December 17, 2010 ( – Television’s portrayal of teen girls is becoming increasingly sexualized, and places underage girls in physically sexual situations far more than adult women, according to a new study by the Parents Television Council (PTC).

The study measured the amount of implied nudity and/or sexual gestures such as sexual dancing, erotic kissing or touching, or implied sex that involved young girls onscreen in the top 25 prime-time shows for teen viewers in the 2009-2010 season.

“Not only are we observing women becoming more frequently sexualized, the data show a troubling trend in which teen girls are becoming the prime target of the sexualized content,” states the PTC report’s authors.

The report found that, while older women were “more likely to have sexual dialogue,” a younger girl was “more likely portrayed in sexual behaviors onscreen.” Underage female characters are shown in sexual situations 47 percent of the time, while adult women were in a similar situation 29 percent of the time, the study found.

In addition, three out of four shows that included the sexualization of female characters were found not have an “S” descriptor to warn viewers about sexual content. This, the group pointed out, calls into question the use of parental devices such as the V-Chip, which are designed to protect younger viewers against shows that are marked for sexual content.

“Ultimately, the risks for these girls lie in the tendency for mass media messages to miscommunicate the true definition of what it means to be female. However, the greater risk is in sending the message to today’s young girls that their sexuality is their primary identity and most valued commodity,” wrote the authors.

Only 5 percent of underage female characters communicated dislike of the sexualizing, and 98 percent of sexual incidents were outside the bounds of any form of committed relationship, the group reported.

“Past and present research continues to demonstrate the power of media as a highly persuasive device for delivering images and messages into our homes. Unfortunately, television often
presents teens with new models of bad behavior, frequently within a framework that is void of consequences,” stated the study’s authors. “The result is that today’s youth are growing up with a media-market version of sexuality.”

Click here to view the full PTC study.


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