April 10, 2018 – Casual Sexual Scripts on the Screen: A Quantitative Content Analysis
While existing content analyses have provided insightful information in terms of contextual factors and frequency of sexual behaviors, not much is known about the relational context in which sexual depictions generally occur. The current study addresses this void by employing content analytic methods to measure the frequency and context of depictions of sexual behavior within nine popular television shows produced in the U.S., while taking into account the type of sexual behavior. The results suggest that, in the analyzed television shows, sexual behaviors within a casual sexual context were almost as frequently shown as sexual behaviors within a committed relationship context. Whereas sexual behaviors within a committed relationship context were mainly limited to passionate kissing, sexual behaviors within a casual sexual context mostly consisted of explicit portrayals of sexual intercourse. Additionally, genre seemed to be an important factor when examining casual sexual television content. The situational comedy genre, for example, had no explicit portrayals of intercourse and mainly portrayed kissing couples within a committed relationship. The comedy drama genre, on the contrary, had the largest proportion of explicit sexual portrayals, usually between casual sexual partners. A second goal of this study was to analyze the portrayals of the typical casual sexual experience script and the typical casual sexual relationship script in which these sexual behaviors often occur. For instance, our analyses revealed that female characters were more likely to initiate casual sex compared to male characters. Moreover, casual sex often occurred between former partners.