From Calvin Klein to Paris Hilton and MySpace: adolescents, sex, and the media

Adolesc Med State Art Rev. 2007 Dec;18(3):484-507, vi-vii.


In the absence of effective sex education at home or school, the media have become important sources of sexual information for adolescents in the United States. Mainstream media inundate teenagers with sexual images and innuendoes. In the most recent content analysis of American primetime TV, more than three-fourths of the shows had sexual content; yet less than 15% contained any references to responsible sexuality, abstinence, the risk of pregnancy, or the risk of sexually transmitted infections. Dozens of studies attest to the power of the media to influence teenagers' beliefs and attitudes about sex. Three longitudinal studies have all found that adolescents exposed to more sexual content are more likely to begin having sexual intercourse earlier than their peers who see or hear less about sex in the media. The media could become part of the solution as well as part of the problem - if there were more responsible portrayals of human sex and more widespread advertising of birth control products.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Advertising / statistics & numerical data*
  • Coitus / psychology
  • Famous Persons
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Mass Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Motion Pictures / statistics & numerical data
  • Peer Group
  • Persuasive Communication*
  • Pregnancy
  • Sex Education / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Television / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology