A new study and website were launched by the Parents Television Council titled, "Tinseltown's New Target: A study of Teen Female Sexualization on Primetime TV," and calls for a reversal of the current trend of the sexualization of teen girls in the media. The study is based on a content analysis of the most popular primetime broadcast shows among 12- to 17-year-olds during the 2009-2010 TV season.
During a conference call with Tim Winter, PTC president, Dr. L. Monique Ward, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, and member of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, Nicole Clark, director of the documentary film “Cover Girl Culture” and former Elite International fashion model, Jeff McIntyre, director of national policy, Children Now and chair of the Children’s Media Policy Coalition, and Melissa Henson, director of communications and public education for the Parents Television Council, reporters from the Los Angeles Times, Hollywood Reporter and yours truly among others were informed about the study’s findings conducted by the PTC’s internal research team.
The PTC’s study shows that when underage female characters appear on screen: more sexual content is depicted; the teen girls show next to no negative response to being sexualized; more sexual incidents occur outside of any form of a committed relationship; and there is less accuracy in the TV content ratings.
Major findings are:
>> Underage female characters are shown participating in a higher percentage of sexual depictions compared to adults (47% and 29% respectively).
>> Only 5% of the underage female characters communicated any form of dislike for being sexualized (excluding scenes depicting healthy sexuality).
>> Out of all the sexualized female characters depicted in the underage and young adult category for the entire database, 86% were presented as only being of high school age.
>> 75 percent of shows that included sexualized underage female characters were shows that did not have an "S" descriptor to warn parents about the sexual content.
>> Based upon a definition established by the American Psychological Association of "healthy" vs. "unhealthy" sexuality, the study findings show that 93% of the sexual incidents involving underage female characters occurred within a context that qualified as "unhealthy."
>> The data revealed that 98% of the sexual incidents involving underage female characters occurred outside of any form of a committed relationship.
>> The data show that 73% of the underage sexualized incidents were presented in a humorous manner or as a punch line to a joke
"The results from this report show Tinseltown's eagerness to not only objectify and fetishize young girls, but to sexualize them in such a way that real teens are led to believe their sole value comes from their sexuality. This report is less about the shocking numbers that detail the sickness of early sexualization in our entertainment culture and more about the generation of young girls who are being told how society expects them to behave," said PTC President Tim Winter.
"It will take action from parents, actors themselves, and advertisers who pay for TV content – not to mention awareness on the part of the public and our elected representatives – to instigate change. Combining the pervasiveness of teen sexualization with the well-documented research on the consequences – everything from body dissatisfaction to depression – should be more than enough.
"To any parent of a pre-teen or teenage girl, the harm of sexualized imagery is readily apparent. We cannot allow our daughters, not to mention boys and adult men, to accept the message that women should be valued only for their sex appeal – even if it seems every magazine cover, billboard, movie, and television program convey that message," Winter concluded.
Nicole Clark drove the point home with impassioned statements fueled by her deep personal emotions about this collaborative effort to protect the innocence and shortened childhood of our kids, especially girls, from the media's obsession with them. "Girls as young as five wanting to be sexy are being robbed of their childhood," said the former model."We wonder why America has the highest teen pregnancy rate and teen STD rate of all the developed nations."
Breaking down several times during the conference call, Clark mentioned a game 5th grade kids are engaging in where girls wear different colored bracelets to indicate how far they are willing to go with a boy. “When did things get so crazy?” she concluded.
Armed with the information in this report, any concerned adult should take the time to discuss the sexualized portrayal of teens in the media with their children, and together possibly heed the PTC’s call to action and "instigate change".