A new study showing that teen girls are depicted sexually on prime-time TV more than adults has critics condemning the trend as a sinister fixation on underage young women.
The Parents Television Council issued a report on Dec. 15 which found that in popular TV series, underage female characters appearing on screen increases the amount of sexual content in a given show.
The council also found that teen girls demonstrate almost no negative response to being sexualized and that the vast majority of sexual incidents are depicted as occurring outside of a committed relationship.
The study, called “New Target: A Study of Teen Female Sexualization on Primetime TV,” used Nielson data and was based on content analysis of the most popular prime-time broadcast shows among 12 to 17 year-olds during the 2009-2010 TV season.
While only 29 percent of adult characters were viewed in sexual incidents in these shows, 47 percent of the characters involved were underage females. Of the young girls that were depicted sexually, only five percent communicated any dislike or opposition to the situations they were in. Additionally, a whopping 98 percent of the time, sexual encounters involving the girls were shown as taking place outside of any form of a committed relationship.
The report compiled video clips with examples, showing a high school girl in bed with a young man in the hit show “Gossip Girl,” a female character from “90210” drinking alcohol while disrobing, a kiss between two female cheerleaders on “Glee” and young characters in shows such as “The Vampire Diaries” in violent, hyper-sexual encounters.
“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,” Parents Television Council president Tim Warner said.
Aside from being disturbed by the sexual depiction of female minors, Warner said that the affects of these TV shows prove most harmful to young American women because they reduce their perceived worth as people.
“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,” Warner said.
He noted that the report is less about the “shocking” numbers that detail “the sickness of early sexualization in our entertainment culture.” Rather, Warner said he's concerned more about the generation of young girls “who are being told how society expects them to behave.”
Terry Polakovic, founder and director of national Catholic women's group ENDOW, echoed Warner's assessment.
“This is another instance where Hollywood has shown the most callous disregard for the psyches of impressionable girls who will be most adversely affected,” Polakovic said in a Dec. 17 e-mail.
She emphasized the need for parental involvement in counteracting the societal message to young women as depicted in the prime-time shows.
“My advice for parents is to re-teach yourself what God’s plan is for authentic relationships between men and women and share that truth with your children,” Polakovic added.
“If we leave this piece of their education to Hollywood, we will surely be disappointed but we shouldn’t be surprised.”