I haven’t had a good rant in ages, so…
A study published in Psychological Science says:
Greater Exposure to Sexual Content in Popular Movies Predicts Earlier Sexual Debut and Increased Sexual Risk Taking
Early sexual debut is associated with risky sexual behavior and an increased risk of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections later in life. The relations among early movie sexual exposure (MSE), sexual debut, and risky sexual behavior in adulthood (i.e., multiple sexual partners and inconsistent condom use) were examined in a longitudinal study of U.S. adolescents. MSE was measured using the Beach method, a comprehensive procedure for media content coding. Controlling for characteristics of adolescents and their families, analyses showed that MSE predicted age of sexual debut, both directly and indirectly through changes in sensation seeking. MSE also predicted engagement in risky sexual behaviors both directly and indirectly via early sexual debut. These results suggest that MSE may promote sexual risk taking both by modifying sexual behavior and by accelerating the normal rise in sensation seeking during adolescence.
Sex, psychology, and the movies all rolled up into one. I find this stuff fascinating. But just the abstract of the study isn’t enough. It gives a basic idea of the findings but I want to know more. What was it they discoverd to base these conclusions on? So I went “a-googling”. I know I’m not going to find the study because that will be behind the journal’s pay-wall and even if I did find it I probably couldn’t be bothered to wade through all the data and jargon. I needed someone to interpret it for me.
Here’s a press release about it, this is from The Dartmouth, and here’s something from RH Reality Check. All interesting reads.
But I don’t want to talk about Greater Exposure to Sexual Content in Popular Movies Predicts Earlier Sexual Debut and Increased Sexual Risk Taking. This is my blog and I want to talk about me, Me, ME! What I want to ramble on about is my reaction to the study. When I first came across it I didn’t believe it. The postdoctoral fellow at the University of Missouri and four other professors who carried out the study were wrong. I knew they were wrong because… I knew better!
Once the “I knew better” thought had sunk in, I calmed down and started to think about this more rationally and came to the rational conclusion that I had become one of those irrational people who throw out any rational science that doesn’t agree with their way of thinking. We won’t mention names but you know who they are.
Me, one of them? Oh, the shame of it!
But I also don’t think I’m totally to blame. This science mumbo-jumbo is complicated stuff. Most of us aren’t knowledgeable enough, qualified enough or interested in it enough to dig up all the information, evaluate it and then come to some sort of reasoned conclusion. We poor ignorant slobs, and poor science itself, relies on “media” outlets to study, interpret and then feed us those bites size chunks which are easy enough for us to understand. But the reliance on such organisations quite often leads to the trivialising, embellishing, ignoring and misinterpreting the results just to get a good juicy piece which will go nicely with the “Cat up a tree” story.
Do I have to mention that if it involves anything of a sexual nature then the hype gets cranked up even more?
But it isn’t always the media’s fault (Poor media, always gets blamed for everything). Sometimes it’s the fault of science itself and those who are producing these studies. Does anyone expect an anti-XYZ organisation to produce any results other than those that prove XYZ is very bad and should be stopped, banned or made illegal? Everybody seems to lie and fit the facts to suit their own agenda. The problem is when they do this with the assistance of the scientific method it becomes harder to spot.
Also, lets not forget this study had the perfect storm of kids, sex and movies. Is there any other convergence of subjects that would bring out the “Crazies” more? So it’s no surprise when I read, “It’s bad” I immediately doubted the findings and, pretty much, the integrity of those who carried out the study.
Dear Ross O’Hara, psychology professor Rick Gibbons, psychiatry professor Meg Gerrard, epidemiology and biostatistics professor Zhigang Li and pediatrics professor James Sargent. I’m sorry and I sincerely apologise. *Hugs & kisses*
But now I’ve got that off my chest can we get back to blaming the media. Because when I was doing my “a-googling”, this headline on U.S. NEWS popped up.
Kids’ Sexual Behavior Influenced by Movie Scenes
Watching films with sexual content at 12 to 14 linked to risky ‘sensation-seeking’ personality
THURSDAY, July 19 (HealthDay News) — Sex scenes in movies influence teens’ sexual behavior, new research suggests.
They do say, “Suggests” and right at the bottom also:
While the study authors pointed out that the research does not prove a direct causal effect of movies on sexual behavior
But contrast their headline with quotes from The Dartmouth article, from the guy who actually did the study.
The biggest limitation to the research, however, is that it was not an experimental study, so the data can be used to prove correlation but not causation, he said.
“We can’t say for sure that watching these movies is causing changes in behavior,” O’Hara said.
[College Health Services Director Jack] Turco said, however, that the correlation found in the study could be based on other factors, such as the children’s socioeconomic status or the strictness of their parents.
My point is, if I haven’t made it clear, the study talks about “Correlation” while U.S. NEWS makes it out like it’s “Causation.”
*Waves ranting stick around*
The problem with science news is it’s become a form of entertainment instead of being informative and educational. Stop dumbing it down then sexing it up just so you can slap it in next to the celebrity gossip. This is not how you inform the public and it certainly does science no favours.
Oh, and one last thing before I put away my ranting stick. Why did U.S. NEWS illustrate the story with this photo?
Keep your eyes on the road!
Are we to infer, the risky behaviour “Associated” with watching sex scenes in movies is not just limited to sex, but also “Associated” with bad driving?