Tag Archives: media

Youths Learn from Media Portrayals, by Bridget McAlonan and Molly Nelson, via The SunJournal:

(Article 4 of 4 for Sexual Assault Awareness Month)

The media storm surrounding the “Fifty Shades of Grey” franchise is enormous and varied. So many opinions and beliefs are swirling and social media is clogged about the actions of main character Anastasia Steele.

Did she consent? Could she consent? Is this a portrayal of domestic violence and sexual assault, or two adults engaged in a consensual relationship?

During the hype, the educators at Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Center have used these questions to engage young people in dialog around sexual assault, healthy relationships and defining consent. Indeed, using media both maligned and loved is an important tool in sparking conversations with the public, especially teens and young adults.

In light of the ever-expanding technology waiting at our fingertips, engaging youth in critical thinking about media is an important tool in helping them understand and develop healthy relationships.

For instance, we encourage youth to analyze the ads they see on TV and to ask these questions: What are the selling tactics? How is sexuality used to sell a certain product? Does that make any sense and does it go too far? What roles do men and women play in this ad and are those appropriate or stereotypical?

That helps young people develop critical thinking about what they are being sold.

Those media portrayals help us educate young people while providing them with the tools to look at the world through a lens that examines what a healthy relationship looks like, how to achieve healthy relationships and also what an unhealthy relationship looks and feels like.

For the past year we have been handing out “I CONSENT” stickers to teens and young adults. This campaign has been hugely successful in educating others on what consent is and what it looks like in a sexual relationship. We also use movies to help young people further explore these concepts and illustrate healthy behavior.

One of those movies, “The Other Sister,” has a scene between the main characters that effectively demonstrates the idea of obtaining consent before becoming physically intimate. The characters in that movie have a conversation about their different comfort levels. One expresses the desire to engage in sexual activity right now, while the other is unsure and would like to wait. The partner who wishes to become intimate respects the other’s feelings and does not push or pressure them, thus providing a perfect model for respect in a healthy relationship.

These types of media examples can be helpful to young people who may not know how to start conversations about consent. Perhaps they are unsure what consent is. Perhaps they had no idea that they have the right to say “no” to things they may not want to do even when their partner would like to.

Offering education around consent by using the media often creates a safer environment for participants because the focus of the group is on the screen, not on the participants in the educational setting.

Our education and presentations around media are always followed up by an opportunity for participants to further explore those issues. Participants are given time to engage critical thinking skills in a safer environment.

That type of education can be greatly rewarding to the individuals we serve. Students often approach us later about a show or advertisement they saw and say things such as “Can you believe that guy in the movie who never even checked in with his partner before having sex with them when they obviously looked uncomfortable?”

Hopefully, these conversations also happen between peers — kids challenging their friends to think about what they are consuming in the media and how that affects their perceptions and behaviors.

While many people had strong opinions on the “Fifty Shades” series, SAPARS educators have opted to keep talking about the issues we always have: healthy relationships, sexual assault, gender issues, consent and how to think critically about the information, images and concepts presented to us through the multitude of media we encounter.

Bridget McAlonan and Molly Nelson are educator/advocates at Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services.

Sexual exploitation of teens in the media

Granted, teenage sexualization is nothing new in the media, but at least it is being discussed.

Some people may like to argue that the actresses are generally in their 20’s, and therefore, it is “okay” for them to be portrayed sexually, but it is also important to realize that they are representing underage girls…not 20 something’s.

(Note: all teen genders tend to be exploited sexually in the media, not just females; however, this article is only representative of females).

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Via CBS News:

“Female TV characters are sexual targets, says new study”

Teenage female characters are sexual fodder for broadcast network TV series, especially comedies, according to an advocacy group’s new study.

An examination of 238 sitcoms and dramas airing during four weeks in 2011 and 2012 found a third of the episodes included content that “rose to the level of sexual exploitation” of females, according to the Parents Television Council report released Tuesday.

The likelihood that a scene would include exploitation increased when a teen girl was involved, the report found, as did the odds that a show would try for a laugh: Girls were more likely to be the target of sexually exploitive jokes than adult women, 43 percent as compared to 33 percent.

The instances cited by the report varied widely, from an adolescent boy and girl playing strip poker in an episode of “Glee” to jokes spun off the topics of sexual violence, harassment and trafficking, according to the group’s researchers.

“At what point in time is it OK to laugh at sexual trafficking or rape?” council President Tim Winter said.

The PTC said its study relied on a United Nations’ definition of sexual exploitation as involving abuse of a position of vulnerability, power, or trust for sexual purposes including profiting financially, socially or politically.

Winter contended that it’s a certainty: An industry that attracts billions of ad dollars meant to influence buying habits must acknowledge that it has an impact on viewers, especially youngsters, he said.

Among the sitcom humor cited by the report: A May 2012 episode of “Family Guy” in which teenager Meg appears onstage and an announcer says, “This girl is perfect if you want to buy a sex slave, but don’t want to spend sex slave money.”

“Young people are having difficulty managing the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate sexual conduct,” and TV’s confusing messages are one reason, said the Rev. Delman Coates, a PTC board member.

The report is the council’s third in a series about media sexualization of young girls. Last year, the nonpartisan group launched its 4 Every Girl initiative aimed at combating such depictions and replacing them with what it calls “healthy, respectful images.”

The latest study reveals “the frequency with which sexual humor is used to communicate beliefs and perpetuate offensive narrowly defined female stereotypes among underage girls,” according to a PTC summary.Bottom of Form

Broadcasters compete with cable channels that draw viewers away with far more explicit material. Critics have said that it’s unfair to study broadcast content and not include the unregulated programming on cable, or to ignore that viewers demonstrate what they want by tuning in risque shows.

The report’s release, intended for last year, was delayed by the PTC’s decision to focus its resources on the subject of violence in media after the Newtown, Conn., school shootings. Networks also weren’t heard from on that PTC study, which was released last May and found that violence remained a prime-time TV staple even immediately following Newtown.

TV executives typically are reluctant to talk about sensitive issues such as violence or sexuality and, when pressed, downplay the link between on-screen fare and real-life behavior. They’ve also questioned aspects of PTC’s methodology.

The new study, for instance, includes scenes from “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” a drama that focuses on those trying to stop sexual predators.

Winter said it’s important to distinguish between the treatment the topic receives in that show compared to a comedy, but added that “there still need to be heightened scrutiny” of the effect on viewers.

He called for a broad dialogue about media content and its effect, and renewed the PTC’s insistence that the Federal Communications Commission enforce its “safe harbor” rule barring indecency or profanity from airing during the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.