The number of sexual scenes on television has nearly doubled since 1998, according to a study released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The study, Sex on TV 4, also found that the inclusion of references to "safer sex" issues, such as waiting to have sex or using protection, has increased since 1998 but "leveled off" in recent years.
The study examined all sexual content in a representative sample of more than 1,000 hours of programming, with the exception of daily newscasts, sports events, and children's shows. The report describes sexual content as including talk about sex and depictions of sexual behavior, ranging from kissing to sexual intercourse.
The report found that 70 percent of all shows examined included some sexual content and that these shows averaged 5.0 sexual scenes per hour, compared with 56 percent of all shows and 3.2 scenes per hour in 1998 and 64 percent of all shows and 4.4 scenes per hour in 2002. During primetime, 77 percent of the shows examined included sexual content and averaged 5.9 sexual scenes an hour.
Overall, the increases combined represent nearly twice as many scenes of sexual content on TV since 1998, rising from 1,930 scenes to 3,780 in the sample, which equals a 96 percent increase from 1998 to 2005, the study says.
However, the number of shows in which sexual intercourse is either "depicted or strongly implied" has fallen slightly in recent years, from 7 percent in 1998 and 14 percent in 2002 to 11 percent in 2005.
In addition, among shows with sexual content, 14 percent included at least one scene with a reference to sexual risks or responsibilities. That number is up from 9 percent in 1998 but about the same as in 2002 (15 percent).
The Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit, private-operating foundation "dedicated to providing information and analysis on health care issues to policymakers, the media, the health care community, and the general public."