TV Shows Sexualising Teen Girls – Study

Media Release 17 December 2010
Family First NZ says that a report by the US-based Parents Television Council (PTC) gives strong evidence that television shows being shown in NZ are promoting the sexualisation of girls and the Broadcasting Standards Authority needs to do far more to protect young people and families. 

The study entitled Sexualised Teen Girls: Tinseltown’s New Target found:

  • the presence of an underage female was associated with higher amounts of sexual depictions compared to the onscreen appearance of an adult female,
  • only 5% of the underage female characters communicated any form of dislike for being sexualized,
  • 73% of televised sexual incidents that involved girls under 18 were designed to be funny, using “laughter to desensitise and trivialise topics that might normally be viewed as disturbing”, and
  • 98% of the portrayals of underage girls acting in a sexual manner occurred with partners with whom they have no committed relationship

“The PTC analysed the scripts of shows popular amongst teenagers and which screen in NZ,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “They include The Office, NCIS, Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, The Vampire Diaries, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Lost, Family Guy, House, Glee, The Cleveland Show, American Dad, and The Simpsons – many of these shows are free to air during so-called family viewing times.” 

In February 2007, the American Psychological Association released a report on the sexualisation of girls which found that girls’ exposure to hyper-sexualized media content negatively impacts their cognitive and emotional development; was strongly associated with eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression; and diminished sexual health. 

A 2009 PTC report highlighted by Family First NZ documented an alarming rise in violence against women and girls on prime-time television. The study found a shocking rise in the depiction of teenage girls as victims, more scenes showing intimate partner violence, and an increase in the use of violence against women as a punch line in comedy series. 

“These two reports show that the message for boys and men is to be sexually dominant, aggressive, and to objectify the female body.” 

“Family First is calling for far stricter standards of broadcasting, especially around the family viewing times, but is also calling for more debate and research on the effect of media images – including music videos – on the health and wellbeing of our young girls, and an undermining of the social prohibition against seeing children as sexual objects and sexually attractive,” says Mr McCoskrie. 

“The BSA has completely betrayed the health and wellbeing of our young people with their weak approach towards enforcing broadcasting standards. This report, along with the APA research, is ample evidence that it’s time they pulled their socks up.”

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