Teens, Sex, TV . . . and Laughter?

Last week the Parent Television Council’s 4 Every Girl campaign released the results of a study on the incidences of teen sexual exploitation depicted on prime time television shows.  A statement by Tim Winters, President of the Parent Television Council, highlights the main findings.

Results revealed that out of 238 scripted episodes, which aired during the study period, 150 episodes (63%) contained sexual content in scenes that were associated with females and 33% of the episodes contained sexual content that rose to the level of sexual exploitation.

The likelihood that sexual exploitation would be considered humorous increased to 43% when the sexual exploitation involved underage female characters. Topics that targeted underage girls and were presented as humorous included: sexual violence, sex trafficking, sexual harassment, pornography, and stripping.

  • Although an adult female character was more likely to have sexualizing dialogue or depictions in their scenes, the likelihood that a scene would include sexual exploitation was higher if the female characters were young adults or younger.
  • The likelihood that a scene would include sexual exploitation was highest when the female characters were underage.
  • Sexually exploitative topics targeting underage girls were more likely to be humorous (42.85%) compared to adult women (33.02%).
  • Topics that targeted underage girls and were presented as jokes included: Sexual violence (child molestation), sex trafficking, sexual harassment, pornography, and stripping.
  • Pornography (66%) and stripping (65%) were the 2 forms of exploitation most likely to be written into the scripts as punch lines.
  • Sexually exploitative content was typically presented in the form of dialogue rather than depictions. However, the dialogue was significantly more crude and explicit than the depictions.[i]

The PTC’s study is yet one more indicator of the continuing “pornographication” of our culture. For several decades now, women have bought into the lie that sex is power. This cultural mindset that “if you’ve got it, flaunt it,” most obvious in media, has led to men objectifying women or the self-objectification by women themselves.

What is sobering about this study is that it provides clear evidence that media has slid from portraying sexual behavior and sexual exploitation only among adults, to making it a norm among children, an area once thought to be taboo.

What is even more troubling is the portrayal of sexual exploitation as being fodder for entertainment and something to laugh about.

At a time when children are discovering their own sexuality, they are most vulnerable for exploitation.  Making light of sexual violence, pornography, and other exploits sends confusing messages, plays into the lies that no one is being hurt, everyone is doing it, and denigrates the pain experienced by one who has been abused. The prevalence of the use of humor discovered in the study moves culture in the direction of normalizing the painful and even evil use of what has been created for our good.

The PTC study is not the first alarm to sound. It is one more step down a slippery slope we have been on for some time. But, because these findings indicate a direct target on the teenage market, it should be our loudest alarm.

While we as the body of Christ can continue to fight cultural trends head-on, perhaps our energies are better spent intentionally engaging the next generation, equipping them to become influencers OF the culture rather than influenced BY the culture.


Let this serve as a reminder of the importance for godly men and women to actively invest in the next generation. Our teens need men who are teaching boys what it means to be a man who views and treats women the way God intended. Likewise, godly women are needed to walk alongside girls, teaching them how to discern truth from lies, embracing God’s plan for their own sexuality played out in relationships appropriately.


First, check your own watching habits. Just today, it was reported that “parents’ television viewing habits may be the biggest influence on kids’ viewing habits.”[ii] Have you, too, become desensitized to all that you are seeing?  Related to your children, now more than ever, be aware of what they are watching, keep an open dialogue, and help him or her revel in God’s message that each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made.

I am not surprised by the findings. The change in the amount of graphic sexuality and pornography shown on television has been slowly increasing, so slowly, I fear, that we are like the proverbial frog in the kettle. Unless we wake up, realize what is going on, and do something about it, we may find this next generation reaching adulthood with such a skewed view of sex that is miles away from what God created and intended for our pleasure and for our good.


[i] “Comments on the Release of Teen Sexual Exploitation: TV’s Newest TargetBy Tim Winter, President of the Parents Television Council” http://w2.parentstv.org/Main/Research/Studies/Sexploitation/TFWStatement_20130709.pdf

[ii] “Parents TV Time May be Biggest Influence on Kids’ Viewing Habits,” http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57593741/parents-tv-time-may-be-the-biggest-influence-on-kids-viewing-habits/