The way women are often portrayed on television helps accentuate the traditional roles at the expense of their sexual satisfaction, says a study.
Media portrayals teach women to be passive participants in their relationships and prioritise the desires of others – particularly men – instead of prioritising their own desires, said Rita Seabrook from the University of Michigan in the US.
The study, published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly, showed that college women who frequently watch television tend to endorse the gender roles that are portrayed often on TV.
Endorsement of these roles – which are called gendered sexual scripts — results in some women having less confidence about using condoms and more shameful feelings about their sexual experience.
Being confident and proud of one’s sexual experiences “conflicts with gendered expectations that women should abstain from sex except in limited circumstances,” she said.
The study sampled 415 undergraduate women who described themselves as sexually active heterosexuals.
They indicated the number of hours of TV (live or online) and reality TV watched weekly, and disclosed if they believed the programming reflected daily life.
Questions also focused on relationships, attitudes towards women, sexual beliefs, gender roles and how participants rated their emotions.
Overall, the women in the study watched 11 hours of mainstream TV and four hours of reality TV.
They reported low to moderate levels of being sexually assertive and feeling shame sexually.
“Women who reject traditional gender norms face backlash for failing to adhere to the culture’s expectations for them,” Seabrook said.
“Thus, adhering to gendered sexual scripts may protect women from perceived and actual judgment at the expense of their sexual satisfaction and sexual well-being,” Seabrook said.