- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Let me start by saying I am not a prude. I’ve seen my share of racy movies and TV shows with suggestive scripts. I’ve read a few novels by Sandra Brown.

I have four children, for heaven’s sake. I know what’s what.

Nonetheless, yesterday I felt my face blush as I read a report sent to me by the Parents Television Council called “Happily Never After: How Hollywood Favors Adultery and Promiscuity over Marital Intimacy on Prime Time Television.”

Never mind the statistics - such as, for example, that across the broadcast networks, references to adultery outnumbered references to marital sex 2 to 1.

The really shocking part of the report - the part that caused me to minimize my computer screen when one of my children came into the room - were the pages of script samples provided as documentation.

There’s something about reading the words, rather than hearing them delivered as punch lines followed by canned laughter, that can cause even the savviest suburban mom to cringe with discomfort.

If you don’t know, the Parents Television Council (parentstv.org) is a national nonprofit that serves as a self-styled watchdog of our public airwaves. Its mission is “to promote and restore responsibility and decency to the entertainment industry in answer to America’s demand for positive, family-oriented television programming.”

Unfortunately, as the new report on the depiction of marriage conveys, the Parents Television Council has its work cut out for itself. Here are a few highlights (I would say “lowlights”) from the report:

c “Across the broadcast networks, verbal references to non-marital sex outnumbered references to sex in the context of marriage by nearly 3 to 1; and scenes depicting or implying sex between non-married partners outnumbered scenes depicting or implying sex between married partners by a ratio of nearly 4 to 1.”

c “Although the networks shied away from talking about sex in the context of marriage, they did not shy away from discussions of masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, manual stimulation, sex toys, bondage or kinky or fetishistic sex - there were 74 such references during the 207.5 program hours studied.”

c “The Family Hour - the time slot with the largest audience of young viewers, where one might reasonably expect broadcasters to be more careful with the messages they are communicating to impressionable youngsters - contained the highest frequency of references to non-married sex as opposed to references to sex in marriage, by a ratio of 3.9:1.”

There’s more, but it’s so embarrassing I don’t even want to type some of the words.

Anyone who channel surfs in the evening to find a well-written, credibly-acted TV show will vouch for the validity of the council’s study. Sex is everywhere (and this report doesn’t even mention the advertising, just the network programming). If you’re looking for something that doesn’t seek to shock or offend, good luck.

What’s disheartening is the obvious bias against the institution of marriage - a bias that says, in short: Marital intimacy doesn’t exist except as a joke about the lack of sex in marriage.

Good marriages are sexy. For reasons only the folks in Hollywood seem to understand, that notion won’t make for good TV.

  • Marybeth Hicks is the author of “Bringing Up Geeks: How To Protect Your Kid’s Childhood In A Grow-Up-Too-Fast World” and “The Perfect World Inside My Minivan - One Mom’s Journey Through The Streets Of Suburbia.”
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