Standard Article

19 Sex on Television

A Review of Socialization Effects and the Role of Context and Individual Differences

5. Media Effects/Media Psychology

2. Evidence of Effects

4. On Personal Health and Social Well-Being

  1. Kirstie M. Farrar

Published Online: 28 DEC 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781444361506.wbiems124

The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies

The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies

How to Cite

Farrar, K. M. 2012. Sex on Television. The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies. 5:2:19.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 28 DEC 2012


Adolescents and emerging adults watch a great deal of television and research shows that they are exposed to a steady stream of messages about sex and sexuality, the vast majority of which do not contain important messages about safe and healthy sexual behavior. Research finds that young people learn information about sex from watching television and that their attitudes about sexual topics, including sexual health, can be influenced. Evidence is mounting that watching sex on television is linked to both initiation of and advancement in sexual behaviors. This chapter will review the evidence on sexual socialization effects with an emphasis on the role of the context of a sexual portrayal in the effects process. The importance of gender and race in the effects process will also be highlighted and potential positive effects of sexual content in the media will also be discussed.


  • sex, sex in the media;
  • social cognitive theory;
  • cultivation theory;
  • sex effects;
  • safe sex;
  • risk and responsibility portrayals