According to a new study out of Dartmouth College, teenagers who were exposed to explicit (as well as suggested, alluded to, or even joked about) sex in movies were more likely to have sex with with a wide range of partners and, disappointingly, less likely to use condoms, probably because snapping out a condom just isn't something that happens very often at that crucial doing-it montage in R-rated movies.
According to the Telegraph, researchers based the study on 700 popular films. A total of 1,228 children ages 12-14 were asked to indicate which movies they'd seen from a random-generated list of 50. Six years later, the same teens were asked about their sexual behavior, namely, how many partners they'd had, how risky their sexual behavior had been, and, the real deal-breaker, how often they used condoms. Lead author Dr. Ross O'Hara said that the findings indicated a link between exposure to sex in movies and an increase in sexual precocity.
Adolescents who are exposed to more sexual content in movies start having sex at younger ages, have more sexual partners, and are less likely to use condoms with casual sexual partners.
O'Hara added that the study's findings should impress on parents the need to keep kids from seeing movies that contain explicit sex scenes, because what teenagers really need are more adults trying to keep sex in its Pandora's box of corporeal humiliations until they turn eighteen, get to college, and are ridiculed for being the only sheltered people not to have seen Body Double.
Researchers also used their grant money to hunker down in an official campus screening room and assess sexual content in movies released between 1998 and 2004, which fact currently makes being a social scientist at Dartmouth College the most attractive job in the country. They found that even a third of G-rated movies (ahem, Princess Diaries) contained some wink-wink, nudge-nudge sexual content, and that many super-popular movies like Austin Powers and Notting Hill contained levels of tongue-kissing and "heavy-petting" that were sure to inspire teenagers to fumble with each other's privates. The most explicit sex happened in movies like Summer of Sam (which, for anyone who has not seen it, features the very best use ever of Abba's "Dancing Queen") and 40 Days and 40 Nights (which, by the way, features condoms prominently).
When movies depicted sex, O'Hara noted that there was nary a condom in sight, which can dangerously influence teens' sexual behavior, especially if some of their early sex knowledge comes solely from the movies they're watching. O'Hara's conclusion, though, that parents need to just keep their Netflix queues squeaky clean, doesn't seem quite right — wouldn't talking to teens about sex (or, more appropriately, how ridiculous movie sex really is) go a long way toward mitigating the danger that those teens would forgo condoms? Sex in movies is a reality, just like sex in real-life. Eventually, teens will see movie sex, and it's probably way better for them to be capable of deconstructing the often ridiculous physics of staged sex than go through their earliest years as sexually charged creatures thinking that people can actually have sex in a shower without risking serious head injury.