10 November, 2005

NEWS FLASH: Homer Had Sex! (Film at 11)

Yesterday, NewMexiKen pointed towards something interesting.
According to the study of 1,000-plus hours of programming--excluding news, sports, and kids shows--across the four major broadcast nets, several top cable nets and a couple of stations, 70% of shows had some sexual content, averaging 5 sex scenes per hour.
Now, I had to ask... What exactly do they call "some sexual content?" Fortunately, a little bit of time and effort brought me to the host of the study. And that's where the real problems begin. Or at least, they do for me.

Here's what they call "some sexual content" for the study:
  • For this study, sex is defined as any depiction of sexual activity, sexually suggestive behavior, or talk about sexuality or sexual activity.
  • Sexual dialogue, or what we term “talk about sex, ” involves a wide range of types of conversations that may involve first-hand iscussion of sexual interests and topics with potential partners, as well as second-hand exchanges with others that convey information about one’s prior, anticipated, or even desired future sexual activities.
  • The lower threshold for sexual behaviors measured by the study was physical flirting, which defers to behavioral actions intended to arouse sexual interest in others[.]
Other things include intimate kissing, any public display of affection deemed likely to lead to more intimate situations, even a parent-teen talk about safe sex and the investigation of a sexual-based crime... They're all included in this survey as "some sexual content" regardless of severity, level of intimacy, or other context.

Which says to me that the good folks sponsored by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation were determined to use as wide a brush as possible when setting their definitions for this study.

Oh, they threw out the bone on the "kiss of greeting between two friends or relatives" as not being listed under "some sexual content." But aside from that, anything and everything was considered fair game for the researchers. And they used it.

Shows with the designation of "some sexual content" came in at 70%, even after the definition being so wide as to cover most displays of public affection. Yet look at Table 5 more closely, folks... Real close, as shows with only "talk about sex" came in at 68%. That's 97% of the shows that fall under the scope of the study now, isn't it? They give no indication of severity, language, or context of the "talk about sex" but instead lump it all together. Which, to me, makes the moral point that any reference to sex, at any time and in any fashion, is inherently evil... Makes me wonder what moral viewpoint the Kaiser Family Foundation is coming from, no?

Yet go down to the next grouping. "Any sexual behavior" comes in at 35%. That's half of the "some sexual content" the study was braying out loud about, isn't it. And if you bring in the number of scenes between the total number of "some sexual content" and compare it with the scenes indicating "any sexual behavior," you bring it down to a total of 23%. And if you extrapolate the initial "some sexual content" scenes to the percentage... Well, that brings it down to a paltry 16.% percent.

Guys, what we have here is a study that tries very hard to prove that sexual content is a constant force on the television. And what it does, in essence, is prove that there's not quite as much sex going on, literal or suggested, as there was in the previous years of the study. Unfortunately, they will still get the job done, as evidenced by this little post by Embattled Christian:
I didn’t need a study to tell me this. I can tell because of the growing list of television shows I longer watch because there is literally nothing else in the show: no creativity, no intelligent dialogue, nothing fresh and interesting. My son’s comment yesterday before the big breaking news about sex in television: “ESPN is the best station on television. ”

Well, let's not tell the son about the National Cheerleading Competitions that are on ESPN2, shall we? Might get him to turn off the television entirely... Oh, and those half-time shows, too. Not to mention gymnastics, particularly the floor routines. Very little combines sensuality and sports like a women's gymnastics floor routine...

Whoops. Am I painting with too broad a brush again?

And to those that will wave this study around, stating that this is proof positive that more is needed to be done on the issue of sex and the media, I just have this to say.

You were the ones that lobbied for the V-Chip. Use it. It'll block out all this stuff that you don't want to see, or more likely that you dont' want your kids to see, and all without any real effort on your part, just like this post on MommyCool.com that links to a study by the RAND Corporation on television viewing and adolescent sexual behavior. You don't need to turn off the TV, much less run for the fuse-box. Just turn on your V-Chip.

And as for me, this study means very little, as I can't afford cable right now. Oh, and the reception is so bad in this apartment that I can't even pick up the over-the-air television stations, either. Not to mention that I don't even have a partner of any kind right now, so my sexual activity is pretty much nil.

Oh wait. Scratch that. That might be used to prove their point, won't it.


embattledchristian said...

Just turn it off, exactly my point. The study like many studies is designed to prove its point. However, the sex talk, inuendo, romps under the covers, sex crimes, and teenage heat is an easy device for writers, its making them lazy. And I for one, am bored with it. There are interesting exceptions, one of the most sexual programs, Grey's Anatomy, isn't about sex at all. A sign of good writing. I suppose my son's fixation with sports stats could have something to do bouncing cheerleaders. Ho Hum.

Off Colfax said...

And I happen to be a great fan of the crime-solving dramas of CSI and Law & Order, which use very little of the stick-the-two-leads-in-bed-and-get-ratings hook. I'd still be watching them if I had cable. Why? They have actual plots, and can deliver concise, and fairly complete, stories in the one-hour-minus-commercials timeframe they have to deal with.

Yes, it is an example of laziness on the writers' part for having to use such an obvious hook. Look at Friends, for example. Show was going great until they decided to make all these interpersonal relationships go haywire. Same with Frasier, another good concept gone horribly wrong by the inclusion of sexuality.

But as I said in the main post up there, this is precisely one of the reasons why there was such a big push for the V-Chip. And it takes very little effort to use it, or any of the other content-related programming blockers out there offered by the cable systems themselves. So why not use them?