareness on the part of the public and our elected representatives – to instigate change. Combining the pervasiveness of teen sexualization with the well-documented research on the consequences – everything from body dissatisfaction to depression – should be more than enough.”
Most parents of pre-teen or teenage girl already know the harm of this kind of sexualized imagery.
“We cannot allow our daughters, not to mention boys and adult men, to accept the message that women should be valued only for their sex appeal – even if it seems every magazine cover, billboard, movie, and television program convey that message,” Winter concluded.
Nielsen data was used to identify the top 25 shows for ages 12 to 17. Analysts focused on scripted, primetime broadcast programming on the top 25 list which aired during the first two weeks of the November 2009 sweeps period (October 29, 2009 – November 11, 2009) and the May 2010 sweeps period (April 29, 2010 – May 12, 2010).
• Underage female characters are shown participating in a higher percentage of sexual depictions compared to adults (47% and 29% respectively).
• Only 5% of the underage female characters communicated any form of dislike for being sexualized (excluding scenes depicting healthy sexuality).
• Out of all the sexualized female characters depicted in the underage and young adult category for the entire database, 86% were presented as only being of high school age.
• Seventy-five percent of shows that included sexualized underage female characters were shows that did not have an “S” descriptor to warn parents about the sexual content.
• Based upon a definition established by the American Psychological Association of “healthy” vs. “unhealthy” sexuality, the study findings show that 93% of the sexual incidents involving underage female characters occurred within a context that qualified as “unhealthy.”
• The data revealed that 98% of the sexual incidents involving underage female characters occurred outside of any form of a committed relationship.
• The data show that 73% of the underage sexualized incidents were presented in a humorous manner or as a punch line to a joke.
To view PTC’s full report, visit: www.parentstv.org/sexualization.
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