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Sex in movies influences teens’ behavior, psychological study confirmscomment (0)

August 23, 2012

Exposure to sexual content in movies leads teenagers to have sex earlier and to participate in riskier sexual behavior, a study has confirmed, leading researchers to suggest incorporating media literacy training into sexual education.

The study, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, said roughly 85 percent of movies released from 1950 to 2006 contained sexual content, and only 9 percent of sexual content in movies contained messages promoting sexual health. Sexual explicitness of PG-13-rated and R-rated movies has increased over the past decade, researchers also said. 

Evidence suggests that adolescents’ sexual attitudes and behavior are influenced more by movies than by other forms of media.

“Adolescents who are exposed to more sexual content in movies start having sex at younger ages, have more sexual partners and are less likely to use condoms with casual sexual partners,” said Ross O’Hara, who conducted the research with other psychological scientists at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.

Richard Ross, professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, said allowing a middle school student to watch sex on the big screen is like allowing a toddler to ride in the front seat with no seat belt, standing up, at rush hour.

Allen Jackson, director of the Youth Ministry Institute at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, likened it to a pregnant woman drinking alcohol. 

“There’s an enhanced risk at that life stage,” Jackson said. “There is an enhanced impact of the images that are viewed.”

The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, suggests that exposure to sex in movies may accelerate the normal rise in sensation seeking during adolescence, thereby promoting risky behavior generally, and that it has a lasting influence on risky sexual behaviors in adulthood.


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