Television viewing and adolescents' sexual behavior

J Homosex. 1991;21(1-2):77-91. doi: 10.1300/J082v21n01_07.


Over the past two decades the sexual content on television has increased in frequency and explicitness but has seldom included depiction of the use of contraceptives. Concurrently, the age of initiation of heterosexual intercourse has decreased and the number of teenaged pregnancies has remained high. Are these trends related? This survey of 391 adolescents found that those who chose heavier diets of sexy television shows were more likely than those who viewed a smaller proportion of sexual content on television to have had sexual intercourse. This relationship held regardless of perceived peer encouragement to engage in sex and across race and gender groups. While causal direction is not clear from these data, the relationship suggests that either sexual activity results in increased interest in sexual content in the media and/or that viewing such content leads to sexual activity. In either case, the finding points to the need for further research and increased discussion and portrayal of the use of contraceptives on television.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Americans / psychology
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peer Group
  • Psychosexual Development*
  • Sex Education
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Social Values
  • Television*