Sexual socialization messages on entertainment television: Comparing content trends 1997-2002

Dale Kunkel, Keren Eyal, Edward Donnerstein, Kirstie M. Farrar, Erica Biely, Victoria Rideout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Previous content analyses of sex on television have relied on differing measures and sampling strategies, which makes it difficult to compare patterns of sexual portrayals over time. This large-scale study (N = 2,817 programs) examines the sexual messages presented on television across both broadcast and cable channels over a 5-year period, applying identical measures to three biennial samples of program content. Results demonstrate that sexual talk and behavior are highly frequent aspects of the television environment. Talk about sex is shown more often than sexual behavior, though both types of content increased significantly from 1997/1998 to 2001/2002. Over that time span, the percentage of shows portraying sexual intercourse doubled from 7 to 14%. Results also show that topics related to sexual risks or responsibilities (e.g., condom use, abstinence) are increasingly included on television, but nonetheless remain infrequent overall. Such safe sex messages occur most frequently in program environments where they are most relevant (i.e., when sexual intercourse is included in the story). The content analysis findings are discussed in terms of their implications for audience effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-622
Number of pages28
JournalMedia Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Sexual socialization messages on entertainment television: Comparing content trends 1997-2002'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this