UAA students study workplace sex on TV

Posted: Monday, April 01, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A study by seven students at the University of Alaska Anchorage chronicling television's approach to sex in the workplace has been accepted for publication in a professional journal.

The students watched 751 workplace scenes on prime time television in fall 2000. About one in four encounters involved sex, the students found. The study covered seven channels and 37 shows.

The message is that sex in the workplace is always OK, said Claudia Lampman, the UAA psychology professor who designed and led the honors project.

''It's incredibly common, but absolutely nobody gets upset about it,'' Lampman said.

Cable programs analyzed by the UAA students averaged more than twice as many sexual remarks and nearly six times as many sexual behaviors per hour as broadcast networks.

But it was the Fox broadcast network that had the highest percentage of workplace scenes with sexual contact, the students found.

Nearly 38 percent of workplace scenes on Fox contained a reference to sex. Fox was followed by HBO, Comedy Central, ABC and NBC. Sex was mentioned least on CBS and UPN, the report says.

Most of the sexual remarks in the workplace came from men. Sexual behaviors, however, were equally likely among male and female characters.

Only one scene directly addressed sexual harassment, and that was sexual harassment of a dog on an episode of the canceled ABC show ''Norm.''

The findings are expected to be published later this year in Sexuality & Culture, a quarterly professional journal published by Rutgers University.

Sexuality & Culture's team of reviewers selected the article because it addresses the growing field of data about television's influence on the behavior of young viewers, said Roberto Refinetti, a psychology professor at the University of South Carolina who is the publication's managing editor.

Lampman plans another study, this time looking at sitcoms and dramas, and stratifying scenes by gender, race and sexual orientation.

Five UAA honors students and two psychology students working as research assistants participated in the original research as part of a freshman-sophomore honors seminar, Modern American Culture.

Honors program director Ron Spatz credited Lampman's skills as a teacher and the strength of the student participants for the success of the seminar and the rare honor of getting published as underclassmen.

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