A Cognitive Psychology of Mass Communication

By Richard Jackson Harris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
Sex: Pornography, Innuendo,
and Rape as a Turn-On

Q: How many teen girls read women's magazines?

A: Almost 86% of 12- to 15-year-old girls read Seventeen, while 53% read Teen and 50% YM. For 16- to 19-year-old girls, 56% read Seventeen, 49% YM, and 31 % Cosmopolitan (Walsh-Childers, Gotthoffer, & Lepre, 2002).

Q: How many sexual references does the average U. S. child see per year? A: Nearly 15,000 sexual references, innuendoes, and jokes per year. Only 1.1% of these deal with abstinence, birth control, pregnancy, or sexually transmitted diseases (Strasburger & Donnerstein, 1999).

Q: Although violent men are sexually aroused by viewing an explicit rape or sexual assault scene, normal heterosexual men are generally not turned on by watching a rape scene unless what occurs in the scene?

A: If the woman is portrayed as enjoying and being turned on by being raped, normal men are aroused by it (Malamuth, 1984; Malamuth & Check, 1983).

Some of our major sources of information about sex come from media (Sutton, Brown, Wilson, & Klein, 2002). Everything from the mildest innuendo on a network sitcom to the most explicit pornographic video can contribute to our perceived reality of what sex is all about and what people expect from it. According to a 1998 Time/CNN poll (Stodghill, 1998), 29% of U. S. teens identified television as their principal source of information about sex, up from 11% in 1986. Somewhat more (45%) mentioned friends as the major source, but only 7% cited parents and 3% cited sex education. Another study found 29% of boys rated pornography as their most significant source of sex education (Check, 1995). In other studies, 90% of Toronto boys (mean age = 14) and 60% of the girls had seen at least one

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