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APHA Scientific Session and Event Listing

Let's get it on: Implications of sexual content in African American situation comedies

Tilly A. Gurman, MPH and Jennifer Orkis. Department of Population and Family Health Science, The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, 410-547-3381, tgurman@jhsph.edu

Background: African American adolescents watch more television compared to other adolescents. In addition, African American adolescents are disproportionately affected by sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy. Because television can inform adolescent sexual decision-making, it is important to understand the prevalence of sexual content in programs popular among African American teens.

Methods: This study conducted a quantitative analysis of the sexual content in 68 episodes of 6 African American situation comedies from the 2004-2005 UPN television season. Scenes that contained sexual talk or behavior were coded and analyzed to assess the prevalence, type, and context of sexual content.

Results: Sexual talk and behavior were prevalent in 100% and 75% of episodes, respectively. Of the 356 scenes with any sexual content, 33.1% included behavior and 86.2% included talk. Furthermore, sexual risk or responsibility was addressed in only 9.8% of scenes with sexual talk and 0% of scenes with sexual behavior.

Conclusion: African American situation comedies contained a large amount of sexual content. The prevalence was higher than in previous published content analyses of programs popular among general adolescents. Moreover, while sexual intercourse was only found in 12 scenes, almost one in every three scenes included either talk about intercourse that had already occurred or talk towards sex. In other words, norms about sexual intercourse may be offered indirectly. If television does, in fact, serve as a sex educator for African American adolescents, then television shows should normalize protective behaviors and incorporate more themes of risk and responsibility.

Learning Objectives:

  • At the conclusion of the session, the participant (learner) in this session will be able to

    Keywords: Health Communications, Ethnic Minorities

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:

    Not Answered

    Perspectives on HIV/AIDS & Sexual Issues

    The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA