Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Doctors Analyze Movie Sex

Sydney, AUS - Australian medical researchers find that blockbuster movies lack safe sex messages. The motion picture industry’s most profitable movies released since HIV was first isolated in the early 1980s are nearly devoid of discussion of safe sex practices, according to Australian researchers who have studied the films.

“We analyze the portrayal of sex and drug use in the most popular movies of the last 20 years using the Internet Movie Database,” said the researchers in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, where the findings were reported. “There was only one suggestion of condom use, which was the only reference to any form of birth control.”

The movie industry is big business, with the top 200 films of all time grossing more than $70 billion in box office receipts alone.

The researchers from the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales, in Australia, looked at movies from this list released after 1983, when HIV was first isolated. Ignoring animated and PG-rated movies, they reviewed 87 movies that portrayed 53 “sex episodes.”

Only Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts, mentioned condom use. Basic Instinct, which had box office sales of more than $350 million, contained six sex scenes with no birth control measures or public health consequences mentioned.

American Pie 2, which took in more than $270 million, contains seven sex scenes, all with new partners and no birth control measures.

“The study showed there were no references to important consequences of unsafe sex such as HIV transmission, spread of STDs, or unwanted pregnancy,” said Hasantha Gunasekera, the lead author of the paper and a research fellow in children’s health at Sydney University.

“The social norm being presented in movies is concerning given the HIV and illicit drug pandemics in developing and industrialized countries,” added Dr. Gunasekera. “The motion picture industry should be encouraged to depict safer sex practices and the real consequences of unprotected sex and illicit drug use.”

Dr. Gunasekera argues that lucrative product placement deals are a good indication that the behavior shown on film is imitated by viewers in their daily lives. “Despite the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS problem, only around half of American men who have sex with men and who use injected drugs report that they always use a condom,” said the paper.

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