The Parents Television Council (PTC) thinks so. They have just released a new study, Happily Never After: How Hollywood Favors Adultery and Promiscuity Over Marital Intimacy on Prime Time Broadcast Television.
I have read the entire 17-page report, and I find their arguments compelling. For example, the PTC found that verbal references to non-marital sex were three times as frequent as those to marital sex. In scenes depicting sex, the ratio was almost 4 to 1 in favor of non-marital sex vs. sex between married partners. The "Family Hour," the time when you might reasonably expect to get less such material, actually contained the highest frequency of references to non-married sex.
The PTC study concludes that "many in Hollywood are actively seeking to undermine marriage by consistently showing it in a negative manner." Furthermore, the study expressed grave concern about the rapid increase in network television's preoccupation with once-taboo sexual subjects. For example, references to bestiality, incest, necrophilia, pedophilia, transsexuals/transvestites, and threesomes outnumbered references to sex within marriage 27 to 1 on NBC.
The same network had as many depictions of adults having sex with minors as there were depictions of sex between married partners.
The good news about ABC was that they had the most references to marital sex. The bad news is that a significant number of the references were negative. By contrast, almost none of ABC's references to non-marital sex were negative.
As nationally syndicated radio talk show host and TV and film critic Michael Medved so succinctly put it: "For many years, parents have worried about television's glamorization of destructive sexual behavior. This important new report suggests another cause for concern: the de-glamorization of marriage. Statistics show that the overwhelming majority of Americans feel satisfied and fulfilled by their marriages. The notion that sex outside of marriage is inherently more exciting, more important, more worthy as the subject to story-telling, is a toxic message for parents and children alike."
And when people in the television industry say that what people watch on TV doesn't influence them, it lacks any credibility. Why? Commercial television is founded on the premise that a 30-second commercial can change your buying habits and cause you to use the advertised products. If it didn't work, commercial television would have gone bankrupt. In this case, what they are advertising is non-marital and kinky sex—and unabated, it will change attitudes and behaviors.
Parents, be warned: BEWARE what you allow your children to be exposed to on television—not just on cable channels, but on broadcast networks at well.
This column originally posted at Casting Stones, a blog hosted by Beliefnet.com.