According to a study conducted about 10 years too late, Sex and the City taught Americans about more than identifying designer shoe brands and the average size of New York apartments. The episodes led to people talking more about sexual health issues, even if they had no intention of doing so.
Ohio State University researchers found college students were twice as likely to discuss sexual issues with their partners after seeing a similar conversation on the show. EurekAlert reports that 243 people with an average age of 20 were shown one of three versions of a SATC episode, which was edited for the study:
In one version, Samantha and Miranda have discussions with friends, doctors and sexual partners related to the sexually transmitted diseases chlamydia and HIV.
Other participants saw a version of the same episode that included content about HIV and chlamydia, but did not include any scenes in which the characters extensively discussed with others their issues with these diseases.
A third group of participants saw a completely different episode of Sex and the City with no relation to sexual diseases.
The subjects answered one questionnaire after watching the episode, and another two weeks later. 46% of those who saw the discussion about STDs talked to their partner about the subject in the next two weeks, compared to 21% of those who saw the episode with no discussion, and 15% who watched the unrelated episode. "That's a pretty substantial behavioral effect after watching just one episode of a TV show," says lead author Emily Moyer-Gusé, who's an assistant professor of communication. "When participants saw the characters demonstrate the confidence and ability to successfully navigate these tricky conversations, it gave them a social script to follow in their own lives. They felt they had the ability to bring up these difficult issues."
Interestingly, all three groups said they were equally unlikely to talk about STDs immediately after watching the programs, but later the episode that featured a discussion proved more likely to spark a sex-related conversation. Now that the show only lives on as a film franchise, we can't help but wonder: Do the movies help people discuss similarly sensitive topics, like rampant cultural insensitivity and pooping in one's pants on vacation?