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J Sex Res. 2007 May;44(2):145-57.

From sex to sexuality: exposing the heterosexual script on primetime network television.

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California Status University, Department of Child and Adolescent Studies, Fullerton. P.O. Box 6868, Fullerton, CA 92834, USA.


Although it is widely recognized that sexual content pervades television, research rarely examines how television's sexual messages are gendered and occur in a relational context. This study describes the development and implementation of a new coding scheme to evaluate sexual content from a feminist perspective. Merging scripting theory (Gagnon and Simon, 1987) with the theory of compulsory heterosexuality (Rich, 1980), we explicate a heteronormative and dominant sexual script, the Heterosexual Script, and assessed its presence in the 25 primetime television programs viewed most frequently by adolescents. Our codes captured depictions of boys/men and girls/women thinking, feeling, and behaving in relational and sexual encounters in ways that sustain power inequalities between men and women. Male characters most frequently enacted the Heterosexual Script by actively and aggressively pursuing sex. Less frequently but still at high rates were depictions of female characters willingly objectifying themselves and being judged by their sexual conduct.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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